This scene is somewhere north of Dumaguete. The statue is supposed to represent Ninoy Aquino, although I wouldn’t have known that at first glance. It’s true that the glasses make it clear that Ninoy is intended, but the posture, the expression on the statue’s face, is very un-Aquino.
Of course, I didn’t know him personally; but I did know people who knew him well, and had various opinions about him. This was around 1975.
Marcos seized dictatorial power over the Philippines in September 1972. He at once arrested and imprisoned Aquino, his strongest opponent. Fearing the same treatment for themselves, many powerful and wealthy Filipinos fled to America, often without funds.
Many of these people became anonymous exiles in San Francisco, working at minor jobs in the city, and it was there that I got to know some of them. We would go out for coffee after work, and I would hear them arguing about someone called “Ninoy”– they all knew him, and had strong feelings about him, ranging from admiration to contempt.
At that time a secret plot to rescue him and several others from Fort Bonifacio had succeeded; but when they came to Ninoy’s cell to free him, he absolutely refused to leave! He said that by remaining in prison as a symbol, he could be a stronger force against Marcos than if he were set free.
Opinions around the coffee table were divided about this. Some said Ninoy was courageous, and right to remain; but others, particularly those involved in the rescue plot, said he had developed a “martyr complex”, had become “jail crazy”, and it was pointless to try to help him.
Crazy or not, he did finally become a martyr. He didn’t want to die, but he was willing to take that risk. Like Rizal before him, death came to him from people who happened to hold the power — dull, arrogant people who thought they could get away with anything. Unlike them, Ninoy was a very serious and intelligent man.
But you’d never know that, looking at this statue. Here, he just looks stupid. He is portrayed as a typical “Trapo”: stiff, over-fed and self-satisfied, facing the public with squinty eyes and a false, fat smile.
Just like the people who killed him.
No one knows what Ninoy would have become, had he lived; but he certainly would have looked better than this.