Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper Shop Hello! Create with us

Fly high, PNoy!

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 29, 2021 9:06 am

When I asked President Noynoy Aquino, who then had only one full day more before he bowed out of office, where he was going to ride after he handed over the torch to President Rodrigo Duterte before noon of June 30, 2016, he said, “the same Toyota Land Cruiser I’ve been using all these years.”

“Isn’t it the government’s?” I asked, thinking of the day his mother, the late former President Cory Aquino, rode a family-owned white Toyota Crown, giving up her official Mercedes-Benz, on June 30, 1992 at the Quirino Grandstand?

“But the Toyota I am using is not the government’s,” he pointed out. “It is leased but not paid for by government.”

Noticing my raised eyebrow, he added, “From the moment I became President, my personal comfort was the least of my priorities.”

Thus, there weren’t much of the trappings of power that he was going to miss as a private citizen. He never used a “wang-wang,” so he wouldn’t miss it. He wouldn’t have missed travelling abroad on government expense because he didn’t particularly like travelling, and only did so when necessary.

What he would miss, he said during my last interview with him as President at Malacañang Palace, “is being in a position to be able to effect change in the lives of others.”

A week before he bowed out of office, without fanfare, he decided to try out Texas Roadhouse at Bonifacio Global City. As he was making his way to the door after his meal, one table burst into applause, followed by another table, then another, till the whole restaurant was cheering him on.

Of all PNoy’s achievements, I value those that are measurable. Numbers are cold and calculating, and can stand the tough test of authentication. And time.  According to Bloomberg, the Aquino years saw a growth “spurt” in the economy not seen since the ’70s.

The Philippine economy under PNoy achieved 6.2 percent average annual growth in gross domestic product, the highest since the ’70s. It received three credit rating upgrades from three credible ratings agencies: Fitch (BBB Positive); Moody’s (Baa2 Stable) and S&P (BBB Stable).

He was happy that a week before he bowed out of office, without fanfare, he decided to try out Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant in Bonifacio Global City. As he was making his way to the door after his meal, one table burst into applause, followed by another table, then another, till the whole restaurant was cheering him on.

Those moments, for him, he told me then, make the sacrifices and the “long days and long nights” — worth it.

Last Friday, even hours before the public was allowed to pay their last respects to PNoy, a true-blue Atenean from Prep to College, at the Church of the Gesu in the Ateneo de Manila campus in Loyola Heights, hundreds had already lined up outside the gates. Social distancing was observed.

Bantering with the press

One of the annual Christmas parties PNoy never failed to attend in his six years as President was the Bulong Pulungan Christmas party at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. The media forum was founded by Deedee Siytangco, Jullie Yap Daza and the late Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, among others, in 1986.

In his last Christmas party with the members of the forum in December 2015, President Aquino showed a sentimental side that was hardly, if at all, seen in public.

According to Siytangco, the President was “teary-eyed” when she accompanied him back to his Land Cruiser after the party, which began with a spirited and freewheeling open forum.

During that last open forum with him, the President was relaxed and almost as transparent as the waters of Boracay once were (and maybe now are again).  He revealed that a part of him wished he could ride the MRT when it was better functioning (he said some 48 new trains were “coming in already”); he said he would not paint like his mother did after her term because he wasn’t talented in that regard; and that he hadn’t lost hope of starting a family. He also revealed the one thing that was going to make him faint!

The son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino said that no one, no matter how well-intentioned, is indispensable.

“So, I think the true measure of success — and I’d like to subscribe to that idea — is your ability to train your successor. Hopefully, that will happen. And ’yung staying — siguro, like in show business — you shouldn’t stay forever and ever or you shouldn’t hope to stay forever and ever,” he said in response to Domini Torrevillas’ question (Domini has also gone to heaven and may now be grilling PNoy as well). 

“There will always be somebody who will be, I guess, fresher, more energetic, less jaded, less cynical...”

He was looking forward to waking up really late in the day on his first day as Private Citizen.

 PNoy signs his autograph for the author during a visit to The Philippine STAR during his presidency.

“One would hope that the person who replaces me does such a great job that there is no need to criticize or to fiscalize. I guess I inherited it also from my mother. I’m really not one for unsolicited advice. I would rather not… I would not want to put my successor in the same situation of having to deal with — a lot of times, well-meaning, but unfortunately not very good — advice.”

“Again, like any citizen, if called upon to help, why shouldn’t we? But as much as possible, I will pray for the successor that he really builds upon the successes that we’ve had already, and therefore we can go from strength to strength,” he said.

Chay Santiago asked the President, “Who is Benigno Aquino III?”

“Who is Benigno Aquino III? I was looking at the mirror the other day. I was trying to decide whether or not I had more hair now or less hair,” he quipped. “But in all seriousness, I’d like to think I’ve also grown as a person with some of the challenges we’ve had to face that we didn’t imagine. I tend to be a person who prepares for the worst but hopes for the best and some of the challenges were really…” He left his sentence unfinished.

Without him realizing it, President Aquino did give one piece of advice during the forum — unsolicited — to his successor when he talked about the qualities of a good leader.

“(If) we were asked by the incoming administration: What should be done? What should be continued? But more than anything, if there was just one piece of advice, I think it’s not to lose the ability to listen. ‘Di ba, we have this saying there are so many graduates of AIM. Iyong mga ‘ayaw iwanan ’yung mic’ because they are fond of their voice.

“I guess the best leader, especially in democratic countries, is one who has the ability to keep on listening and acting on the wants, the needs of his bosses, which are the electorate, which are the people who put him into office.

“I guess in essence this would be it: Don’t lose your ability to be able to really listen so that you can best serve your masters, which are the Filipino people.”

Jullie Yap Daza had a follow-up: What would he like to forget about his six years in office? Mr. Aquino said he wanted to forget those who saw nothing right at all with his efforts to lead the Filipino people to a better life.

Sandee Masigan asked him what he would like the people to remember about his presidency.

“I’m hoping that people will say, ‘Look at the challenges that we had to undergo as a people and how we overcame them.’ And if there’s a future challenge, then perhaps they will be able to say we will also surmount this in the same way that we managed to surmount that which we thought was insurmountable.”

He wanted to be remembered as the President who responded to the people’s trust in the best way he could, and empowered them in the process.

“They gave me an opportunity and I helped enable them to reach their potentials. I keep saying everything that is happening is not because of me or my Cabinet; it’s happening, it has happened because the people willed it. They have charted the present and the future.

“So they are not powerless to determine their fate. They are in fact, the prime movers towards determining their fate. People power is a reality and it can really be used for the good.”

And Jullie Yap Daza had a follow-up to that: What would he like to forget about his six years in office?

And Mr. Aquino said he wanted to forget those who saw nothing right at all with his efforts to lead the Filipino people to a better life.

Iyong if they say something nice about me I would probably faint!” he joked.

Mr. President, please don’t faint in heaven right now.

Fly high! 

Photo By Ryan Lim/ Malacanang Photo Bureau