“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy? I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.”
*Ninoy delivered before the Asia Society on August 4, 1980 in New York City.
It’s been years and yet Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. is still remembered from the shirts and posters that we see everywhere. This is only a sign that he became a part of every Filipino’s identity. However it is not only his so called heroism and legacy that has been left and looked upon, the famous statement “Filipinos are worth dying for” is also celebrated and even put in the old 500 peso bill with his famous portrait. But why did his statement moved us, Filipinos? Why is it necessary for him to say that we are worth dying for?
“Worth dying for”: the phrase is heavily equipped with words that can be controversial. How do we say something is worthy and not only worthy of anything but worthy of dying? Are we that special for him to say that? Yes, for him, it is yes.
Going back decades ago, we were under the martial law led by Ferdinand Marcos, the archenemy of Ninoy. Everybody before looked upon Ninoy for he was the only political actor that readily questioned Marcos and therefore took the hearts of the people. And with his death, the people’s cry for democracy was only empowered to the point that everybody was swayed by his ill fate. Scores of students, teachers, and workers alike make use of his statement either to fight their rights, use it academically, and/or to give...