Huggybear's Imaginary Interview With Ninoy Aquino

August 17-23 Edition

Ninoy Aquino 
My Simply Six 
Heath Ledger  
Roy Davies
This special reprint of Huggybear's "Imaginary Interview With Ninoy Aquino" first appeared in May 31, 2009 on 2Rivers. It was also published  May 30, 2009 in the citizen journalism site AllVoices 

Manila – Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the greatest Filipino of the 20th century, talks to 2Rivers about the state of Philippine politics today and why democracy is still the best hope for the future. The questions are fiction but the answers are his direct quotes. Excerpts:

Q. Senator Aquino, there are those who say that what the Philippines need is a strong leader, like Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore or Mahathir of Malaysia. In this context, is democracy still relevant? 

A. The struggle in the Philippines today is between those who have been mesmerized by the efficiency of authoritarianism and those who still hold that democracy, with all its flaws and inefficiency, is man’s best hope for betterment and progress. Man’s sense of justice makes democracy possible, man’s injustice makes it necessary.

            Q. But don’t you think there is too much conflicting views in a democratic setting? 

             A. I agree that we must have public order and national discipline if the country is to move forward, [but] The philosophy of democracy rests not on the belief in the natural goodness of man, but in his educability, not in the inevitability of social progress but in the potentialities of nature and intelligence. The essence of democratic faith is that through the continuing process of political education, men can be sufficiently reasonable to discover, with evidence and give-and-take of free discussion, a better way of solving problems.

            Q. Senator, how would you characterize a democratic society? 

            A. A free society reconciles liberty and equality, rejects liberal freedom without equality and total equality without freedom. Its essence is the absence of special privilege. Its guarantee is an equal opportunity for self-fulfillment for every citizen. It is dynamic, not static, open to change, be it gradual or rapid, for no on does possess the last word, and the world of men and nature is in constant flux.

            Q. President Gloria Arroyo’s public trust ratings are even lower than those of Joseph Estrada during Edsa 2. Every year for half a decade, the opposition files for her impeachment, her allies would override it, and reports about Congressional bribery would leak to the media. But the idea is ‘Majority Rules.’ Would you call this democratic? 

            A. I believe democracy is not just majority rule, but informed majority rule, and due respect for the rights of the minorities. It means while the preference of the majority must prevail, there should be full opportunity for all points of view to find expression. It means toleration for opposition opinion. Where you find suppression of minority opinion, there is no real democracy.

            Q. Another annual phenomena in the Philippines are talks of coup de ‘etat. Would you condone a military take-over to force a change of leadership? 

            A. Why should I advocate a violent overthrow of our government? I am one of the lucky few who never lost an election – from mayor, to vice-governor, to governor, to Senator. Why should I want to destroy a form of government that has served me well? In fact, in 1972, I was within a stone’s throw away from the highest office within the gift of our people – the Presidency.

            Q. Since 2001, the Arroyo administration has been trying to shift into a unicameral parliamentary form of government with a new constitution because of the ‘gridlock” brought about by the political opposition, specifically, the Senate. Should we place limitations on the opposition? 

            A. An opposition party is indispensable in a democracy. The opposition should act the critic of the party in power, developing, defining and presenting the policy alternatives which are necessary for a true choice in public decision-making. It must therefore be guaranteed not only protection but existence, and must be allowed to speak freely and unafraid.

            Q. Politicians are always dismissed as “grandstanding” whenever they speak out regarding a major issue, such as the accusations that Ms. Arroyo rigged the 2004 elections and that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo took bribes from ZTE Corp. of China for the national broadband network project. In these cases, what should the responsibility of the opposition be? 

            A. To speak and denounce rampant injustices. Justice can only be realized only when those who have not been victimized become as outraged as those who have been. [The opposition’s] role is to fight for the people. Whether they will show gratitude or not, immediately, later or never, should not enter our calculations. That is our fate: to fight for what is right.

            Q. But some politicians over-react from time to time, to the level of name-calling and gutter language. For example, the feud between Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. There’s also a word war between Senator Manuel Villar and Senator. Panfilo Lacson. Senator Bong Revilla took the floor and personally attacked a doctor who was involved in a video scandal, calling him names like “maniac” and “pervert.” Senator Jamby Madrigal cursed Gilbert Remulla, the spokesman for the Nacionalista Party and former Cavite congressman, on national radio. Where do you draw the line? 

            A. We believe we are the people of God endowed with reason – which lifts us from the brute – from which we derive our standards of morality, justice and rational method of ascertaining our duty to our fellowmen and community. [But] In the end we get the government we deserve. No social or political organization can be better than thequality of the men and women who compose it.

            Q. There are criticisms about how the media sensationalize issues to boost their ratings. Are those criticisms valid? 

            A. A free media is indispensable if a democracy is to function efficiently, if it is to be real. The people, who are sovereign, must be adequately informed all the time. These I hold sacred: the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, freedom of thought and speech and press, his liberty to choose – without fear or pressure – the public official of his choice, and the principles handed down to us by our forebears.

            Q. There are rumors floating around that the 2010 elections will be sabotaged to enable Ms. Arroyo to legally stay beyond her term. There are also reports that her Congressional allies are still covertly orchestrating a Constitutional Assembly – without the Senate – to write a new Charter. 

            A. So, we find ourselves again in a time of trials – kind that demands of each of us an unstinting, heroic response. Beyond the greed, the pride, the insolence and the pretensions of those who rule us through force and fear and fraud, there is a living Almighty God who knows the dark mysteries of evil in the hearts of men. I know His justice, truth and righteousness will reign and endure forever. History offer cold comfort to those who think they can do as they please and let the people go hang.

            Q. Last question, Senator. Do you believe that the Filipino is worth dying for? 

             A. I have asked myself many times: Is the Fillipino worth suffering, 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.
The direct quotes of Ninoy Aquino are from “Ninoy: Ideals & Ideologies, 1932 – 1983 (The Benigno S. Aquino Foundation Jr. Foundation Inc., © 1993)

NINOY: The Heart and The Soul

I find serenity in living simply. I avoid information overload with my Simply Six. I've divided my life into 6 major areas, like "sports" and "writing" (which includes updating my blog when I go online to e-mail my articles to publications). I also have quiet time for myself, like when I curl up with a book while shutting out the rest of the world. Or when I when I'm up in a mountain or under the sea, or when I just want to watch the sunset. Then I have what I can describe as "discretionary time" for stuff with practical applications in my life to avoid tunnel vision, like when I try out new ideas. Now that I know my priorities, paradoxically it's easier to find time for my girlfriend, close friends and relatives. Anything outside is a waste of time

I saw only a couple of Heath Ledger's movies. I really like the one with the jousting knights, even if he says it was a studio quickie just to cash in from his publicity-generated fame.

But I saw Heath in a new light when he became The Joker. This guy, I thought, is one hell of an actor!

It was never about the fame, Heath Ledger says in a 2006 GQ cover story. A lot of his films, like Four Brothers and The Order, flopped, and he didn't mind. 

"It gives you space to sit back a little and get perspective on things," he says. 

Lots of celebrities are into "self-promotional blather in the guise of shoptalk" during interviews, writes Alex Pappademas. "But because he's genuinely humble and genuinely wary of coming off like a pretentious jackass, Ledger's reluctant to go there." 

Then came Brokeback Mountain, where the cowboy bromance angle was eclipsed by Heath's finely-tuned performance. It's only then that Hollywood saw just how good he was.

"I've never been in a movie that people like so much," he says, "so I'm really suspicious of it." 

Heath found himself on the verge of being swallowed by the system. "I needed to cleanse myself of this commercial filth that was being injected into me," he says. "I needed to be reborn." 

Heath left the limelight to find his bearings. "Things have been good, quiet, almost monastically calm, like he's pared his life down to a haiku" writes Pappademas when they met again a couple of weeks later. "He is doing his impression of late 70s John Lennon, holed up in the Dakota, contented baking bread. But you also get the sense that he is imagining a world in which he could keep on like this forever." 

Heath was happy living a quiet life. "I'm just so comfortable right now, really relaxed" he says. "I find I'm liking myself more for it and I'm learning more about myself. I have a lot more time to think. And when you do get a slice of freedom, you do something with it."

I saw an article on Ray Davies of the 60s group The Kinks also on the same magazine. I'm sort of intrigued. I remember first hearing their All Day and All of the Night in Sapang Palay, Bulacan, one of the many places I drifted to as I began my still-nomadic life at 14.

"To trust my instincts," he says about the greatest lessons he learned as he turned 61. "That procrastination is a bad thing. Prevarication is deception. Self-deception is really easy. I think that the truth comes from real instinct and intuition. Too much knowledge is a bad thing." 

Showbiz almost ruined his life because a lot of people screwed him. "My intention was to make enough money so I could go off and study and do painting and make films and do theater without worrying about going to college. I didnt get sucked in. I was lucky, I could write hits. The irony is that I wrote the hits, got a taste for it, then realized I didn't have any money because we had such crappy deals."

He became elusive, refusing to have his photo taken even while on stage. "As soon as I know it's a hype, there's something inside me that turns off." 

Fame doesn't impress him at all. "There's a part of me that would rather be living in an attic somewhere." The limelight "symbolizes you've arrived but it's very transient." He's learned a lot along the way. "I don't want to end up like the people who do what I do who've been misled by the lights and brightness of it all." 

My Favorite Ray Davies Quote: "Ninety percent of the people in the world are in need of emotional help, the other ten percent are crazy."

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"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."

~Nelson Mandela
"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

~Bill Gates
Today I posted a title. It just used to be the issue date on the title field. Now there's more spice. So sweet
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

~Friedrich Nietzsche
"What does mysticism really mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It's close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically."

~Elie Wiesel