August 21, 1983
In 1983, exiled opposition leader and former Philippine Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino was assassinated on the tarmac of Manila International Airport despite a massive security detail provided by the Marcos regime.
The death was captured on television and by many high profile media organizations including TIME. At the time, son "Noynoy" was in his early 20s and living in exile in Boston, Massachusetts with the rest of the Aquino family. Ninoy had served as a fellow at Harvard.
Ninoy's death further strengthened Filipinos' opposition to Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship and catapulted Ninoy's wife, Cory, to the presidency in 1986.
For the Aquino family, including son Noynoy, tragedy had turned to triumph.
Ninoy had become a symbol of the lost promise to all the children born under the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos.
In 1984, The Benigno Aquino Jr. Foundation sponsored an essay-writing contest on the theme “What Aug. 21, 1983 means to Me”.
Sam Sotto (born a year after martial law was declared) was deeply touched by Ninoy's heroic act. The 11-year old grade school student from Benedictine Abbey School-Alabang (now San Beda College Alabang) decided to submit an entry to the essay-writing contest.In those dark days of gloom in the country, it was not the easiest thing to do, even for a kid, considering how the Marcos authoritarian regime stifled any kind of news about Ninoy in all media.
WHAT AUGUST 21, 1983 MEANS TO ME
August 21, 1983 marks the day Benigno S. Aquino Jr. died. He was a man of his principles who dedicated his life to serve the Filipino people. But August 21,1983 also marks a day of birth, for on this day, my special consciousness was born.
I found a book on that day, a book I have never read before. The book showed me how our freedom had been taken away. It pointed how our freedom was taken. The book made me realise how we had been cowards in the past.
Cowards! Cowards we were, letting one man fight for us while we hid behind him! We never had enough courage to stand up against the tyrant. We were like little mice hiding from a cat, a cat who would slash our faces before eating us. We, the little mice, didn’t even dare to squeak.
The first few pages of the book were about the life of the man who fought for us. He did not mind if we always depended on him. That man loved the Filipinos. He worked so hard to bring back our freedom, even if it could mean his death.
Is it really that powerful? Love? Perhaps. Maybe that is why it could make a tiny mouse stand up. A tiny mouse was given courage to defend us against the cat. Was it worth it? Giving up his life for cowards who didn’t deserve it? For him it was. It was what God sent him here to do. It was his mission.
To my astonishment, the middle pages of the book were blank. That is where we fit in, I suppose. We were meant to write our own parts in this story. Could we fill these pages with proof that Ninoy’s efforts to bring the Philippines to democracy were worth it? Could we be proud of ourselves by continuing Ninoy’s work?
We need to take off our blindfolds and face reality-the reality that to attain our freedom, we cannot depend on the Americans, Japanese or anybody else. Ninoy’s death has filled us with courage to fight, on our own, for what is rightfully ours. Ninoy’s death has also made me realise our worth as Filipinos. We are not little brown Americans. We live in a beautiful country that is is worth fighting for and dying for.
We are still living in this book, and many pages to fill up. But I sneaked a peek in the very last page and I was encouraged by what I saw. The book ends with the Filipinos living happily ever after.
What does August 21, 1983 mean to me? On this day, I stepped out of the fairy tale I was reading, and into a book that was more real. I grew up.
Sam Sotto, 11 years old, with our beloved Tita Cory during the awarding ceremonies.
Sam Sotto is now an international author and mother of two kids.
"God, she decided as she waded away from the outrigger
that had ferried them to the island,
was selfish and this was where God hoarded
beauty like a secret stash of chocolates."
Excerpt from "Before Ever After " novel by Samantha Sotto
"My being Filipino was definitely a plus."
“During a courtesy call in the Philippine embassy in Washington, Ms.Sotto informed Philippine ambassador to the U.S., Jose Cuisia Jr. that while the setting of her novel is Europe, the famous island resort of Boracay in the Philippines is an important location in the story,” the Philippine Embassy to Washington D.C. said in a news release.
“My being Filipino was definitely a plus. My living overseas was not an issue at all with my publisher,” added Sotto, who lives in the Philippines.
Also, she said there are no barriers to Filipino talent and one of her goals in being an author is to raise awareness about the Philippines.
Ambassador Cuisia expressed pride at the achievement of Ms. Sotto, who wrote her book at a coffee shop while waiting for her son to get off school. The Ambassador urged Ms. Sotto to continue with her good work to showcase Filipino talent not just in the US but in many parts of the world.
"A smartly written romance, mystery and historical adventure all wrapped up in a page-turner that will have you guessing until the very end." – Adena Halpern, author of The Ten Best Days of My Life
AMAZON: Book Description
Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max–same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose–he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.
As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem–how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? – Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down–if it is really Max– and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to. From the Hardcover edition. Amazon