“You ask too many questions, Mrs. Sec!” (I was called Mrs. Sec by the family of my Lady Boss President Cory.)
Or, how about his admonition that I stop nagging him with my not- so-subtle plea – “stop smoking already, please?” To which he replied, “Mrs. Sec, mom’s no longer here, so please stop.”
Over the eight months that he was undergoing thrice-a-week dialysis, I kept up a cheerful text exchange with him. On his condition, (“same, same. Going to hospital now”), accepting my offers of prayers, and once in a while, when I was too “kulit,” a stern text from him –“Enough na Mrs. Sec.”
His last text to me was four days ago when I asked him how he was feeling, “Just got home from dialysis. The same.”
Let me correct some nasty texts going around that he stopped going to dialysis because he was “frustrated and disappointed.”
One of his closest Cabinet secretaries and personal friends, Rene Almendras said: “Lies. That is not true and unfair. He missed a few sessions of dialysis because he wasn’t feeling too well.”
“He was in good spirits until last night (Tuesday). We had made plans to go with him and look for a small piece of farm land. Actually, I told him I found a small farm for him, in Amuyong, outside Tagaytay already.”
His “gang,” composed of former Cabinet secretary Rene Almendras. Bong Naguiat (PAGCOR), and businessman Romy Mercado, have remained faithful and true to him. They visited him often and kept up his spirits. These gentlemen were with him in some of his foreign trips and were frugal in their meals outside official functions such as eating hot dogs on the streets of New York! He was initially fearful of flying, but he overcame this, and traveled everywhere he was needed.
I didn’t work in his administration but we remained “good friends” after President Cory stepped down. He knew his mom asked me to be her spokesperson (and message writer) now that she was no longer president so I would see him in gatherings. When he ran for Congress in Tarlac, he had to wait for two elections to pass because his mother did not want to be seen using her “influence.”
He stoically agreed and had a difficult time campaigning. But he won the next two terms and completed his three terms with flying colors. The decision to run for the Senate was under difficult situation for Cory but she campaigned hard for her son and the victory was sweet and decisive.
He was hard-working as a neophyte senator, and even Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile gave him passing grades as he “studied the bills very well” and contributed to the legislative agenda. True, it was initially sympathy for his Mom that swept him into the presidency with millions wanting to continue a clean legacy of government leadership.
But he did his job well and with class and followed his mother’s moral leadership. He was maligned, badly criticized, and baselessly crucified, but he took all the slings and arrows of the political warfare with bravery and quiet dignity like his mom.
His favorite pastime was, even when Cory’s presidency was new, target shooting. Was it an offshoot of being hit by a rebel soldiers’ bullet during the coup of 1989? That bullet is still imbedded in his nape. Or was it an unconscious desire to know how to protect his mother and beloved sisters from any danger?
The Presidential Security Guards of his mom became his close friends and they all gravitated around his simple, engaging, and straightforward personality. They became his target shooting buddies, remembers Gen. T, Javier. They had a close-knit group before and during his presidency, and acknowledged his precision in target shooting.
“The presidency is destiny” his mother used to tell us.
And yes, destiny brought us an upright moral president who was never tainted with corruption, greed, or violence. His moral, unblemished character, and economic savvy to make the country grow are still an inspiration to many. Even in death, Benigno Aquino III or PNoy showed us how to pass from this world. With dignity, disturbing none, gracefully, and in His Presence.
Good night sweet prince, may flocks of angels bring you to thy rest! (Reprinted from Manila Bulletin)