August marks the height of the hot summer season (in the Northern Hemisphere), the depths of winter (in Australia), and the worst of the rainy season (in the Philippines). This August Pinoys would still remember Ninoy Aquino (after all he is on 500 peso bills!) and Diana, Princess of Wales who died in a Paris tunnel car crash ten years ago this August 31st.
Diana Princess of Wales
I was a student in the British Empire oooops Commonwealth of Nations, in Australia when we got wind that Diana's car crashed and the Princess' condition was unaccounted for. We then learned from the news that she was with Dodi Al Fayed and that Dodi was indeed dead. Commercial broadcast seemed to stopped with only updates on the Princess' condition. Later that day, we learned that she was dead.
It was a sunny but bitterly cold and windy winter day. That I can remember. The university held a memorial service for her since the university has some connection with British royalty (after all the Elizabeth was also Queen of Australia). What surprised me that in this most egalitarian of the Queen's realms, people especially women were able to connect and emphatise with Diana's fate.
And the flowers and statements of grief came, spontaneously. Of course the Aussies were cynical of the statements from the pollies, especially from the Prime Minister.
The flowers came from the battlers to the champagne socialists of Double Bay, Sydney. In other words grief cut through Australian society. Diana spoke for the people that were taken for granted, the people with AIDS, the lepers, the victims of land mines....
In the women's Catholic college where I usually assist at Mass, the college had a sung Mass said in her memory. At the Anglican Cathedral, prayers were said for her. At the college, the women dressed up for the memorial Mass, something that few do in informal Australia.
A few days later I rang my Mum about how people in Manila were reacting to Diana's passing. She said that people who want to be seen were heaping floral tributes at the British embassy on Ayala and Makati Avenues.
Ninoy Aquino, now a national hero
I was probably swimming in a Laguna mountain stream when Ninoy was shot. We were on a data gathering trip for our high school mythology class. Of course we were not interviewing people about the Greek and Roman gods but about Paete woodcarvers and the like. Our professor wanted us to get the point that mythology was an important part of people's existence and that their art expresses it.
We learned that Ninoy was dead when we got home to Quezon City. A week earlier in lit class we had just discussed TS Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" and Thomas Becket's martyrdom was still on my mind. I called my best friend and told him "We have a martyr." Of course he got what I meant but the elders in our families did not.
In "Murder" Eliot writes "Whenever a martyr's blood has spilt, there is holy ground". Of course Thomas Becket was canonized and King Henry chastised. Becket became the object of pilgrimage in Canterbury until another Henry the VIII of that name ordered the shrine's destruction at the Reformation.
Becket became the focus of myths. Our professor challenged us to observe if Ninoy was to become the object of myth.
T'was not to be. The Ascendancy of the Sainted Queen Corazon put him on 500 peso bills. And now Gloriana, Queen of the State of the Nation Address and of all who think they can be strong as she wants them to be, made his memorial a movable feast...