Trip to the Aquino Museum in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac

I was looking forward to visiting this museum because I am such a big fan of the Aquinos. Everything stops when anything about them is featured on TV. What they did for the Philippines is simply momentous, something often just found in fictional novels. I have heard of the Aquino Museum for a couple of years now, and my interest was revived after watching President Noynoy Aquino's interview on CNN Talk Asia just a few weeks before Noynoy formally took his oath (the interview was held at the museum).

The entrance was immediately inviting with high ceiling, a spacious lobby and larger than life portraits lined up on one side. At the end of the row of portraits is a quaint chapel with glass doors:

The museum itself was basically only a picture story of what transpired from pre-martial rule up to Cory Aquino's rise to power as the president of a democratic Philippines in 1986. There are a few memorabilia displayed worth looking at too.

However, the tour will be rendered trivial if not for the highlight found at the center -- a simulated 3 x 5 meter cell where Ninoy found himself in solitary confinement for 7 years in Fort Bonifacio:

Ninoy was not only a very effective speaker; he was also a very talented writer. He described his imprisonment like a slow and painful death:

"I scratch the wall to mark the passage of each day
A day lost forever never to return - wasted, gone!
I watch the marching, lengthening column of my days
Passing me by in mournful cadence to their death
Like dripping drops of water from life's vessel
Drip, drip, drip
The leather jug will soon be dry
Empty like a body with no more blood and tears to shed
and then: Good-bye!"

Next is the gripping sight of the bloodstained white suit that Ninoy wore when he was assassinated:

I replayed in my mind the countless of times I have seen Ninoy's last moments abound China Air in 1983, before he was gunned down at the Manila International Airport. It is always the same overwhelming feeling whenever I see that video, and this same feeling was heightened ten times when I stood inches away from that bloodied suit. Only a glass encasing separated me from a precious piece of history. Truth is, 1983 of the Philippines can be summed up by a single piece of tainted white suit that defined the next ten years of a renewed democracy.

As I peeled myself away from that heart-wrenching sight, I moved on to view more framed pictures, stopping once in a while to read personal notes written by Ninoy and Cory. Both their diaries were put on display and it was opened on the page where they separately wrote their grief over the death of Jose Cojuangco (Cory's father). Ninoy wrote about his bereavement from his cell while Cory wrote hers from their home. I wished I could flip the pages and peer deeper into their thoughts, but again, the diaries were protected in glass cases. Reading their entries inspired me to also keep a journal and write down my thoughts spontaneously with my own penmanship!

In another entry, Ninoy wrote about his decision to go on a hunger strike and mentioned he was losing weight every time he stepped on the scale. I imagined a man writing about his progress in a weight loss program, except that he is not. I do not recall the exact words written but he wrote it in a matter-of-fact tone, even enumerating details to support his decision. Truly, it was an emotional time for Ninoy and his family, yet Ninoy still managed to justify his act of defiance in bullet points. He made it sound like selflessness is an everyday thing to do, like a breakfast staple.

Yet, Ninoy was very much a family man though he was not privileged enough to give them his time. While imprisoned, he requested to call up his son, Noynoy, to greet him on his 16th birthday. This was one of the most touching letters I've seen in the museum.

For P100 entrance fee, I'd say the trip to the Aquino Museum was so worth it. Once again, I had a renewed deep sense of respect and admiration for the Aquinos, especially Ninoy and Cory. I sure hope that more memorabilia will be added soon, especially with Cory's recent passing, and Noynoy's becoming president.
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