NEW YORK – On its 28th year, the Knights of Rizal New York (KOR-NY) has a new leader. A modest and steadfast Mariano Aquino, Jr., or popularly known to his friends as Nongsky, was sworn into office on June 19, which is the 157th birth anniversary of the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
Aquino succeeds Michael Dadap, a popular Filipino guitarist, composer, and conductor, and an influential advocate of Filipino folk music.
In a simple and solemn ceremony held at the Philippine Center in mid-town Manhattan, Aquino proudly took his oath of office administered by KOR Supreme Council Trustee and Overseas Representative, Francis J. Sison. With the words: “I will faithfully discharge the duties and responsibilities of which I am about to enter, so help me God,” Aquino begins his two-year term, 2018-2019.
An audience numbering about 120 people composed mostly of KORs from Long Island, NY, Passaic, NJ, Fairfield, CT, and leaders and members from community organizations, responded with a ringing applause acknowledging his leadership. He shared the stage with his wife, Aprille, who stood by him with grace and humility as she also took the presidency of the Ladies for Rizal, New York chapter, a first in its history to have a complete set of officers.
Inducted with him as Chapter Commander were Quinn Aranez, deputy chapter commander; Cesar Concepcion, chancellor; Clark Valdez, pursuivant, Elmer Labo, deputy pursuivant; Joseph Ventura, exchequer; Jingle Lantoria, deputy exchequer; Francis Zuasola, auditor; and Jeffrey Abatayo, archivist.
In his acceptance speech, Aquino compared the KOR-NY as a family unit with siblings having “different responsibilities and different personalities.” The KOR’s Council of Elders, he said, are like grandparents. “They already laid the foundation for us to follow. You can depend on them for advice and support.”
“The Board of Trustees are like our older siblings,” he said. “They have acquired enough knowledge and experience to help our household. Each one of them has specific role and responsibilities but it doesn’t mean that they are restricted to that.” He then challenged his Board to work together in unity and “be a good example to our fellow knights” particularly the new ones. And with an almost deafening voice to be heard in the room, he said: “Let us become an inspiration to them that they too, may lead this chapter in the future.”
As Chapter Commander, he said, he’s taking the role of a father and quoted book author Reed Markham: “…the quality of a father can be seen in the goals, dreams, and aspirations he set not only for himself but for his family.” Aquino then confidently and strongly emphasized: “This is our family. We may have different personalities and we may have different ideologies but at the end of the day, we belong to one family, and that is the Knights of Rizal.”
Nine new members were knighted that evening and received the honorific title “Sir” added to their names. In a solemn ceremony, each candidate brought with him a lighted candle and was blindfolded as he entered the Kalayaan Hall. A chancellor rang a bell to announce his entry into the hall. And the ceremony began.
Former Philippine Consul General of New York Mario Lopez-de Leon, who himself is a member of KOR, gave a speech that reflected on the life of Rizal, his travels and how he inspired his countrymen to fight for their independence from the clutches of Spain’s tyrannical rule in the Philippines.
The new officers of the Ladies for Rizal New York, which was founded by Avelina Pimo, include Aprille Aquino, president; Maria Alona Mabao, vice president; Mary Gina Espinosa, secretary; Eddy Aranez, treasurer; Alex Cruz, auditor; and Donna Nuguid San Pablo, press relations officer.