Speech of President Aquino at the Corazon Aquino Special Commemorative Exhibit

Speech
of
His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the Corazon Aquino Special Commemorative Exhibit

[Delivered at the Glorietta 2 Activity Center, Makati City, on August 4, 2014]

This is always an emotional time of the year—not only for myself and my family, but for millions of Filipinos whose lives were touched by my parents. It is a time when we cannot help but remember everything they stood for—whether it was the strength and hope they displayed in the face of overwhelming odds, especially during the height of Martial Law, or their compassion and integrity in serving the Filipino people.

Indeed, occasions like this are a source of new strength for us. They help recharge our hearts and souls, allowing us to go back in time to revisit the challenges and triumphs that my parents encountered. Through it, we are endowed once more with the confidence that as long as we follow their example—as long as we always offer our best for the benefit of our country and of our fellowmen—then we will find a way to overcome any trial. On a more personal note, the examples they have set always come as a great source of comfort. In the loneliest hours of decision-making, when all I have for company are my thoughts—when I ponder multiple courses of action to respond to issues—it is the memory of my parents that always guides me back to the fundamental question: “How will I best serve the Filipino people?”

When my dad came home for the last time, he wrote in his last statement that authentic service required two things: “Faith in our people and faith in God.” My dad built his relationship with God in the loneliness of his prison cell. Mom derived her strength during dad’s imprisonment—and during the fight to restore democracy—from her absolute faith in a loving Creator. It is that divine spark that gives each one of us the potential to light a candle rather than curse the darkness.

Today, we are living in an era of daylight. As Jesse Robredo, who so admired my parents, liked to say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. As we work together to make change irreversible in our land, it is the contrast between the shadowy practices of the past, and the openness and honesty we are encouraging in each other, that will make our country’s tomorrow that much brighter because it is bringing opportunities to all.

For my elders, let me thank you for standing with us even when so many were too frightened or indifferent to care about the prisoners of the dictatorship. Thank you for keeping faith with us when we were faced with difficulties—whether it was during my father’s struggle against the dictatorship, the coups during my mother’s administration, or the years after her presidency, when she took a stand for democracy and accountability. To all who have joined me in our fight for reforms, thank you for lending me your strength.

At the same time, we realize that this event is also geared towards a new generation of Filipinos—those who never had the good fortune of meeting my parents. This reminds me of a quote from George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As inheritors of the democracy won through the sacrifices of countless Filipinos—my parents included—we have the responsibility of helping young Filipinos understand the lessons of the past. One way of doing this is through sharing these photographs, which depict my parents not merely as faces on our five-hundred peso bills, but as living, breathing human beings—who were not free from faults and moments of self-doubt, but still persisted because they knew that the Filipino is worth living for and dying for.

I am certain that the pictures in this exhibit will remind us of many stories we have not heard in a while. Please share them with a new generation of Filipinos. Through this exhibit and your stories, those who never encountered my parents will gain valuable insight about how they lived their lives, and why they mean so much to the Filipino nation. Through you, a new generation will take on the challenge not to let Ninoy and Cory down, and our people down; and to live up to the best ideals of our people—to ensure that there will always be those prepared to demonstrate that the Filipino is worth fighting for.

I wish your exhibit all the success, and before I end may I just share some personal notes.

I think you will see in some of the pictures that I had thicker hair a few years ago. And to be honest with you, I guess it’s a sign of age. I was telling Fernando: “Fernando, there has been so many changes here.” To those of my generation who remember Glorietta as Quad, welcome back to Quad. [Applause]

But perhaps the best memories are these: I do remember, it was an Ayala Foundation publication that first published pictures of my father, after his assassination. I think we all remember that the mainstream press tried so much to ignore both my father’s assassination and more importantly, his funeral. There was Ayala, ready to bear the wrath of the dictatorship, standing with the people to whom they have been really demonstrating service [cheers and applause].

Whenever I grace a People Asia event or a Star event, I cannot help but remember Betty Go-Belmonte. To be honest with you, the first time I saw Tita Betty, I wasn’t even sure she was Filipina, because she was the publisher of the Fukien Times yearbook. But to be honest with you, it truly was a blessing to have met a lady such as her, and I think it is really a blessing on our people, that at the most critical times the Filipino will truly rise up and do what is right in the service of his fellow men.

Good afternoon, and thank you one and all.

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