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“The Filipino is Worth Dying For” (What Ninoy really said)

Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. '50: Statesman. Hero. Upsilonian.

“The Filipino is worth dying for”

This simple yet powerful statement, attributed to Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr., is one of the most popular quotes in Philippine society. It is quoted by great statesmen in their speeches, it is reprinted on thousands of t-shirts – but in truth, Ninoy never said this, at least not verbatim.

The full text of this statement, which Ninoy delivered before the Asia Society on August 4, 1980 in New York City, goes deeper than the oft-quoted truncated version implies.

The following is the full statement:

“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?

I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.”*

In its full form, Ninoy’s statement gains eloquence and a deeper meaning lacking from the six-word truncated version – it is no longer a mere one-liner espousing blind nationalism and sacrifice for heroism’s sake. In the full passage, Ninoy honestly considers the sobering doubts and limitations of the Filipino people, yet despite this his resolve wavers not; For Ninoy, despite all of the Filipino’s faults, the Filipino is worth dying for because he is the future of this nation.

As we again celebrate Ninoy’s legacy this August 2010, let us remember the wisdom of what he was really trying to say when he said “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

*Text of Ninoy’s August 4, 1980 speech sourced from the Asian Journal

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