When I read the first social media posts about his death, I wanted to doubt the news.
When I read the breaking reports from media I trust, my next thought was of his sisters. When he moved in the Bahay Pangarap in the Malacañang Park complex, his four sisters shared the official duties that, if he had married, would have been carried out by the country’s First Lady.
Finally, when the undeniable sunk in—that the 15th president of the country was dead at 61—my thoughts turned to us, the people he deferred to, first in his inaugural address and frequently throughout his term as the most powerful person in the land: “Kayo ang boss ko.”
As I write this, I feel the familiar hollow of what we have lost, his death debriding me of the carapaces grown even before June 30, 2016, when he stepped down and another moved into Malacañang.
So this is where five years have gone: growing one layer over another as self-fortification against the acid rain of jokes, innuendoes, smearing, shaming, and inanities assaulting women.
Five years of raining women. Cut up in body parts: “suso (tits),” “bisong (vagina).” As curses replacing presidential punctuations: “putang ina (mother-whore),” “bitches,” “crazy women.” Or reductionist judgement: The presidency is not for women, women are not emotionally wired like men.
Officially anointed, gutter talk is gutter think, spawning a culture that turns violence into a metonym for governance: Make the problem “disappear” in the War on Drugs; brand critics as terrorists; cut off media franchise; and threaten resistant women with assault, rape, gang-rape and shoot-the-bisong.
His death on the 24th of June sent me five years back, long before a strongman’s loud and lewd language converted “love of women” into an infested mattress of thorns.
The country’s first bachelor President was not above making jokes, often comparing his love life to Coke Zero. Not once did he paw women in public or spit back when they called him out.
This “soltero (bachelor)” reserved his most impassioned side for his parents, sisters and motherland: “Ang layunin ko sa buhay ay simple lang: maging tapat sa aking mga magulang at sa bayan bilang isang marangal na anak, mabait na kuya, at mabuting mamamayan.”
This was no lip service. On Dec. 21, 2012, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III signed into law the Reproductive Health Bill, which, after languishing for 13 years in Congress, grants Filipinos, specially girls and women, better access to information and means to prioritize their health and future.
Daghang salamat, President Noynoy. Love for women is again my ballot’s yardstick in 2022.