NAPOLEON “NAP” G. RAMA was a political writer for the Philippine Free Press and Vice President of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. He was one of those detained in Fort Bonifacio together with Ninoy. Rama was in the Lakas ng Bayan (LABAN) Metro Manila ticket for the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa elections. Following the EDSA Revolution, he was appointed to the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution.
The following excerpt was taken from “Memories of a Hero” by Cynthia Sycip.
Ninoy as a youth
No, he did not have the usual adolescence. He bypassed adolescence because he became a man all of a sudden. I think he started working when he was 14, when his father died. He decided he should take over the mantle of leadership in his family…
Ninoy as a friend
Ninoy was a very fascinating guy. He was very jolly and he can talk for 24 hours and manage to be interesting for 24 hours. For instance, during the first day when we were in Fort Bonifacio, we were placed in a small cottage.
Naturally we were all depressed but Ninoy was very happy and I would ask him “Ninoy, why are you so happy?” and this peeved Max Soliven who was a very solemn, sad and depressed person at that time.
Ninoy said, “You know Nap, I have to be happy because I don’t know when you are all going to be released. I have a feeling I will be left alone here. I am happy because all my friends are with me together in one cottage, so I will squeeze every bit of happiness I can find in this situation, but I know one of these days I will be alone.” Ninoy was a most accurate prophet of his doom. He would know what would happen to him in the same manner that he would actually forecast his assassination at the tarmac. There is one thing that I also noticed about Ninoy: we’d be in the cottage the whole day. Around early morning, he would say “I’ve got news for everybody.” He would have some fresh news. I don’t know where he got his news. One of the things that I noticed was that every morning, at around 2 or 3 o’clock, he would slip and go to the bathroom. The bathroom was just a step away fronting the door of the cottage. There were two soldiers there and I noticed that for several days, every 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, I would see Ninoy talking to the guards.
So I ask him in the morning “Ninoy, what the hell are you doing talking to the guard?” He answered, “You know, I told him stories about my days in Korea…and after an hour of talking with them they would ask, ‘Senator, could you give me your autograph?'” But the cottage was bugged, and I guess Marcos knew about that because the Colonel was reporting directly to Malacañang. There were wires all over the place. So later on they had to change the soldiers everyday.
Ninoy as a student
He went from one school to another, not because he was not good, well, he was not really outstanding at school because he was working at the same time as schooling. Also, there was this trauma in his life when his father was accused of “collaboration,” and of course, there were the war years. He started schooling at St. Joseph’s in New Manila. He didn’t want to go to school. There was always a “revolution”. Everytime he went to school he made a scene so he had to be carried bodily to the car to go to school… Later, he went to Ateneo, and then to San Beda for high school. Afterwards he went to U.P. He would be studying, according to his classmates, on the way to school. He had a way of making everybody happy, telling stories even in his classroom. At one time he was toying with the idea of becoming a priest and a missionary. He finished fourth year Law but he was so involved in his newspapering that he neglected to become a lawyer…
He managed to fall in love with many girls, or many girls fell in love with him because he was a good looking fellow. He was jolly, he had a good name, Aquino—the father was one of the rarely great politicians during his time. As a matter of fact, the father was a “presidential timber.” Ninoy was the favorite escort of “beauty queens.” As a matter of fact, he was a friend of Imelda. He met Imelda in the house of Danieling Romualdez and he would be taking some time to take Imelda to where she was working. Ninoy had a jeep at that time. He got to know Imelda but I don’t think he courted Imelda…
Ninoy in Korea
You know what happened was this. Ninoy was very close to Chino Roces. Ninoy was a young and adventurous fellow. So, he asked Chino to send him over to Korea. Chino said, “No, you’re too young.” But Ninoy was insisting. So, Chino Roces told the mother and the mother had to consult other people… what I know was that he was the youngest correspondent, so being the youngest fellow, he was the favorite of all the correspondents covering the war. They would teach him how to write stories and Ninoy was a very quick learner… He was on very palsy-walsy terms with the very top newsmen of the world after the Korean experience because the top correspondents became editors… He was a so-so writer because he started when he was only 16 but he was so industrious and he learned his craft very well…
One of his articles about Taruc’s surrender was published by TIME Magazine. He was very young at that time.
On Cory Aquino
Cory Aquino was like a princess in Tarlac. She belonged to one of the richest family in Tarlac. The Cojuangcos are the ‘top of the top’ in Tarlac. The Cojuangcos and the Aquinos were very close. Cory studied abroad and was really different from the girls Ninoy got to see. At that time, very few people could afford to send their children to the United States, it was after the war… Cory was a very refined lady, she was something very special. She was not a great looker, there were other girlfriends of Ninoy who were prettier than she is, but I think what impressed Ninoy is the civilized and very refined breeding this lady had. She was different from the other ladies. They had known each other since they were kids and it was quite natural. This was almost a family match, almost, but not in the sense that the Chinese, for instance, the parents of the girl would decide and the parents of the boy would decide, no. Well, they were close, and so they liked each other – of course, the family approved of the marriage, but it was not something engineered by the parents.
Cory is the kind of lady who would not create problems. She would not make an issue of Ninoy’s being absent all the time. She’s very understanding and she would just say, “Well, that is the life that Ninoy wants.” So, instead of making an issue out of it she was adjusting herself to Ninoy’s lifestyle.
Ninoy as Politician
He was different from many of the politicians I would be interviewing. He has a way with the newsmen. One time I wanted to do a cover story for the Philippine Free Press. So, I called him up and told him, “Ninoy, I’d like to do a story on you. So, where can I see you?” I asked him. He said, “No, no no, I’ll be in your house tomorrow and I’ll have breakfast with you.” He really knew how to flatter newsmen… I really had a kick about a Senator coming to your house in the morning having breakfast with you. It was very convenient to interview him. He’d allow you two or three hours of interview and tell you everything you wanted to know. He had a way of always being prepared to give you some big news or some scoop… Ninoy was also a newsman so he knew about these things. That was one of the reasons why he was a friend of most of the newsmen at that time…
The most outstanding performance of Ninoy in the Senate was as fiscalizer. He was a fellow who did his homework… he would ask for the floor because he had something to say. So, the biggest and most explosive priviledge speeches were made by Ninoy. He had a very good research staff… He would go to the Senate always prepared to debate every bill that was in the agenda, even this bill changing the name of the street, well, he would say, “No, this street cannot be named after this fellow because this fellow has some kind of semi-side of his life.” He was the most prepared in the session because he would study every bit of item there…
Their Arrest & Detention
This is what happened. We were playing ‘balot’ in the house of Chino Roces. We were about 3 or 4 people there. At 8 o’clock in the evening Chino arrived.
Chino said, “You know, I’ve got it from the horse’s mouth, there’s going to be martial law tonight”. Doming Abadilla was with me and he said that it was another of Chino’s ‘kwentong kutsero’. So, we ignored Chino.
At 10 o’clock, we watched television. The news then which was flashed on T.V. was this alleged ambush of Juan Ponce Enrile. But when they said that the scene of the ambush was inside a subdivision we started reconsidering Chino’s news.
I said, “Chino, that is an indication that there may be martial law… they’re rigging the events.” I’ve been following Marcos’ strategy of creating incidents and I thought this could be one of the excuses for declaring martial law.
At 11:30 we got a phone call from Mrs. Diokno who was crying over the phone saying that they have arrested Pepe Diokno. She was calling from a neighbor’s house because their telephone was cut. She said that martial law has been declared.
Five minutes later, Cory Aquino called up. She told Chino that Ninoy has been arrrested.
Thirty minutes later Mrs. Maximo Soliven also called up. So, I said, “I think if Soliven is arrested, they will also arrest me. You, Chino, will also be arrested.” Then the Manila Times called up and said that the Marines have closed all the operations and invaded the place.
I said, “Chino, I think we are going to be arrested.” He said “Yes, ok, let’s go out of this place. Let’s go to Central Luzon or to Baguio.” “You’re crazy Chino. They have all these guards posted on all the raods and on all of the highways,” I said.
We called Gerry Roxas and he confirmed that they had already declared martial law. We went to the house of Gerry Roxas. Five minutes later we learned the soldiers had come to arrest Chino. The wife of Chino called us up at Gerry Roxas’ place. She said, “They are all here, looking for you and ransacking the whole place.” Later, Chino decided to just go to Camp Crame and surrender. He got some sandwiches and he put them in his pocket. He wanted to walk alone. Gerry said, “No, I’ll accompany you.”
I came home about 2 o’clock and before I could reach the stairs there was a very loud buzzing and there were soldiers with long guns who came in.
When we were there at Camp Crame, there were about a thousand of us, Ninoy was the one who would greet us and would try to console us. He would say, “Never mind, you’re in good company, join the club.”
At about 10 o’clock General Nanañiego arrived. He said, “Alright, I’m going to call your names and these people will please come forward”. He was calling the name of Ninoy Aquino, Pepe Diokno, Mitra, Chino Roces, etcetera, myself… there were ten of us.
I said, “What are they going to do?” Ninoy said, “This is it. We’re going to be sent to Luneta to be shot.” Soliven was very depressed and told Ninoy, “Son-of-a-bitch, why do you talk like that?”. We were taken out and sent to another place which was the air-conditioned quarter. That was still in Camp Crame.
Ninoy was whistling and was happy as he told us, “You know what? there’s a bathroom in the other side of that building. I’m going to take a bath.”
Of course Soliven was angry, “You are a son-of-a-gun Ninoy… We are here, you know we are going to be killed and now you are making a joke of this thing.”
Ninoy said, “I have to take a bath. At least when I meet my Creator, I am clean.” That was the kind of fellow he was. He was unafraid. But I thought he was telling jokes to cheer up people. He was concerned about us.
Then we were taken out of Camp Crame at about 2 o’clock. We took a big bus, a Metrocom bus, and we had about 10 escorts, and so, we had this motorcade… everybody was looking at us…
Ninoy said, “If we reach Buendia and we turn right, we are going to Luneta to be shot, you can expect that.”
Somewhere in EDSA near Guadalupe there was this traffic and we were stopped. People were curious, cringing their necks and watching us. We rode in a big bus with big windows and some recognized us.
I was seated beside Ninoy and he said, “Look at our people. They know that we’ve been fighting for their rights, that we’ve risked our lives and that freedoms have been taken away from them, and yet, they are not doing anything… Look at them, they’re just watching us, curious, so, I don’t think there’s hope for the Filipino.”
His statement then was different from what he said later that the Filipino is worth dying for. Almost contradictory… but I could understand Ninoy’s feeling. Many of us there were trying to do something for the country. Because of this they arrested us. Ninoy half-expected, I think, that there should be some disturbances or reaction from the people, some kind of demonstration. But there they were just watching us not doing anything, so Ninoy was depressed.
When later we were brought to Fort Bonifacio we tended to agree with Max Soliven. Soliven reiterated his theory that Mr. Marcos had taken a measure of the Filipino people and found them wanting. That is why Marcos had the nerve to declare martial law and just abolish these institutions of freedom. He knew, according to the theory of Max Soliven, that the Filipinos would not do anything about it…