Noynoy Aquino is a Presidential candidate banking on memories: a campaign that has run the gamut of remembrance and amnesia. Though the demands of the campaign would require that he should be his own man and not invoke the memory of his parents, Noynoy Aquino cannot be spoken of in terms of “who he is.” He is, no matter how much you cut up and dissect and butcher the pre-campaign period campaign period, the son and scion of Ninoy and Cory.
Lorenzo Tanada III has acknowledged the pink elephant in the room: that “Cory Magic” is wearing off on The Scion. Memories, for Noynoy’s campaigners and supporters, can be both a blessing and a curse. While there is no denying the importance and the relevance of his parents, we are dealing with a generation that has no living memory of the People Power Revolution. The standards may be there, evoked and affirmed on a daily basis by every democracy-loving politician on the road to 2010. Noynoy, however, has no monopoly on it other than his name. He is The Scion: the heir to the legacy of his parents, the Once and Future King who did not lift Excalibur from the rock, but was privy to it because of his name.
Every critic of Noynoy Aquino is right to say that he is the circumstantial candidate. Without the stellar background of his rivals in his field, he banks on the memory of his parents and his pedigree, without swaying the skeptics of who he is, and what he can bring to the table. Yet every supporter of Noynoy Aquino is right in saying that he is the preferred candidate: that he may not sully and disgrace the name of his parents is reason enough to vote for him, than the others who can do so freely without regard to pedigree.
True leaders inspire, yet Noynoy Aquino comes up short. You don’t hear the rapier-tongued political pugilist that was his father, but you hear the hacking cough of a man who’s not exactly in the pink of health. You don’t hear the compassionate woman that was his mother, but you hear the calculated, erudite analogies and explanations of a man who has learned the ropes from his colleagues in Congress and in the Senate. The Scion is anything but his parents, yet there is no denying the honesty and the good grace of a man who seeks to genuinely improve the state of the Philippines, its people, and lift all of it up from the mess that it’s in.
I’m reminded, in many ways, of my own relationship with my own dad: I’m everything that he is, and everything he is not, by coming up short of the expectations and demands that he requested and demanded of me. The fruit, in many ways, can fall far from the tree. In many ways, a son can be everything he is of his father, and every bit as different, yet of the same stock.
I want to believe that a man who believes that corruption should be curbed to improve job generation and the state of education should be President. I want to believe that a man who believes that the key to national progress is political unity should be President. I want to believe that the heroes in the history books – the couple who fought martial law – should have a chance at changing the world through the memories and principles they pass through their son. Yet it begs the question: why can’t he be more like them? Why can’t he have the same gravity? Why can’t he have the same ethos?
As much as we want to demand that same thing from him, we need to realize that he can’t be, and that he isn’t. To quote a friend, “He’s not his father, he’s not his mother, he is who he is: remembered because of his father and mother.” As much as we want to judge him on the basis of his own merits, your judgment will always be clouded on a strange little basis: Buti pa nanay mo. Buti pa tatay mo.
Who remembers the legacy? Perhaps those who have an appetite for history. Perhaps those who have lived through it. They are the people for whom Noynoy finds the best possible chances at winning the Presidency. What for, though, for those who have forgotten? What for, for those who have not lived to tell the tale of the indignation that came from seeing Ninoy shot at the tarmac? We live to tell the tale of the memories we have of Noynoy: a less-than-stellar legislative record.
The Scion is a circumstance: the effect and the affect of the greatest legacy in the history of the Filipino people. A man brought into the limelight by public clamor, the empty conch that was filled with the embodiment of everything his parents stood for. Yet without a living memory of the momentous legacy that precedes him, he is who he is: the Son who should be President.
I’ll be honest: if there’s anyone I want to be President, it is Noynoy, if only because of the poverty of choices we have. Granted that in the coming years I will oppose him, despise him, and perhaps go against him. Yet the trust that I have in the parents he had – which I learned about from the history books – wears thin. That if I vote for him on the basis of what he can possibly do, the blind trust that we put in every Presidential candidate, then he’d better deliver. That he should be the memory of what an Aquino stands for.
So far, though, he isn’t. So far.