Of Puzzle Pieces

Friday, September 08, 2017


The rest of that particular August afternoon was spent inside our cozy hotel room in Microtel Luisita. After we had our hearty meal at Victor's, we took to our rooms and cozied up. We were so comfortable that when it started to rain, we weren't worried about our plans being cancelled. We were fine just staying in. 

However, just as the last sunfall was about to retreat, the downpour mellowed into drizzle. So, by 4PM, we reluctantly got out of bed, put our shoes on, and drove to the Aquino Center and Museum

It was a brief ride. Over the sparkling asphalt of Hacienda Luisita, our service van cruised. Just before we arrived, the sky gave and rain hammered. A staff, carrying large yellow parasols, ran towards us. We were then ushered to the entrance one by one. 

The building was all corners. Sleek and all angles. In the gloomy pre-dusk glow, it looked gray and lonely. Trimmed grass covered one side of the yard, outdoor lighting blinking into life. From the glass doors of the museum, a warm, muted haze spilled out. It cast a square patch of shadow on the pavement. Inside, the ceiling soared. The floors were tiled and polished. It gleamed with the yellow lights, as if winking conspiratorially. On one wall, four massive panels housed blown-up photographs. At that time, I didn't pay them any attention.
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A tour guide arrived and recited the house rules: no cameras inside the main museum. Fine. 

We then stepped inside the doors and the familiar air heavy with the scent of kept, cared for things enveloped us. A hush fell over the group. On all sides of this portion of the room were photographs. All featured one man: Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.


The photos showed his family at first. But a few frames later, his accomplishments were proudly displayed: from being the youngest war correspondent to being the youngest senator. They were impressive. Imposing, too. Somehow diminishing. I felt as though the exhibit wasn't meant to inspire but to exult. But aren't all museums like that?

The tour briefly went over Ninoy's marriage to Corazon Cojuangco – Cory – narrating how a dove on landing on the shoulders during the wedding reception predicted a lifetime of sacrifice. It then proceeded to the rest of Ninoy's life, his political career that led to his demise. It told of his meteoric rise, his imprisonment, his incarceration, and his assassination. It was interesting to hear the story in such a different framing, as told from the eyes of Ninoy's family. It was obviously subjective, yet heartwarming and thought-provoking too. 

Seamlessly, the story transitioned into the life of Cory and how she was unwittingly thrown into the dirty political landscape. Thrown quite deeply too; she became the first woman Philippine president. 

The tour then glazed over the gifts bestowed to Cory by leaders. Valuable, exquisite gifts like porcelain plates and priceless silverware. There was even a photo of Emperor Hirohito breaking protocol by extending her a hand. The respect and admiration this woman commanded. It was enviable and surreal. 

The tour concluded with a mosaic of Ninoy and Cory's faces adorning a wall. Set in yellow, the piece was gifted to the museum. This was right outside the main museum where it was now allowed to take photos. So, we took some here. 

We circled back and emerged on the other side of the hall where the blown-up photographs were. This time, I paid attention to what they depicted. A photo of Ninoy in his coffin, mangled and unwashed – this was the most poignant of the pictures. It made me uncomfortable, conflicted about the entire experience. 
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I have a slight mistrust of history, for history is always written by the victors. It has many versions, some of which aren't necessarily lies but aren't also the whole truths. How could you trust second-hand accounts when even your own memory could sometimes fail you? How could you pass judgment on something of which you don't even know the whole story?

I've been to Ilocos and saw the Marcoses' version. It was romanticized much like how this version was. I'm not sure how to feel about the entire thing. Skeptical? Sad, perhaps? Indifferent? Maybe a bit of all three? 

It's true what they say: the more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Learning about the Aquinos did help put some things in perspective. But, frankly, it inspired more questions than answers. Which, come to think of it, isn't really such a bad thing, yes?

After all, satisfaction is death.

Storytime is a series of  stories about my most memorable travel experiences. Read more here.

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