5 facts you may not know about Ninoy Aquino

Stories we don't often hear about the Filipino hero, from starting out as a war correspondent at a young age to foretelling his own death

By Amanda Lago

Ninoy Aquino as part of the Diorama Experience of Philippine History, Second Floor, Ayala Museum. Photo courtesy of the Ayala Museum.

Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino will forever be remembered as the man who fought tirelessly against the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship at the cost of his freedom, and ultimately, his life. Assassinated on August 21, 1983, Aquino in death united the country in opposition, and sparked what would become the historic People Power Revolution.

In honor of Aquino’s death anniversary, we’ve rounded up five facts that people may not know about this Filipino hero:

Before entering politics, he was a war correspondent
Still in his teens, he worked for the Manila Times and became the correspondent covering the Korean War, the youngest journalist to do so at age 17. He even received the Philippine Legion of Honor Award from then-president Elpidio Quirino for his work.

He became mayor at the age of 22
Clearly not plagued by the quarter-life crisis that most twenty-somethings go through, Aquino broke records when he became the youngest mayor (of his hometown, Concepcion, Tarlac) at age 22, then the youngest vice-governor at 27, governor of Tarlac at 29, and then the youngest Filipino to enter the Senate at the ripe old age of 34.

While in prison, he went on a hunger strike that almost killed him
Even before Martial Law was declared, Aquino was already the Marcos administration’s biggest critic, warning the public of the then-president’s moves towards establishing a dictatorship. Soon after Marcos declared Martial Law in September 1972, Aquino was arrested on false charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms, and subversion, and imprisoned in Fort Bonifacio. To protest the authority of the military tribunal who would try him, he went on a hunger strike for 40 days and almost died in the process.

He was sentenced to die by a military tribunal, but the sentence was never carried out. 
In 1977, the Philippine military tribunal declared Aquino guilty of all charges and sentenced him to death by musketry. His way out? In 1980, he suffered a heart attack, and was surprisingly allowed to undergo bypass surgery in the United States, supposedly on the condition that he would return to the Philippines, and that he would not criticize the Marcos regime while abroad – though of course, that didn’t silence him. He continued to speak out and write against the Marcos government in the three years that he lived in Massachussets.

In a way, he foretold his death
Three years in self-imposed exile proved to be too long for Aquino, who became determined to return home after hearing about the political situation there, despite threats on his life. In his last interview with journalists before flying to Manila, he showed the bulletproof vest he would be wearing on his arrival but pointed out that his head would be unprotected. He then said, “you have to be very ready with your hand cameras. In a matter of three, four minutes, it could be all over, you know. And I may not be able to talk to you again after this.”


Information taken from ninoyaquino.ph, the website of the Ninoy & Cory Aquino Foundation.

Learn more about Aquino and the revolution he sparked at People Power, the Ayala Museum’s multimedia exhibit which is part of the museum’s Diorama Experience. The dioramas walk through 60 pivotal events in Philippine history, and ends with People Power, which chronicles significant events from the 1950s, through the martial law era, and the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986.

The Ayala Museum, Makati Ave. cor. Dela Rosa st., Makati City; Tel: +632/ 7598228; email: [email protected] Open Tues-Sun, 9am to 6pm. Admission is at P225 for adults, and P125 for students and senior citizens. Teachers with proper identification can enter for free.