Filipinos Bid Farewell to Ex-President Benigno Aquino III (1960-2021)

Basilio Sepe
Quezon City, Philippines

Officials from across the political aisle joined thousands of ordinary Filipinos in paying their last respects Friday to former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, a son of democracy icons who followed his parents into politics in the post-Marcos Philippines.

Aquino, who as president led his country to victory in 2016 in a landmark international arbitration case against Beijing’s expansive claims to the South China Sea, and whose administration negotiated a peace deal with separatist Muslim rebels in the south, died in his sleep on Thursday of complications from a lingering illness. He was 61.

Rodrigo Duterte, the current president who had harshly criticized his predecessor, said Aquino gave “his best to serve the Filipino people,” as he declared 10 days of national mourning. Aquino died of “renal disease secondary to diabetes,” his family said.

Tributes have poured in from abroad.

United States President Joe Biden said Aquino was a “valued friend” who would be remembered for serving “with integrity and selfless dedication.”

“President Aquino’s steadfast commitment to advancing peace, upholding the rule of law, and driving economic growth for all Filipinos, while taking bold steps to promote rules-based international order, leaves a remarkable legacy at home and abroad that will endure for years to come,” Biden said in a statement from the White House.

On Friday in Metro Manila, thousands of people lined up to pay their respects to Aquino during a wake for the Philippines’ 15th president at a Catholic Church in Quezon City.

Among those attending the wake of the former leader nicknamed “PNoy” or “Nonoy” was Delfin Lorenzana, the defense chief in Duterte’s government.

He credited Aquino for working hard to modernize the country’s military.

“As Commander-in-Chief, he recognized the importance of equipping our military to better respond to the evolving domestic and regional security challenges,” Lorenzana said.

At intervals throughout the day, the armed forces fired cannons at all military camps in honor of Aquino.

Many of the mourners wore yellow, the Aquino family’s symbolic color.

On Saturday, an urn with Aquino's ashes will be brought to the Manila Memorial Park in suburban Paranaque city, where it will be laid next to his parents’ resting places.

His mother, Corazon Aquino, who died in 2009, led the 1986 People’s Power Revolution that brought down longtime dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, and served as the country's first president in the post-Marcos era.

Aquino’s father, former Sen. Beningo Aquino Jr., a leading critics of the Marcoses, was assassinated at Manila’s international airport upon his return from exile abroad in 1983. The airport is now named in his memory.

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