Today, Aug. 21st in the Philippines, marks the death anniversary of Senator Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino, a Philippine national hero. It remains an 'unsolved' murder, thanks to political arm-bendings. My country, as far as my 'adult' mind can remember, has weathered political storm after storm after that. Within two years of his death, his widow (who also just recently passed), became the First Woman President of the country. And among many young idealists born into and caught in the nation's passionate political strife, I was right there, rah-rah-ing, wearing yellow, the color of freedom.
On the very night that the ONLY president I had ever known in all of my 16 years was ousted, and flown outside the country, I was in Iloilo City, a Region you fly to from where I lived, or travelled by ship to reach (as the Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands). I was one of over a thousand high school students competing in a National Writing Competition. I won second place, amidst all the drama outside of that dark auditorium, and the topic we were asked to develop impromptu, my winning piece, was aptly titled 'The Youth of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.' My winning was not extraordinary. Half the kid in my class could have done it, just give them a pen, tell them to read and focus, and be upbeat about the country as much as possible, and you'd have a winner. We were an intense young generation. If I had lost, I would still have been a winner from having competed alone.
Holding my trophy was little compensation for the general reason for the jubilation outside in the streets. I thought of Ninoy that night. He was also a writer when he was young, 17 years old when he was sent to Korea as a war correspondent. He had died when I was 14.
I was not sad when I thought of him. I luxuriated in the company of fellow young writers celebrating the death of 'Yesterday's' youth, which included myself.
Little did I think on that night that I would be saying that my children are 'Tomorrow's' youth. And yet I am. Many, many years later, my husband and I left the country when Matthew was 1. The boy speaks and understands the Pilipino language, and calls himself Filipino. He excels in school and is included in the Advanced Classes program.
I do not want him to have to march on the streets like his father and mother did before him, to clamor for change. But I will respect his decisions, when the time comes, to determine the form of government he wants his country to have, and to choose the country he wants to live in.
For now, I will rest my pen. He sleeps. And I'm sure somewhere, Ninoy is proud.
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