“Because of you, I can raise my head higher as a Filipino” — Amin Hataman

Ahmed ‘Amin’ Hataman with former President Benigno Aquino III. Photo courtesy of Mujiv Hataman

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 02 July) – Twenty-year old Ahmed “Amin” Hataman, one of 35 young leaders from Asia chosen to be part of the first cohort of the Ramon Magsaysay Transformative Leadership Institute’s NextGen Leadership Program on June 14 to 25, was completing the mentoring program when former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III passed away on June 24. It took him 24 hours before the shock of his passing subsided and he could write down his thoughts and say that it was because of Aquino that “I can raise my head higher as a Filipino.”

“I only found myself crying into my pillow an entire day after hearing of your passing … I thought that it was only natural that I shed tears for a great man I so admired; the product of a noble heritage and family that shaped Philippine history, and are the unfailing hallmarks of democracy. My sadness was to be expected,” he began.

He wrote about his having been “a child that adored you, you being the first President that he had grown up having,” the first Philippine head of state that he saw campaign and win the election in 2010 and address his people as “boss.”

He recalled how, as a child, he saw “entire rooms and atriums become silent before you had even entered,” how he was ecstatic at the opportunity “to visit and speak with you, only to be silent in awe and nervousness for the majority of the conversation that” the President and his father shared, right in front of him .

Amin is the son of Isabela City Mayor Sitti Djalia Turabin and Mujiv Hataman,  Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who served as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,\ from December 2011 to February 2019, and who was a colleague of Aquino when he was a congressman representing Tarlac and Hataman was a party-list representative of Anak Mindanaw.

At 15, Amin invented biodegradable bags made from coconut by-product.

A third year Economics student at the Ateneo de Manila University, Hataman is the youngest in the first Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list, and the only Mindanawon since 2015.

He said that during the time after he last spoke with Aquino, he learned never to see anyone as infallible, to be “wary of those in power”, and to beware of idolatry’s “damage to democracy”.

He said he regarded the former President as a “complete stranger” whose mind he could not read “as you made decisions that would impact millions, and whether or not you attached faces to them.”

He said this “tragedy” [of Aquino being a complete stranger] made him wish he had spoken with him just once.

He added Aquino may have just “taken advantage of all of us” by using his parents and his last name to gain power and to benefit his family.

“If this is true, then let my letter end here. I will pay my respects for the dead, and move on without second thought or glance.”

“But, if by chance – if by the smallest chance you actually cared, that you had real ambition for us Filipinos and the direction we were headed, and you understood the sheer gravity of each and every singular yellow ribbon that has ever been tied by a person who was willing to bet on you; if you had tried your damnedest to answer millions of hopes with nothing but your utmost effort to bring honor to these islands; if you had meant every single word you said to the child that sat in front of your desk, after mustering the courage to ask you a question in the middle of your conversation with his father, then I have only one answer to all of your efforts: Thank you, so, very much, from the bottom of my heart. You gave it everything you had, despite all the difficulty, all the pressure. Because of you, I can raise my head higher as a Filipino. I am now more determined than I have ever been.”

‘Please, rest easy. There are so many who will continue your work,” Amin vowed. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)