My Filipino friends all know this story by heart — but many Americans don’t, and I hope you will read it, and listen to the BBC report.
Last night on NPR I came across this excellent radio report from the BBC on The Assassination of Ninoy Aquino, which happened 30 years ago this week. Like anyone with connections to the Philippines, I have always felt that the death of Ninoy was a key turning point in the history of the country. For my non-Filipino friends who are unfamiliar with it — Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was one of the prominent Filipinos imprisoned soon after the declaration of martial law in 1972. After 7 years in prison he was allowed to go to America for medical treatment, and he lived there in exile until April 1983, when he chose to return to the Philippines in hopes of unifying the opposition to Marcos and Martial Law, now in its 11th year. He flew to Manila on a chartered jet with friends and journalists, and was seized by the military and shot on the tarmac, allegedly by a lone gunman who was then killed by the military — a story that is believed by few. His death caused the opposition to coalesce around his widow, Corazon Aquino, who would eventually ascend to the Presidency in 1986.
Of course I knew the story of the assassination. Yet I had never heard as much detail about the actual event itself, as experienced by those inside the plane, as I did in this radio piece. It includes interviews of Ninoy’s brother-in-law, who was on board, and Ken Kawhiwahara, and chilling recordings of Ninoy talking about the possibility of being assassinated in interviews that took place on board the plane as they flew to Manila. It also provides vivid descriptions of exactly how it unfolded — how they saw the empty tarmac, then a blue truck pulled up, soldiers got off and boarded the plane, took Ninoy and wouldn’t let the others follow …. then you hear the gunshots. It’s chilling and sad beyond words, yet compelling and filled with deeper meaning. It really takes you to that moment in history — 30 years ago.
I highly recommend listening to this start to finish — it’s painful but important.
When you listen to it, google “assassination of Benigno Aquino” and browse the “image” results …..
Also, here is Freddie Aguilar doing his goose-bump-inducing interpretation of Jim Paredes’ “Di Ka Nag Iisa”. Hats off to Jim for writing this — it’s Freddie’s voice, and interpretation, not of just this song but of the entire moment in history that would yield the People Power EDSA Revolution of 1986, that stays with me forever when I think about those times.
Here are some photographs.