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On Monday afternoon, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be delivering her ninth, hopefully her last, State of the Nation address. If we go by her previous SONAs, we're in it for a long and boring ride. 

But not all political speeches lend themselves to snoozefests, or absurdity for that matter. It used to be that politicians were eloquent and elegant statesmen, firing away speeches that inspire, grip, and then move those we heard them.

In case we do not get the great SONA speech that Interior Secretary Ricardo Puno has promised, here we get four riveting speeches that have lit a fire under their audience.

Ninoy Aquino in exile, speaking in Los Angeles

Before his face was plastered on those t-shirts, Ninoy Aquino was a leader of the resistance against the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Shortly after the declaration of Martial Law, he spent more than seven years in prison, on trumped-up charges of subversion. He was allowed to fly to the United States for triple-bypass heart surgery. He then stayed there in exile for three years. While abroad, he continued to speak out against Marcos, while serving as a fellow at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs.

One of his most memorable speeches came in an engagement in Los Angeles. The whole speech topped out at more than an hour, but there were few boring moments. He opened with a joke:

I am filled with happiness to be with you this afternoon, because this is the first experience in my life, for the last 25 years I have been a politician, we used to pay people to hear us. This is the first time people paid to hear me.

The rest of the hour was a display of his oratorial skills, as he delivered fierce moral rhetoric peppered with really funny stuff--usually with the dictator or the First Lady at the butt of the jokes.

The most poignant part of Aquino's speech comes 45 minutes in. He talks about his decision to carry on fighting the dictatorship, when he could take the easy way out and apply for political exile in the United States:

I am a human being, my friends. I have suffered eight years of imprisonment. I have suffered loneliness like no other man has suffered loneliness in my life. I have been away from my children and my family, and I am financially ruined after eight years. It is only instinctive for a man to look for his peace. I debated with my mind, and I debated with myself, and I debated with my wife and my children whether I should go back to the arena of combat. I felt that I have already earned my peace, I have done my best, I waited for seven years and seven months, and the Filipino people did not react, and they would even give me the impression that they love their chain and their slavery.


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Words: Jaemark Tordecilla
Illustration: Frantz Arno Salvador

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