Archbishop remembers Aquino for strong and decisive leadership in ‘Sendong’ aftermath,  for “honesty, humility and hard work”

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 03 July) — The late President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is being remembered here as a strong and decisive leader after tropical storm “Sendong” devastated this city and neighboring Iligan City in late 2011.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma recalled how Aquino came to Cagayan de Oro soon after the disaster to give some semblance of order in the rescue and recovery efforts.

Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma stops beside a tarpaulin bearing the photograph of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III outside the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro City on Saturday, 03 July 2021. Ledesma celebrated the 9th day memorial mass for Aquino who died in his sleep on 24 June 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

In his homily at the 9th day memorial mass on Saturday afternoon for Aquino, who died in his sleep on June 24, Ledesma recalled that among the first to arrive in the city were Corazon ‘Dinky’ Soliman, then Social Welfare Secretary. Aquino’s sister, and her team, while Aquino’s sister, Viel Dee, accompanied by a  representative of the Assisi Foundation, came to check on the immediate needs of thousands displaced by the floods.

“These visits represented the extension of President Aquino’s concern for calamity victims,” the Archbishop noted.

Ledesma recalled that with the presence of Aquino’s sister and Soliman, the national government and the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese agreed to unify the rescue and recovery operations.

He said the operations were first centered in Xavier University where military trucks and government vehicles fanned out to provide food, clothing to the survivors.

Tropical storm “Sendong” slammed Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities on Dec. 16 killing 1,472 residents who were mostly living in riverside communities.

Richard Rejas of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, an NGO, recalled local government officials were unable to mount organized rescue and recovery efforts. The city was then under Mayor Vicente Emano.

“It was the military, DSWD and NGOs who filled the gap,” Rejas said.

During the Mass, tributes continue to heap  on the late Presiden who aside from his help during Sendong, had done much for the economy.

“Aquino left us with a stable economy that turned around the Philippines,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma cited Aquino’s achievements in social, political and economic reforms and his legacy of public service.

‘Honesty, Humility, Hard Work”

“As we bid farewell to President Aquino, how do we assess the legacy he has left behind?  ‘Mission accomplished’ was the message of his four sisters; despite their bereavement, they could be proud of their brother carrying on the legacy of his parents, Ninoy and Cory Aquino.  But for us, does it mean, as Archbishop Soc Villegas remarked, that the half-mast also signifies the half-mast of a dying democracy in our country?” Ledesma asked.

Churchgoers pass by tarpaulins bearing photographs of the late President Benigno Aquino III outside the St. Agustine Metropolitan Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro, Saturday, July 3, 2021. Ledesma officiated the 9th day memorial mass for Aquino who died in his sleep on 24 June 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

He summed up Aquinos’ character in three words: Honesty, Humility and Hard Work. Honesty, he said, was exemplified by his administration’s battlecry of “daang mauwid” (straight path or moral path); humility with “walang wangwang” (no sirens); and Hard Work because “kayo ang boss ko” (you, the people, are my bosses).

Ledesma quoted former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima as saying Aquino’s  “principled leadership consistently put people over politics, prudence over populism.”

He also quoted columnist Randy David’s hope that the nation’s soul-searching over the sudden death of another Aquino :may fuel the drive for the “return of decency, dignity and diligence in government.”  He also cited fellow Jesuit priest Albert Alejo, who in alludeing to the bare urn containing Aquino’s ashes,  uttered the hope that it is “the wake of a new political era.”

“Ave Atque Vale (Hail and Farewell), President PNoy!,” Ledesma said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)