The First Time I Met Ninoy
Posted August 21, 2009on:
Today, for the 26th time, we commemorate the assassination of Tito Ninoy. Feeling the need to write about him on this day but having never met him, I invited a guess writer to Kiki and Lala Land instead.
Here are the thoughts of a man who goes by many names: Tatong, Groucho, and “President For A While”.
The first time I met Ninoy, I was 22 years old and about to get married. Although he is the husband of my first cousin, you have yo understand that Cory was a lot older than us – Paching and Meding’s children. So I was intensely aware we were related but they were distant celebrities until then. (Boss Ding and I stayed in Tio Pepe Cojuangco’s house until 1949 when I was 2 years old because Tio Pepe and Tia Metring wanted my parents to kind of watch over their house while they were traveling and attending to their many business ventures).
So there we were, Mommy Paching and I in Times St. one sunny morning. She and Daddy Meding had decided that the primary Ninong for my wedding was going to be Ninoy. He was the helicopter-riding Super Boy and everybody’s favorite brother/nephew/uncle/best friend and the much-anticipated future President of the Philippines.
Being painfully shy, I really didn’t want to be there in the company of the Superstar. I just wanted to get married. When we arrived at Times, the first one to greet us was Cory. Good morning Tita Paching. Kamusta kayo? O Titong, magaasawa ka na pala. Hintayin natin si Ninoy – nasa shower pa siya.
Without warning a whirlwind, wrapped in a Japanese bathrobe storms into the room. My first impression – basa pa ang buhok, ang puti ng legs. He goes to Mommy Paching and kisses her hand very respectfully, then turns to me and exclaims with calculated familiarity, At eto naman ang Titong! Balita ko magaasawa ka na!
Almost sheepishly, I answered, Oo and I was wondering if I could ask you to be our Ninong. That is, if you will be available on January 31. With the master politician’s aplomb Super Boy immediately committed. Available? Even if I’m not, I will make myself available! Then he sat me down and with his quick mind and gift of gab, started engaging me in a long semi-monologue on all topics under the sun from the stock market to world events to young people issues while making me feel like we were long lost friends and I was the most important person in that room. From then on, it was NINOY FOREVER.
Whatever else destiny had in store for Ninoy and Cory after that October 1969 morning, it was clear in my mind that I would always be on their side even in the direst of circumstances.
P.S. Ninoy did not actually make it to the wedding because the night before which was January 30, The First Quarter Storm erupted in full fury. Marcos had just emerged from Congress after giving the State of the Nation Address when thousands of student demonstrators vented their ire on his corrupt regime. The police and the soldiers went after the students who were beaten up and jailed after running battles all through the night. Naturally, Super Boy was in the thick of the action trying to protect the protestors. And somehow a wedding in Cebu the following morning could not take priority over a national tragedy. So instead, Cho Enchong Sumulong – also a senator and my father-in-law’s UP Law School classmate – stood in for Ninoy. But no need to forgive, we understood. Ninoy belonged to the country. NINOY MORE THAN EVER!