Family and friends remember ‘simple and decent’ Noynoy Aquino who served without fanfare

MANILA, Philippines – Family, friends and allies of the late former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III gathered at a solemn Mass to mark the first year since his passing, remembering the legacy of good governance he left behind.

Those closest to Aquino began arriving at the Church of the Gesú at the Ateneo de Manila University early Friday morning, June 24. It was also the same place where Aquino supporters gathered for three days after his death from kidney disease secondary to diabetes. one year ago.

Aquino was a “true blue” Atenean, having completed his primary, secondary, and college education at the Blue School along Katipunan Avenue.

Just outside the church gates, longtime Aquino staff Yolly Yebres helped run a stall where caps and balloons bearing Aquino’s face and name were made available. guests for free.

Yebres and two of Aquino’s security aides were the ones who discovered his lifeless body in his bedroom at his home in Quezon City a year ago. He died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 61.

Among those present at the mass were Aquino’s sisters Ballsy, Pinky, Miel and their respective families. His famous sister Kris Aquino is currently in the United States undergoing treatment for her ultra-rare disease EGPA. Key opposition figures such as incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senator Kiko Pangilinan and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas were among those present at the rally.

There was not much discussion of politics during the service, only a quiet tribute to the values ​​and principles Aquino represented when he was the most powerful man in the Philippines: accountability, transparency and his refusing to weigh in just because he was the president.

In his homily, Jesuit priest José Ramon Villarin, former president of Ateneo, compared the meaning of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to a life lived in service to others.

“May init ang pusong nagmamahal, may liwanag at linaw…. Sagrado ang pusong inilalabas en dibdib, nangangahas pa ring umasa and magtaya. Sagrado ang pusong may tapang na kumilos alang-alang sa napupusuan ng Diyos para sa kaniyang sinisintang bayan”, said Villarin.

(A heart that loves has warmth, light and clarity…. Sacred is the heart that still hopes and takes risks. Sacred is the heart that has the courage to serve those whom God loves, the country he loves dearly.)

SOLEMN MASS. Family, friends, allies and supporters of Aquino join in mass at the Church of the Gesú on June 24, 2022. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

At the end of the mass, Aquino’s older sister, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, thanked everyone who joined the mass in person and virtually. She considered them Aquino’s “true friends”, who supported him even when critics relentlessly attacked him after his presidency.

“A year ago our hearts sank when Noynoy breathed his last. But we gave it back to our Creator with gratitude for the blessing that he was: a simple, honest, self-effacing and decent Filipino who gave his all without fanfare when tasked to serve his bosses,” said Cruz.

She also recalled one of Aquino’s most iconic lines during his lifetime, which he uttered during his 2014 State of the Nation address.

“May I ask you to join me in reflecting on what he said, and I quote, ‘May you always believe, just like me, that the Filipino is truly worth fighting for. That the Filipino will indeed rise to the occasion, that God has a good plan for all of us and that it will happen in due time. Keep the faith, know this is just a phase,” Cruz said quoting his brother.

Family and friends remember Noynoy Aquino
The PNoy endowment fund will send scholarship holders to Ateneo

Ateneo de Manila University President Roberto Yap also said Aquino will always be remembered for serving the Philippines “with honor and dignity” and for raising the country’s status on the world stage.

“President Noy’s love for our country and our people, especially the poor and marginalized, is unquestionable. In the face of a planet in emergency mode, a chaotic political environment, wars in different places, disinformation and misinformation and a highly fractured society, we ask President Noy’s prayers that Ateneo and Ateneans become true beacons of God’s love and light in our world,” Yap said.

He announced that the endowment fund named after Aquino had raised 15 million pesos, which would fund the Ateneo education of several scholars from outside Metro Manila.

Family and friends remember Noynoy Aquino
Aquino’s Legacy

Most Mass attendees wore yellow-colored clothing or masks – a sign of support for the late president. Yellow was the color of protest closely associated with Noynoy and his late parents, democracy icons former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino – opposition figures against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

They no longer saw the ascension to the presidency of dictator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s only son and namesake in the 2022 election.

Noynoy Aquino first entered politics as a congressional representative for Tarlac’s 2nd district. After serving three consecutive terms as a congressman, he successfully ran for the Senate and served as a senator from 2007 to 2010.

He initially had no intention of running for Malacañang in the 2010 election, but Aquino eventually sought the presidency following public outcry following his mother’s death in 2009.

Aquino will be remembered as the Filipino leader who brought China to justice and challenged Beijing’s bogus claims to the Western Philippine Sea. The Philippines would later win the case in July 2016, a month after Aquino’s term ended.

His anti-corruption campaign called “Daang Matuwid (Straight Path)” helped stabilize the Philippine economy.

MEMORY. Mass attendees watch a video remembering Aquino’s legacy after Mass on June 24, 2022. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

His efforts to revive the peace process in Mindanao also paved the way for the preliminary peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which later resulted in the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. .

Aquino remained a largely popular leader for most of his presidency – until the Mamasapano incident on January 25, 2015, where 44 elite cops were killed in an operation that targeted terrorists Abdulbasit Usman and the Malaysian manufacturer bombs Zulkifli Abdhir, better known as “Marwan”.

Despite this, his final public rating was “very good,” according to pollster Social Weather Stations.

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