What Happened In August

I admit it. I am a cry-baby. I cry at sad movies. I cry when I read books that touch me. I cry when I lacerate my finger cutting an onion. I cry when the fish stew I cooked turns up burned.

Can it be because I was born in a sad country?

Do not be misled by the smiles. Behind them, we cower and hide our secret pains. Photo was from http://www.fcfinc.org/

Three significant things happened in August:

1.) G was born August 16, thirty-seven  years ago.

2.) In August 23, 1973,  a bespectacled man called Ninoy Aquino wrote several letters —  for his wife and for each of his grown children. He wrote these from his prison cell in Fort Bonifacio; the next day, he was about to face a military tribunal and he thought, at that time, that he had only a few days or weeks to live.

3.) Ten years after he wrote those letters, on August 21, 1983, that same bespectacled man was assassinated.

I was exactly 3 years, 4 months and 21 days when he was shot in the tarmac of the airport that now bear his name. Until now, the truth on who was ultimately behind his death is still an unresolved question.

Ok, so I want to cry again.

I am re-writing here Ninoy’s letter*  to his firstborn child, a girl with the most kick-ass name, Ballsy.

Ninoy’s only male child, incidentally, won the presidency in my country’s last national elections. Despite that though, nothing has changed; we are  still the same sad, confused, inconsequential archipelago somewhere east of China.


My dearest Ballsy,

I write you this letter with tears in my eyes and as if steel fingers are crushing my heart because I wanted so much to be with you as you celebrate your legal emancipation. Now that you have come of age, my love, a voice tells me that I am no longer young and suddenly, I feel old.

An old poet gave this advice very long ago: when you are sad, remember the roses will bloom in December. I want to send you bouquet of roses, big red roses from my dreamland garden. Unfortunately for the present, my roses are not in bloom, in fact they have dropped all their petals and only the thorns are left to keep me company. I do think it is fitting to send you a thicket of thorns on this memorable day!

I am very proud of you because you have inherited all the best traits of your mother. You are sensible, responsible, even-tempered and sincere with the least pretenses and affection which I vehemently detest in a woman. I am sure, like your mother, you will possess that rare brand of silent courage and that combination of fidelity and fortitude that will be the life vest of your man in the tragic moments of his life.

During my lonely hours of solitary confinement in Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija last March and April with nothing else to do but pray and daydream, with only my fond memories to keep me company, I planned a weekend barrio fiesta for you in Tarlac for your 18th birthday. I fooled myself into believing that my ordeal would end with the fiscal year. I planned to invite all your classmates and friends and their families for the weekend.

The schedule called for an early departure by bus from Manila and the first stop will be Concepcion, where lunch will be served by the pool. And after lunch, you were to visit the Santa Rita Elementary School to distribute cookies and ice cream to the children of that public school where you were first enrolled. I guess sheer nostalgia prompted me to include Santa Rita. We were only three then: Mommie, you and I. Those were the days of happy memories, little responsibilities, tremendous freedom, a great future ahead and capped by a fulfillment of love. You are the first fruit of our union, the first proof of our love and the first seal of our affections.

From Concepcion we were to proceed to Luisita for the barrio fiesta. I intended to invite a friend who could roast an entire cow succulently. Swimming, pelota, dancing and eating would have been the order of the day. Sunday morning was reserved for a trip around the Hacienda and the mill and maybe golf for some of the parents and later a picnic-lunch on Uncle Tony’s Island. Return to Manila after lunch. I am afraid this will have to remain one of the many dreams I had in Laur.

Our future has suddenly become uncertain and our fate unknown. I am even now beginning to doubt whether I’ll ever be able to return to you and the family. Hence, I would like to ask you these special favors.

Love your mother, whose love for you, you will never be able to match. She is not the greatest mother in the world, she is your sincerest friend. Take care of your younger sisters and brother and lavish them with the love and care I would like to continue giving them but am unable to do so. Help Noynoy along and pray hard that he will grow to be a real, responsible man who in later years will protect you all. You are the model for your three younger sisters. Your responsibility is therefore great. Please endeavor to live up to our highest expectations. Be more tolerant to Pinky, more accessible to Viel, our little genius-princess, and more charitable to Krissy, our baby doll, and make up for my neglect.

Finally, forgive me, my love, for not having been an ideal, good and thoughtful father to you all as I pursued public office. I had hopes and high resolve of making up, but I am afraid my destiny will not oblige. I seal this letter with a drop of tear and a prayer in my heart, that somehow, somewhere we shall meet again and I will finally be able to make up for all my lapses, in the kingdom where justice reigns supreme and love is eternal.

I love you, Dad.

* Source of the letter was Antonio J. Montalvan’s column, Kris-crossing Mindanao (Philippine Daily Inquirer 8/17/2009 as posted in the PDI website)


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