Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

Marcial Bonifacio – Filipino Hero. Upsilonian.

Posted on | August 18, 2010 | 4 Comments

by Jose A.P. Ampeso*

To many Filipinos, Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in August of 1983 was a very tragic incident. The dreadful loss of his life was a supreme sacrifice that spelled the beginning of the end of Ferdinand Marcos’ hedonistic rule, indeed well beyond the bounds of democratic processes.

My personal view of Ninoy was that of an elderly though youthful, vibrant but well-grounded journalist-turned politician of post World War I vintage, among the several brilliant colleagues of his time. For sure, he was a new player on the bloc, one sort of in- a-hurry. From Governor of Tarlac in 1965, he was in 1967 elected as senator, the lone one from the opposition Liberal Party to survive the senatorial rout (7 pro-administration Nacionalista Party winners) in the Marcos administration part I. Indeed, he was making a catch-up with or against a shrewd and veteran political leader (then Pres. F. E. Marcos who was a proven scholar and bar topnotcher who suffered the rigors of World War II, and fought himself to the top of Philippine politics, having won the Philippine presidency twice)!

I belong to the Diliman batch 1968 of the Upsilon Sigma Phi – Asia’s oldest born and greatest known greek-lettered Fraternity, having been established in 1918 (just a decade after U.P.’s foundation). Fellows Ferdinand E. Marcos and Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. were among the more well-known Brods, having undergone initiations in 1937 and 1950, respectively.

A MAVERICK POLITICIAN

Ten days after our final initiation rites, I was asked by a senior resident Brod, Dan Tinio, then the resident frat’s finance officer, to join him and other frat officers to help solicit funds from well-off senior alumni Brods, especially in the Philippine Senate. That afternoon of mid-October 1968 in the Senate Hall, we got ourselves busy, hustling for donations from five Senator Brods – Fellows Turing Tolentino, Gil Puyat, Gerry Roxas, Doy Laurel, and Ninoy Aquino (1/5th of the entire Philippine Senate)! Having been done with the first four, we approached Brod Ninoy who inquired how much the others gave out. Before our finance officer could open his mouth, I blurted out “1,000 pesos, Senior Brod”. He looked at me, as if to question whether indeed each gave out such amount, certainly huge in those times. But he said, “Brod, you must be a new Brod, mukhang na-initiate ka ng husto! You just wait for a while, Brods. I don’t have enough cash here.” So, he signaled for some money from his staff (I believe it was the late Raul Roco) to add on to his contribution of 1,000 pesos. Actually the four other Brods gave a total of 1,000. Ninoy by himself donated the same amount. At any rate, I somehow felt this incident was the beginning of a personally amiable, warm and brotherly association with a senior Brod, on the rise, maverick in his own right, a politician extraordinaire!

NURTURED ASSOCIATION

It was at his memorable Times residence where I visited and last saw Ninoy between his prison release and eventual exile to the U.S. in 1979 – the year I made it to the Foreign Service Officers’ (FSO) exams at the DFA. I did not know that our paths would cross over in the U.S. of A., where my association with this Brod would be nurtured further. It was in the southern port city of New Orleans that in the spring of ’82, I was posted as Vice-Consul. About a decade earlier, I was then a casual employee at the Philippine Embassy in Paris when I got together with Ninoy, then passing through the city of lights.

THE 1982 U.S. STATE VISIT

Months before the Philippine state visit to Washington DC, I was ordered to report to the Philippine Embassy there to pitch in for the preparations for said state visit by then President Marcos to the US capital. A week before the event, I learned that Ninoy was around, noting his presence in the company of his fellow journalists, among the many, who covered the state affair. Early on before Pres. Marcos’ actual arrival for the state visit in DC, these newsmen could be seen with their colleague Ninoy in various coffee shops near the embassy. As the visit was nearing, they simply became sparse, retreating from associating with Ninoy.  I sensed there was some verbal advisory to these Filipino newsmen to stay away from the senator. At any rate, Ninoy and I met each other but only once, as I informed him of the said advisory and its consequences that he acknowledged.

After this event of September ’82, I gleaned of a get-together among the Brods from the NY and the MS areas at Ninoy’s residence near Boston. According to some Brods, he reportedly inquired about me. Later, in two or three occasions, he rang me up, asking to meet up with him, if possible, and usually, at some neighboring U.S. airport as he would be going to this or that place through said airport. From these airport gatherings, I could sense his eagerness to return to the Philippines and to the Filipino people – sooner than later! I knew very well he was in touch with a thousand and one other guys who would have one and a thousand other things to pass on to him. How all these got processed in Ninoy’s brain, only he knew and could possibly know.

“I NEED A PASSPORT”

Sometime early in 1983, I learned from several sources, and from Philippine newspapers, that indeed, Ninoy was dead serious in returning home, and that various authorities in the Philippines were reacting somehow to this calculated move by Ninoy, given the crucial factor of Marcos’ health. Albeit flung in far-away New Orleans, I got a phone call one morning from Ninoy who said “Joey, Brod, help me. I need to have a passport. I need to travel outside and I request that you help me.”  My immediate reaction that I relayed to Ninoy was: “Senior Brod, I will act on your request. But could you somehow inform your batchmate, Brod Roque Ablan about this matter.”

For the next ten days, day and night, the matter was in mind! I could not talk it out with anybody as one had to appreciate the existing situation of the government then. Although martial law was lifted in 1981, it was but in name – the police powers of Big Brother were still in place, not only in the country but more so in Philippine foreign diplomatic and consular establishments. There was always some eye or ear in each post, especially the embassy and consulates in the U.S.

Albeit fully sympathetic with, and appreciative of Ninoy’s need for a passport, I felt that whatever response I would make then, would bear serious implications, primarily on my side as a civil servant, as a Brod, and as a person. Selfishly or selflessly, I was saying to myself, I should act accordingly – according to my conscience and my fidelity to the civil service.

Ninoy came back some three or four days, simply reiterating his request for help. I sensed that he was dead set on going back home although I still had to hear from Roquito.

A week later, Roque contacted me, saying “You can issue the passport to Ninoy. I have cleared it upstairs.” I reverted to him, “Manong, what upstairs? How about the military?” He said in Ilocano, “Why, is there some military person or representative there who would report to General Ver?” I said, “Ada!”, Ilocano for “There is!” He advised me to be extremely cautious, reiterating that I can issue Ninoy’s passport.

Two days later, I met up with Ninoy, again at a U.S. airport and delivered to him two passports, one in his name and the other in his nom de guerre “Marcial Bonifacio”.  He expressed his gratitude for what I did and said, “Brod, I truly appreciate your kind and brave act. I will see you in Manila.” We met in the latter part of spring ’83.

SHOT UPON ARRIVAL

The last time I heard from him was in early August of ’83, affirming that he was set to go back to the Philippines and that I should see him when back.

Past midnight of 21 August, I was driving on my way home, having attended a Filipino community function outside of the New Orleans area. I was listening to some Cajun music then, when suddenly the music was interrupted with the breaking news, stating that “Ninoy Aquino, Philippine opposition leader, was shot upon arrival at the Manila International Airport. He was 50 yrs old.”

I could not believe what I heard. I drove home fast and immediately got to the phone to call Manila. The news was confirmed. Some hours later, his death was also confirmed. I could not hold back my tears early that morning even as I began to realize the implication of his death, for the country and its people.  As for me, I sensed that there would be some investigation behind the dastardly hideous act of Ninoy’s assassination, including particularly, how he acquired a passport. As reported on American TV and newpapers, Ninoy’s death somehow gelled the Philippine opposition against Pres. Marcos, upon whom full blame for Ninoy’s reprehensible death was squarely laid.

SLEEPLESS IN NEW ORLEANS

For the next month, I literally would have sleepless nights, trying to behave as normally as I could while at work. I was informed that all Philippine posts the world over were ordered to check out their consular records to trace and verify from whence Ninoy’s passport came. My post in New Orleans was no exception. But no trace could point to New Orleans as the source of Ninoy’s passport! For this month-long unearthing of the post’s consular records, I barely could sleep, contemplating how to dissappear, if I could! I thought of going on leave that I believed was even uterly foolish or stupid as it would only draw unwanted attention. What I strove to do was to act and behave as normally as I could. To while time away, I spent most evenings with some Filipino community leaders or some American neighbors.
COPING WITH THE LOSS

It is now almost past a quarter of a century since Ninoy was shot at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport that has been re-named in his honor. His aspirations for the country and its people still remain aspirations to be achieved. Monuments, statues, a national holiday – these and many others – have been set to give recognition to this dreamer who asserted that “the Filipino can”.

As for me, I go on with life after the loss of this Brod whose association I cherish and promise to uphold. The memories of, and encounters with Ninoy, are so special to me that I certainly share with special people around me, like my children, some Brods, Upsilonian and Masonic, intimate friends and colleagues. I take pride in having known and helped Ninoy at a time he cried for help. When asked whether or not I was somehow rewarded for what I had bravely undertook for him, I would always reply in the negative. For certainly, no compensation whatsoever could gratify me most but his statement of appreciation and that he would see me in Manila. Perhaps, had he lived, I was and am sure he himself would somehow do the rewarding. I walked and am proud to have walked with Ninoy!

My association with Ninoy keeps me on!


*Editor’s Note: The author is a member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, UP’s University Students Fraternity. He joined the Upsilon in 1968, with Ninoy Aquino having joined earlier in 1950. This is an excerpt from his personal account of the author’s fraternal and personal association with Ninoy, especially up to his last days. It was originally written on July 20, 2002, and subsequently published in the book We Gather Light to Scatter: Ninety Years of Upsilon Sigma Phi.

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Comments

4 Responses to “Marcial Bonifacio – Filipino Hero. Upsilonian.”

  1. Tweets that mention Marcial Bonifacio – Filipino Hero. Upsilonian. | Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD -- Topsy.com
    August 19th, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Victor Villanueva, Albert Domingo. Albert Domingo said: How Ninoy Aquino got his "Marcial Bonifacio" passport in order to return to Manila: http://bit.ly/cbMf31 […]

  2. Jef Menguin
    September 12th, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

    I have learned so much from this one post. This the kind of history which we will never find in our Philippine history textbooks.

    Thank you for republishing.

  3. Vincent Isles
    March 20th, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    Interesting tidbit about Philippine history!

  4. Shared on YouTube: “Drunk” Behavior of Philippine Consul General in Canada
    April 22nd, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

    […] he became the consul general for Vancouver, Ampeso had graduated from UP Diliman (where he met Ninoy Aquino and became his frat mate at Upsilon Sigma Phi) was assigned to the US city New Orleans as a […]

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