Family, supporters commemorate Ninoy Aquino's 34th death anniversary

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The country commemorates the death anniversary of former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. on August 21.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 21) — Members of the Aquino family, as well as friends and supporters gathered to commemorate the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino Jr.

Former President Benigno Aquino III and his sisters led the mass at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque Monday.

Also present were Vice President Leni Robredo; Senators Franklin Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, and Antonio Trillanes; and former Cabinet secretaries Butch Abad, Ging Deles, Dinky Soliman, and Voltaire Gazmin.

After the mass, Aquino thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for his message on the eve of the former senator's death anniversary, saying it was heartfelt.

Part of Duterte's message read, "His deeds have taught us that we should always aspire for the common good - even if one must go against the grain – and do what is necessary."

READ: President Duterte's message on Ninoy Aquino's death anniversary

Also, wreaths were laid by the Ninoy Aquino Movement at the marker at the Ninoy Aqiuino International Airport where the former senator was killed in 1983.

At the event, the group awarded medals of valor to Father Ben Beltran, author Chit Pedrosa, environmentalist Obet Verzola, Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco, and the wounded and fallen soldiers of Marawi.

For those who received the medals, it was a chance to remember the dark days of martial law and pledge to carry on the same fight for the Filipino today.

Beltran said, "Ang mensahe ko lang sa lahat, tumatanda na tayo [My message to all is, we are all getting older]. Let us keep the light burning."

First Lt. Christopher Montecillo, who along with Sgt. Esgardo Diaz represented the Marawi soldiers killed in battle said, "Freedom is not for free. it is being paid by the lives of our soldiers. Masaya po kami na maialay ang buhay namin makita lang namin na masayang namumuhay ang kababayan namin."

[Translation: Freedom is not for free. it is being paid by the lives of our soldiers. We are happy to lay down our lives just to see our countrymen living happily.]

 

In a message sent today, Senator Leila de Lima looked back on a statement by Aquino, saying despite the threat to his life, he chose to stand up for freedom through peaceful means.

"I will never be able to forgive myself if I will have to live with the knowledge that I could have done something and I did not do anything," was the quote cited by de Lima.

She said, "Kaakibat ng panggunita natin ngayon sa alaala ni Ninoy ang malinaw na panawagan sa bawat isa sa atin. Sa harap ng nagbabadyang diktadurya, muli po tayong tinatawag para magkaisa: sa ngalan ng hustisya at demokrasya."

[Translation: Along with our remembrance of Ninoy's memory is a clear call for all. In the face of an impending dictatorship, we are again called on to unite in the name of justice and democracy.]

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong and Claire Jiao contributed to this report.