The year was 1983.
August 21, exactly 36 years ago today, Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. was found dead in the airport’s tarmac, felled by an assassin’s bullet, his supposed gunman lying a few meters away from him.
It was chaos, it was mayhem. It was one big still unresolved conspiracy.
I and my family were among those that watched on our screens the scenes unfolding in the country’s capital.
I was barely into my teens then, so my politics was based solely on what the family’s values were.
“Patay si Ninoy, patay si Ninoy!” my cousins were whispering furiously as we watched glued to the TV screens, at the flurry of images that culminated in a man sprawling on the tarmac, blood pooling and drenching his white vest.
The image was seared into my brain.
A senator of the land, one of the most outspoken critics of the Marcos dictatorship, was just gunned down upon stepping on tarmac.
It was beyond believable.
Still it led to a string of events that would eventually lead to what is now known as the EDSA Revolution.
A dictator was deposed through a civilian-backed military coup d’etat at the time when people were still grieving over the assassination of a senator who symbolized opposition at the time of grave political, economic, and social turmoil.
And the first ever woman President in the Philippines came to power.
Like most idealistic youth of our times, I was enamoured by the Yellow color. It stood for defiance, for righteousness, for democracy. Especially democracy.
We tied yellow ribbons for Cory; we waited for her in the streets to welcome her; we waved yellow banners as she passed and waved at us (“Oh my God, she’s soooo pretty!”).
And so imagine my excitement when, less than a decade later, I shook the hand of my idol as she and her entourage passed by us.
I can still remember that encounter.
I was a college student in one of the universities here. My barkada and I were studying (euphemism for catching up on the latest gossip) under one of the secluded spots beneath some lime of tees, when we saw HER. Cory, the former President, with an entourage of less than 10 people were going to pass by us.
I was star-struck. My barkada and I quickly stood up (I stopped myself from RUNNING – PSG might take me for an assassin), and she took the time to stop in front of us to make small talk.
“Are you all students here?”
We all nodded. Mass Communication students suddenly at a loss for words. It was the first.
“Mass Comm,” one of us (was it me? I don’t know; I can’t remember speaking. I can remember my jaw mouth slackening like an idiot though) said.
“All of you?”
We were excruciatingly monosyllabic. We are sorry Mass Comm program. We have failed you.
Still, it was unforgettable for me as she shook each of her hands, and I can still remember how soft her hand was, and how beatific she looked in a simple pale yellow dress.
That encounter was brief, but it impressed me because I got to shake the hand of one of the women I admired.
Of course my feelings had changed since then, especially when I did my own research about the excesses and abuses of the people under her administration.
I am not going to disrespect her memory that way.
Still, Cory’s legacy could not be denied. From plain housewife to the most powerful woman of the land.
And that would not have happened were it not for the terrible, terrible event that happened 36 years ago today.
That was August 21 exactly 36 years ago today.
The year that was 1983.