Hold On…Hold Hands

One must learn the art of holding on as one falls in love; for in loving, it is inevitable to get hurt. But what if it is not who that we love, but rather what? A country called Philippines and a nation called Filipinos.

More than 25 years ago, there was a man who said that to die for our country and for its people means to die with meaning. ‘The Filipinos are worth dying for’ was a sheer statement of Ninoy Aquino’s immense and profound love for the country.

Ninoy Aquino enjoyed American hospitality and a peaceful life with his family in the United States but he never stopped affirming his eventual return. Fully aware of the deteriorating situation of Philippine politics, and of the dangers that awaited him, he persevered to return as it was according to him, his natural right as a citizen to come back to his homeland, and that no government could prevent him from doing so. As written in his arrival speech:

“I could have opted to seek political asylum in America, but I feel it is my duty, as it is the duty of every Filipino, to suffer with his people especially in time of crisis.”

Truly, as it was foreseen, his life was cut upon arrival on the airport that is now named in honor of him.

But what made him hold on to his patriotism…to a country beset with problems? To name a few are poverty, few (and fewer) employment opportunities, high incidence of crime, poor health care, poor education, graft and corruption, insurgence and terrorism.

We may never be able to understand this kind of insurmountable love for our country. But it is understandable beyond human grasp that through his blood, the senses of the Filipinos were once again aroused. A reawakening that lead to the end of the dictatorship of deposed President Ferdinand Marcos and to the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.

For many, a celebration such as the heroism of Ninoy in his 25th death anniversary is a celebration of freedom and of democracy, but have we really nourished what he had left? Are they even still present?

Looking at present Philippines, nothing much has really changed. Picket rallies are still staged crying for change. Many observers of Philippine affairs view political crises in this country as permanent phenomena where stability is not the general rule but rather an exception. Some may argue that some things have changed. At least now we have the freedom of speech, of expression and of the press. Are they really present? Or they are simply left printed in the pages of the 1987 Philippine Constitution- the legal weapon of the vigilant against tyranny that is sought to be obliterated by those who hold on not to patriotism but to power.

From August 21, 1983 to the present day, have we understood the meaning of justice, freedom, democracy, and the word peace that has become very elusive to our society?

I believe that the answer is no. The Philippines remembers the tragedy that was in the Tarmac of an airport but it didn’t see the on going injustice in its territorial south- the injustice against the civilians who were either killed or hurt, and displaced because of the war that has been going on in Mindanao.

But what is the war for? To kill the Ninoy Aquinos in Mindanao? To kill the Ninoy Aquino in every Filipino?

It is very unfortunate to realize that only a few bother to think about it. I come to ask,

Do we always need blood stains to restore our senses?

The lives of Rizal, Aquino, and a lot of others were taken away for us to take part in vigilance against tyranny and oppression. When a beloved countryman is gunned down, it is only the time that we seek social justice. But after a while, again we forget. And another injustice occurs.

Perhaps it is because of the apathy caused by the notion that our effort is useless or is not needed.

I remember Robert Francis Kennedy when he said, “Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation…

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Yes, resistance to tyranny should begin in each one of us in as much as it does need to always come in the form of protest and of rallies. Those are but few of the many ways to be vigilant.

Vigillance should not always be associated with noise. To be vigilant means to be a vanguard of justice, democracy and of freedom. In such pursuit, the need to be in the cradle of peace is necessary. As Ninoy said, we need not seek confrontation but rather only pray and strive for a genuine national reconcilliation founded on justice.

For we cannot attain something that is good through something that is evil. An act of evil even if it counters a bigger one, will produce smaller evils that in time may turn bigger and greater.

In the case of the war in Mindanao, it is such an irony to seek peace through war. The war maybe soon over but not the pain that it has brought. Many have lost their parents, their sons and daughters, their husbands and wives.

The war in Mindanao, and the other problems of society that have been mentioned are the Philippines’ Achilles’ heel. In this time of crises, we need to hold hands as we hold on to our ideals and aspirations.

We should hold on…We should be proud that we are Filipinos for it is only us who can make this nation great again.

Originally published in Balintataw- the newsmagazine of the Supreme Student Council of Aquinas University of Legazpi.

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