Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Grave Is Not Its Goal

Twenty six years ago, on the day I turned two, Ninoy Aquino was shot dead. I was much too young to comprehend the impact of such news, but it was one of my clearest childhood memories: my mom and I were in the sala, looking out of the window, the black radio delivering the news at the corner of the room. I was seated on my mom’s lap and I couldn’t see her face, but I remember that she was silent for a while. I remember that she said something like, “it’s your birthday, and Ninoy died.” Maybe it was my mom’s way of predicting that one day, the nation will revere Ninoy as a hero, and will celebrate his life every year on his death anniversary, every year on my birthday. But I didn't know that then, and neither did my mom. All I know was it was my birthday, and it was a sad day.

When the news broke out that former President Cory Aquino passed away last August 1, my first thought was: she died 20 days before the death anniversary of Ninoy. It was such a sad, sad thought for me and I don’t know why. All weekend long I tried to fight this grief. I avoided the news and specials on TV, avoided reading the tributes of newspaper columnists and bloggers. I didn’t even attempt to catch a glimpse of the cortege when it passed by Ayala Avenue yesterday. Maybe if I didn’t think about it, it never happened. Yet somehow, I found myself crying silently while traveling the length of Roxas Boulevard this morning. Maybe I was overreacting. But then, maybe all of us – those who lined up to see her casket, those who waited, welcomed and showered her casket with confettis on the streets of Makati – are overreacting. So what? We have the right to express ourselves freely, we have the right to overreact. We are free to do all these things, all because of Cory.

There’s nothing more that I could add to what has been already said about Cory’s legacy. But more than her legacy as a leader and champion of democracy, it is her belief – and Ninoy’s belief – in the inherent goodness of people that I will most remember her for. Years ago, we showed the world our best when, as a nation, we chose Cory as our President against tremendous odds, during such tumultuous times. I hope and pray that one day, we might show the world again our very best.

I am sad, but I’m eternally grateful. Grateful that I can celebrate my birthdays as a citizen of a free and democratic nation. Grateful that I can mourn a person’s death without fear of persecution or arrest. Grateful that I learned how to have faith in people to do what's good and right because my leader taught me how to. Thank you, Cory.

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
"Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
Was not spoken of the soul.
- A Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1 comment:

k a r e n said...

great post Jela and I love the poem.