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Exactly 26 years ago today, Ninoy Aquino was shot dead even before he could walk the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. [firstpara]

Since then, his death—along with the what-could-have-beens, should-have-beens, and would-have-beens—has served and haunted the nation.

Startled with his death, perhaps, hardly anybody talks about his life now.

What better way to celebrate Ninoy Aquino than to allow his words to reverberate back in our lives. Previously, we learned he was quite the speaker. But wait until you read his letters. Then you'll see Ninoy's not just a hero. He was the gentleman we should always aspire to be.

I. DEFENDER OF THE NATION

"Indeed, the Philippines is a land of traumatic contracts. Here is a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. Gleaming suburbia clashes with the squalor of slums. Here is a land where freedom and its blessings are a reality for a minority and an illusion for the many. Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy. Here, too, are a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite. Here is a land of privilege and rank—a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste." - Excerpt from the article "What's wrong with the Philippines?" from the journal Foreign Affairs, 1968

Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. wrote those words four decades ago, but they still ring true today. Dubbed the "Wonder Boy" of Philippine politics, Ninoy Aquino had been elected senator in 1967. At 24 years old, he was the youngest to ever hold the position.

But being precocious had always been Ninoy's M.O. At 17, he went overseas to cover the Korean War for The Manila Times. At 21, he was a close adviser to President Ramon Magsaysay. At 22, he was elected the youngest mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac. At 29, he became the province's youngest governor.

It wasn't long before he was the biggest thorn on the side of the pre-Martial Law regime of President Ferdinand Marcos in the Senate. Despite gaudy numbers that were trotted out by the government's economists, he decried the worsening state of the economy and led the outrage against extravagant projects of the administration, speaking out on vanity projets such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In a famous speech, he called it "A Pantheon for Imelda." In returned Marcos called Ninoy "a congenital liar."

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WORDS: JAEMARK TORDECILLA
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