The power of being seen

On days you go unheard or unseen, please know that nothing can change the truth

Ninoy Aquino photo at Aquino Center and Museum in Tarlac

The author delivered this message of the Aquino family at the Aug. 21, 2022 Mass commemorating the 39th death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino.

Good afternoon! I’m Kiko, one of Lolo Ninoy and Lola Cory’s grandchildren. On behalf of my family, I’d like to thank everyone joining us today as we remember the life, struggle, and sacrifice of our Lolo and the thousands who lost their lives in the fight against dictatorship. We would also like to thank in particular our presider, Archbishop Soc Villegas, who was with Cardinal Sin as a recently ordained priest during the Edsa Revolution, and continues to be a beacon for the cause of democracy in our country.

There’s a sense of urgency right now surrounding days like August 21. Since the start of the year, and even earlier, many people and their stories have gone unseen, drowned out in a sea of half-truths and whole lies.

Though I come from a generation that did not experience Martial Law, the need to be seen is something familiar to us. When one sees someone share an experience that they thought they were going through alone, they feel seen themselves and are comforted by that feeling. This is doubly true when one suffers abuse or discrimination at the hands of another. When the suffering of victims goes unseen and unacknowledged by those around them, their abusers gaslight them into thinking that none of their suffering was even real in the first place.

One of the giant photos at Aquino Center and Museum shows Ninoy Aquino lying in state.

That desire to be seen was something Lolo Ninoy felt as well. That’s where yellow came from. As the song goes, “Tie a yellow ribbon ’round the old oak tree. It’s been three long years. Do you still want me?” Lolo had his doubts, but in the end, they were proven wrong by the noise barrage of 1978. Hence the words, “The Filipino is worth dying for,” his return and martyrdom in 1983, and ultimately the restoration of democracy in 1986. This is the power of being seen.

While Lolo Ninoy was the most seen victim of Martial Law, thousands of others deserve to be seen as well. 31 days from now, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. Starting today, let us use this time to spread Martial Law victims’ stories of bravery, sacrifice, and martyrdom so that on that sad day of September 21, they and their families may find some comfort in knowing that their voices can cut through today’s noise. And to those victims and families, on the days that you go unheard or unseen, please know that that doesn’t make your suffering any less real because nothing can change the truth.

Again, thank you very much for joining us today, and good evening.

Ninoy Aquino’s 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit he drove in Boston where he lived with his family before coming home in 1983; on display at Aquino Center and Museum 

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