Destiny’s child Noynoy

Someone said that the presidency is a matter of destiny.  No matter how hard and clever you work to attain it, in the end fate determines who becomes president.  Preposterous?

For 15 long years former senator Mar Roxas dreamed of the presidency, prepared for it and ended up a losing vice presidential candidate in the recent general elections. 

Senator Manuel Villar painstakingly built up the moribund Nacionalista Party and, for years, trained his considerable political influence and vast business fortune at the presidency.  He too would fail in his presidential bid.

In stark contrast, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was not even being considered by his political party as a viable vice presidential candidate for the May 2010 general elections before August 2009.  But as fate would have it, the death of his mother and democracy icon Corazon “Cory” Aquino on August 5, 2009, so close to the elections, “distorted” the equation of the presidential race overnight.  Was it pure chance that Cory’s death coincided with the month of “Ninoy” Aquino’s martyrdom? 

The ensuing nostalgic revival of Cory’s “yellow fever” swept the entire country and profelled Noynoy to the forefront of the presidential race.  The rest, as they say, is history.  But that is not to say Noynoy did nothing or very little to get himself elected president.

The history of Philippine politics is replete with extraordinary lives of men and women that were seemingly destined for the presidency.  The late presidents Sergio Osmeña, Sr. and Carlos Garcia assumed the presidency in 1944 and 1957 respectively when their respective predecessors, presidents Manuel Quezon and Ramon Magsaysay, died in office.  Quezon and Magsaysay were generally regarded as likely reelection winners during their time.  That is until death (or fate?) intervened.

Magsaysay, born to a poor farming and fishing family in Zambales and a mechanical engineer by education, disproved the long held notion that only lawyers and members of the old rich can become president.  His rise to power in 1953 trail blazed for succeeding non-lawyer presidents.

The late president Diosdado Macapagal, the so-called “poor boy from Lubao” and father to future president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, beat the seemingly unbeatable “Filipino First Policy” and well-oiled campaign machinery of the reelectionist Garcia to become the 9th president of the country in 1961.

Even the astute politician and backroom dealer Ferdinand Marcos understood (and underscored) the role of destiny in his presidential ambition when he launched his bio-film “Iginuhit ng tadhana” (written in the stars) during his successful 1965 campaign for the presidency.  He later became the only reelected president under the 1935 Constitution in 1969, ruled the country under martial law from 1972 to 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii.

There is also the case of then AFP vice chief of staff Fidel Ramos who could have perished with the military putsch he and former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile mounted against Marcos in February 1986 had “EDSA-1” failed to succeed.  He too would not be denied his destiny in 1992.

And who can forget how Cory, a “plain housewife” in her own words, ascended to the presidency with the convergence of people and fateful events that culminated with the overthrow of Marcos by the 1986 People Power Revolution. 

Of late, then vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, another child of destiny, rose to power when former president Joseph Estrada was ousted by a popular revolt in 2001.  Before this, Estrada, an unlikely presidential timber with his numerous “unpresidential baggages”, defied the odds against him and rendezvoused with his destiny in 1998. 

What do we make of the extraordinary lives of these presidents?  Products of hard work or fateful events or both?

Living in the Philippines will make you believe in destiny.

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 28 June 2010


Images of Philippine Presidents

 Emilio Aguinaldo (January 23, 1899-April 1, 1901)

Manuel Quezon (November 15, 1935-August 1, 1944)


Jose Laurel (October 14, 1943-August 17, 1945)


Sergio Osmeña (August 1, 1944-May 28, 1946)


Manuel Roxas (May 28, 1946-April 15, 1948)


Elpidio Quirino (April 17, 1948-December 30, 1953)


Ramon Magsaysay (December 30, 1953-March 17. 1957)


Carlos Garcia (March 18, 1957-December 30, 1961)


Diosdado Macapagal (December 30, 1961-December 30, 1965)


Ferdinand Marcos (December 30, 1965-February 25, 1986)


Corazon Aquino (February 25, 1986-June 30, 1992)


Fidel Ramos (June 30, 1992-June 30, 1998)


Joseph Estrada (June 30, 1998-January 20, 2001)


Gloria Arroyo (January 20, 2001-June 30, 2010)


Benigno Aquino III (incumbent, assumed office June 30, 2010)