CHICAGO (JGL) – When President Noynoy Aquino arrives in Chicago, Illinois on May 6, he will be exploring the Windy City for the first time.
Although he has made a trip to Chicago when he was 22, his stay was limited inside Chicago’s massive O’Hare International Airport His still shocked and mourning family, headed by the then newly widowed mother, Cory Aquino, was on a few hours layover at O’Hare en route to Manila, Philippines. The family was sought by the media to hold a press conference in the wake of the assassination of its patriarch, Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., on Aug. 21, 1983.
Thirty one years later, some members of U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) in Chicago are extending their red carpet welcome to President Aquino if they are allowed to meet with him after he delivers his speech before the Filipino community at the second floor ballroom of JW Marriott in downtown Chicago on May 6 at 7 p.m. Community organizer Marlon L. Pecson and Jun Delfin, coordinator and member of the “U.S. Pinoys for Noynoy-Mar” in Chicago, respectively, are looking forward to meeting with Aquino.
The USP4GG, jointly headed nationally by Filipino American lawyers Loida Nicolas Lewis and Rodel Rodis, was a group of Filipinos and dual citizens, who formed a loose coalition called “U.S. Pinoys for Noynoy-Mar” in January 2010 ahead of the January 25th birthday celebration of the late President Cory Aquino.
“U.S. PINOYS FOR NOYNOY-MAR”
The “U.S. Pinoys for Noynoy-Mar” got together at the Ravinia Ballroom E/F, Westin Hotel – Chicago Northshore on Milwaukee Avenue in suburban Wheeling, Illinois after a prayer rally during the advanced birthday celebration of the late President Aquino.
They also mapped out plans to campaign for the election for president and vice president of then Senators Aquino and Mar Roxas for the 2010 Philippine presidential elections.
The group eventually managed to raise $110,000 (5-million pesos) from fund-raising events conducted by Lewis from Chicago and other cities earmarked for the Liberal Party of the Noynoy-Mar. Lewis sent thru telegraphic transfer the $100,000 to Jaime Lopa, treasurer of Senator Aquino, and $10,000 was handed personally to one of Aquino’s sisters.
The Noynoy-Mar ticket won by landslide from the Filipino Overseas Absentee Voters in three precincts in the Philippine Consulate in Chicago during the May 2010 presidential elections. However, the Midwest vote was not replicated by majority voters in the Philippines as only Senator Aquino won as president while Senator Roxas lost to Makati Mayor Jojo Binay for vice president.
What makes President Aquino’s trip thrilling, Pecson said, is Aquino’s “sagging image after the pork barrel (Disbursement Acceleration Program), faux pas for criticizing the bishops in public before the Pope (Francis) and the Mamasapano massacre, he is coming on the heels of the stay of execution of overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso. The stay is giving Mr. Aquino a second wind.”
“What happened was spontaneous,” Pecson now recalls. “I just believed in the tuwid na daan (straight path) slogan of Noynoy that was why I convinced others to join in.
“He (PNoy) does need to thank us,” Pecson said. “He should just do his job – pursue good governance. That’s all we ask of him.” Pecson is among those invited by Chicago Consul General Generoso D.G. Calonge when President Aquino speaks before the Filipino community at the second floor ballroom of JW Marriott Chicago.
Prior to his speech, President Aquino will be meeting with former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who won in the recent run-off Chicago mayoral elections.
“I wish others, who joined me in the rally for Noynoy-Mar in Wheeling will also be invited,” Pecson said.
President Aquino will pay a courtesy call May 7 on Canadian Gov. Gen. David Johnson and hold ceremonial tree planting. The following day, he will proceed to Toronto to hold a meeting with Filipino Canadian community, among others.
According to Consul General Calonge, President Aquino is expected to spell out the economic gains of his administration that have been unheard from past administrations.
The President, Calonge said, would also appeal to the Filipino community to support candidates in the 2016 national elections who will preserve Aquino’s economic gains and vote down candidates involved in graft and corruptions.”
For his part, visiting founder Antonio “Tony” Meloto of Gawad Kalinga (GK) appealed to Filipinos to keep their fate in the programs of President Aquino. “They should protect his legacy. His honesty in good governance. They should keep the government from the hands of the corrupt people. President Aquino should make war on poverty his top priority.”
The Ramon Magsaysay Awardee of the Philippines’ most trusted non-government organization for community leadership said “it is unfortunate that the President’s image is being tarnished by such issues as DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) and Mamasapano massacre when the real issues are neglect of the poor and improvement of the livelihood like the passage of BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law). Lets help the President end our suffering.”
The community will not be having dinner to prevent the Philippine Consulate from selling tickets to the community. A community member, who refused to be identified, said the no-dinner speech of the President is “unusual.”
When President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was hounded by graft and corrupt allegations, she visited Chicago in 2008, hoping to establish a connection to the “new kid on the block,” President Barack Obama, a Chicago resident. Arroyo hosted a free dinner to selected members of the Filipino community.
With President Obama not “at home” at that time, Arroyo left word that she would be back to Chicago. When she was in the U.S. in 2009 and was en route to Chicago, former President Cory Aquino died. This forced Arroyo to return home to the Philippines at once and cancelled her return trip to Chicago. Instead of sending a representative, Arroyo called off the hotel dinner reception, which was already paid in full.
It was not known if supporters of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada sold dinner tickets when Estrada visited Chicago in 2000 and spoke before the Filipino community.
Chicago, dubbed as the Second City to New York, has not been a favored “side trip” by Philippine presidents, especially during the fall season when the temperature dips to cold level as they attend the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
A Philippine Consulate official, who refused to be quoted by name, told this reporter that President Aquino wants to visit Chicago “because it is the city that he has not yet visited.”
The reporter informed the official that the information is partly true. A day after Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated, the surviving Aquino family members, including Cory, and their children, among them the gangly Noynoy Aquino, was en route to the Philippines from Boston, Massachusetts when the plane carrying the family made a stopover at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. During that stopover, Cory held a press conference.
Domingo Suba, an award-winning photographer of the Manila Times, who relocated to Chicago in the early 80’s, provided a photo which he took of the press conference to this reporter. Suba’s subdued black and white photo shows members of the Aquino family in somber mood during the press conference.
President Aquino’s trip to Chicago this week, however, will be the sixth by a Philippine president.
The first Philippine president to set foot on Chicago soil was Carlos P. Garcia, who toured Chicago, New York city, Phoenix, Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco, California between June 17-20, 1958. Then came Ferdinand Marcos, in 1966; followed by Fidel V. Ramos in November 1993; Joseph “Erap” Estrada in September 2000; and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in November 2008.