In Memoriam: Are We Worth Dying For?

Dying can be an art and a message.

His death was peaceful and unassuming just as Benigno “PNoy” Aquino 3rd was in most of his life until he was thrust into the presidency. Rousing many emotions, people are bringing up memories of his having touched their lives and bidding their farewells, conveying his message and the legacies of his presidency.

For the economically comfortable nowadays, few get to die at home, in peace, with minimal difficulty, at their own pace instead of in a hospital – and many would consider it a blessing; especially if you were able to convey your messages of appreciation, forgiveness, advice, arrangements to the ones you care about.

Powerful people, or those who have wielded power once, most will want to leave legacies. They judge themselves, and others judge them, by how they have influenced the course of lives of their societies, beyond just their families.

In PNoy’s case, there may have been bitter differences in politics, projects, and methods, but few among those who are objective today question that his goals were for the country and had also done substantial good for the people and economy. He linked many good directions in finance, infrastructure and social assistance from the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before him, including the continuing employ of several Cabinet secretaries, and started some that continue to the period of Duterte today.

Friends and rivals bid their farewells and remember moments of friendship, and their common journeys of a lifetime.

Duterte ordered 10 days of mourning. Binay said, “[P]olitical differences during the last few years of his term, but that will not diminish the many years of friendship between our families.” Imee Marcos said, “I will always treasure the memories of our long years together as freshmen legislators… For beyond politics and much public acrimony, I knew Noynoy the kind and simple soul. He will be deeply missed.”

Former Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima’s eloquent eulogy to “celebrate his life and honor his memory” also points out that while we will take a little time to reflect on PNoy’s place in history, we can honor his legacy and the Filipino’s future.

“If only we rise to the challenges of the moment.” He is right. Our future is not clear, but we do have a choice.

Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo both did not clearly tell us what happened to the different characters or to the town, writes Pat Abinales. He theorizes that it possibly reflects that Rizal himself was either unsure or was leaving open to the reader’s future circumstance to define.

The Spaniards did not want to read about themselves, the ugliness presented in the Philippines at the time, so they attacked Rizal for it, according to Abinales. Are we Filipinos today willing to hear about our faults?

We are, but we get angry and also attack those bringing up our faults even if true, even if we are shown how to improve. But we will not work at it in any large, sustained way. Until we do, we cannot be in charge of our destiny, and we will blame others… whether it is the elite or masa or the US or China, calamities or PNoy or Duterte.

At the time Rizal was executed, his “Mi Ultimo Adios” (My Last Farewell) also spoke of seeing only the tint of a dawn, the hope of a beautiful day that hasn’t arrived. Are we still in that twilight, the edge of darkness, ’til today? Rizal himself was constantly evolving his position and not a purist…

Useless arguments and discussions occupy much of our time… like learning about the details of Covid statistics and technologies everyday when we just need to apply them. Endless talk of political prospects and maneuvers that we can do nothing about. Impractical talk about how this or that person or government is imperfect in this or that way when there are areas of commonality that both can work and progress on. Arguing forms of government, castigating rivals or China every week without researching the actual events, background, comparative advantages and disadvantages or reliabilities of nations involved, or history and evolutions over time. Instead of how to develop areas and people, apply technologies, improve ground operations, expand networks. Focusing on differences and arguing with people we can be learning from. Who is imposing these “productive activities” on us?

Our elite who mostly retire early, since they have the networks, capital and management experience, maybe can study actual operations and human nature, and take a little more risk investing to start or expand or partner in more enterprises rather than fully retire into lives of leisure, keeping savings just in financial instruments and real estate.

We, the common Filipino, need not spend billions every month in gambling and other vices, or excessively more on pleasures than we do on applying skills to production, marketing, technology, agriculture. We spend more on pleasures and consumptions than enablers.

We need to discipline ourselves and not spend our most valuable resource –TIME – on entertainment in social media and TV series instead of the access digital media gives to us the best instructors in the world for free. Many OFW spouses divert home amortizations, most families have members defrauding or relying on others, businesses milk licenses and contracts, and until now there are hardly serious attempts at integration of long available IT systems for the public and private sectors, etc.

Some people don’t want to just live, they want to achieve a legacy, and often want more time to achieve it. PNoy achieved much without running after it, had fans and detractors, accepted his time and did not fight for more. That acceptance is in itself a lesson and legacy to our politicized society.

“Death is a gift. If we were immortal, how would we appreciate the beauty in life?” someone said.

“In a little while you will have forgotten everything; in a little while everything will have forgotten you.” – Marcus Aurelius, Great Roman emperor, a stoic, most powerful man in the world in his day.

George Siy is a Whartoneducated industrialist, international trade practitioner and business community leader. He has advised the Philippine government and various organizations in negotiations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan and the United States.

Also published in Manila Times on June 27, 2021. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together (

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