There are two reasons why the new 500 peso bill shines above the rest: first, this is the only time in history that a political family has been included in a single banknote (the front portion has the smiling faces of the Aquino couple with P’Noy’s signature alongside); second, it’s apparent that among the six new banknotes, the 500 peso bill represents more our present generation. It’s not so long ago when we mourned for Cory’s death and then we have two of Ninoy’s progenies (Kris and Noynoy) making history within their respective fields. Moreover, Filipinos were elated when Puerto Princesa Underground River (which is featured at the back of the 500 peso bill) made the cut and became one of the provisional winners of the prestigious “New 7 Wonders of Nature”, inauguration of which will be held early 2012. But just like in the previous installments of The Peso Chronicles, secret stories not popularly known (or not at all known) to the public deserve to be in the limelight once again. Brace yourself because more surprising facts will come your way.
The Peso Chronicles is a series of articles written to put the limelight to some undiscovered treasures and untold stories etched in our new Philippine peso bills. These are not facts as superficial as the Philippine peso bills’ designs which were swarmed with criticisms or certain glitches printed on these bills or those newly designed special fraud-proof security features. Rather, we will try to look at our Philippine peso bills as if they are open books full of history, culture, and lessons to be learned.
PART V: The New 500 Peso Bill.
From “Dorothy” To “Cory”: The Untold Story of Ninoy’s Journey for Love
Look beneath Ninoy’s “Filipinos are worth dying for” and you will discover a “woman worth dying for”. With every political milestone he achieved, there was a woman named “Cory” standing behind his back. Without any shade of doubt, theirs is one of the greatest political love stories ever told. They say love is a journey, and so was Ninoy’s search for the only woman he rightfully deserved. But how did it all happen? Who are the people he met along the way?
Unknown to many, Ninoy’s earliest search for true love started when she met the young and dashing Dorothy Jones on the set of Lamberto V. Avellana‘s war-drama movie on 1952. Ninoy wrote the screenplay for the movie which was based from his real-life experiences during the Korean War as a young news correspondent of The Manila Times. The said movie, aptly named “Korea”, was supposed to star the late actress Lila Luna for the lead role but since she was getting married at that time, the then 16-year-old Dorothy Jones landed the starring role. She was handpicked by the 19-year-old Ninoy, who was easily mesmerized by her impressive beauty. Dorothy Jones eventually chose “Nida Blanca” as her screen name from the time she started out as the controversial LVN star up to the day she met her tragic end.
The movie written by Ninoy gave Nida Blanca her first best supporting actress award from FAMAS in 1952. And although he didn’t get the best screenplay award for the movie, the young Ninoy got more than he bargained for: a brief love affair with the pretty Nida Blanca. In an article entitled Nida and Her Many Loves, initially published in the Daily Express’ Sunday magazine Weekend on Oct. 7, 1984, Nida Blanca recounted her short relationship with the brave and daring Ninoy:
“Walang manligaw sa akin noon. Takot sila. Matapang kasi ako, e. [….] Sa totoo lang, hindi man lang ako nahalikan ni Ninoy! He was a gentleman. Hanggang akbay lang sa balikat ko ’yan because he had the habit of putting his arm around your shoulder when he was explaining something. On the set, he was always there, explaining to us the characters. The movie, you see, was based on a true story. But we became good friends. Siya palagi ang nagdadala ng make-up box ko sa set.”
And that confirmed the legend about Ninoy being Nida’s alalay when he was courting her as true. Sadly, just like other young and disillusioned love affair, theirs didn’t end in the altar. Nida added:
“I guess kaya nag-lie low si Ninoy dahil nag-usap sila ni Bonnie (a close friend of Ninoy)……Ninoy, I think, began courting Carmencita (Abad). He and Bonnie were good friends, pareho kasing papunta-punta sa Korea.”
The two star-crossed lovers parted ways; Nida continued to become one of the priced stars of her generation while Ninoy made a mark by becoming the youngest person in history to be elected both for a gubernatorial and senatorial position. Many years after that, the two both faced very tragic deaths that are still surrounded by unsolved mysteries up to this day.
Then came the real love of his life.
Ninoy and Cory actually first met when they were 9 years old. According to a profile article entitled The Essential Cory Aquino: Her Life with Ninoy Aquino written by Cesar Bacani Jr., the two were closely related to each other. Their fathers were both congressmen and Jose Cojuangco was the godfather of Ninoy’s younger sister, Lupita.
On a Nick Joaquin book, former president Cory Aquino enthusiastically shared how she first met her beloved Ninoy:
It was certainly, says Cory, not love at first sight. “Heavens, no. I was nine years old. What does a nine-year-old girl feel about a nine-year-old boy? I remember Ninoy kept bragging he was a year ahead of me in school; so I didn’t even bother to talk to him.” (page 250)
The two met again when Cory went home for a vacation during her junior year (she was studying in the United States at that time). Ninoy was amazed by how refined and intelligent she had become. Cory, after graduating in the U.S., returned to the Philippines to study law at the Far Eastern University. However, her plan to become a lawyer was cut short when she and Ninoy got married. When asked to share how they ended up as a couple, Cory shared in the same Nick Joaquin book this untold story:
Ninoy and Cory went out for a date tagging along her elder sister, Josephine, as chaperon. Then:
Going home, we went by Highway 54 — my family lived in Pasay then — and suddenly a jeep hit us from behind, hit the back of Ninoy’s white Buick convertible. Such was the impact that the door flew open and first Josephine was thrown out of the car and then I followed. I thought it was the end. (page 251)
What followed was Cory being rushed to the hospital and had to stay the night there. Her parents were expecting her to be with them in Baguio. Ninoy followed her and faced Cory’s parents. She told the author:
“For once in his life he was really quiet. My parents had said: ‘Don’t you ever ride in his car again!’ Ninoy said to me: ‘You fell from that car on purpose, to force me to marry you.’ My goodness! But he now insisted on setting the date. So finally I told my parents and they said: ‘Let’s not have a long engagement.’ Their own wedding anniversary was October 11 and we decided on that date, though it was only ten days away. So, everything was one big rush. But it all went well.” (page 252)
And that was the start of an eternal love story forged by commitment and molded by faith. Cory didn’t leave Ninoy from the height of his political career up to his exile in America. He was the model of patriotism and she was the epitome of a selfless love of a woman and a mother. Death separated the two but love will surely bind them for the rest of eternity. A poem entitled I Have Fallen In Love (With The Same Woman Three Times), which was immortalized by Jose Mari Chan as a song, was written by Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. for Cory Aquino at Fort Bonifacio on Oct. 11, 1973 for their 19th wedding anniversary. This poem was pure love translated into words and a masterpiece that will remain a witness of a true and unforgotten love.
Puerto Princesa Underground River and the Hidden Secrets in the Dark
When the Puerto Princesa Underground River made it to the final list of Switzerland-based “New 7 Wonders of Nature”, its credibility drew flak from critics questioning the unlimited texting policy of the said contest. Well, it’s not new to us that Philippines has been dubbed as the “texting capital of the world” so winning the said contest should be a breeze. But that is out of the question as experts lately have discovered hidden treasures that will only justify PPUR’s victory among other entries from all over the world. If only Filipinos will appreciate more its beauty and discover through their own eyes the mysteries hidden in the darkest parts of the legendary underground river of Palawan, then they will be prouder than ever.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, also known as St. Paul Subterranean River or St. Paul Underground River (mainly because it lies within the St. Paul Mountain Range), is the centerpiece of Palawan’s tourism and biodiversity. It boasts a unique underground river that was considered the world’s longest (at 8.2 km) until someone from Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico discovered a quite longer (10 km) counterpart. But it still holds the record for being the longest underground river in Asia and the longest “navigable” underground river in the world. But aside from its rich biodiversity (it is a habitat for some rare land and sea creatures endemic in Palawan) and unique structure, one will discover unlimited treasures once inside its dark tunnel.
According to Yahoo! News, a new mineral, called serrabrancaite, was recently discovered in the cave as confirmed by the Italian La Venta Geographical Association, which has been conducting expeditions at the PPUR. The new cave mineral was extracted from an inlet of the PPUR. Its formation is mostly induced by the mineralization of bat or seabird droppings known asguano. Apart from serrabrancaite, the other two new minerals found in the cave were robertsite and janggunite, while the eight previously known cave minerals include calcite, gypsum, apatite, variscite, strengite, manganite, rodocrosite, and pirolusite.
Another unique quality of the river is that the water inside it is partly brackish and partly fresh due to the fact that it empties to the West Philippines Sea in the north and is commonly affected by tides and river flow. It’s rich history has equally astounded some geologists. In fact, a 20-million-year-old fossilized remains of a sea cow or sirenia that have been found embedded in perfect condition in the cave’s walls are tangible proof that this Palawan gem was formerly submerged in the sea some millions of years ago.
Lastly, beyond the stalactites and stalagmites embedded within the cave, a tourist with open eyes and vast scope of imagination will surely be overwhelmed by those stone structures that have been sculpted by nature itself. Aside from the “king,” images of the Sto. Niño wearing a gold vest, a boy holding a wooden crucifix, a lion playing at the back of the king, an image of Mother Mary and a peacock could also be clearly seen on the photograph, according to a tourist. No wonder that some people consider it as a giant art form that unites mystery, myth, and religion.
“PIKOY”: Not Just Your Ordinary Philippine Parrot
Criticisms for the new 500 peso bill heightened when experts discovered that the image of the Blue-Naped Parrot, or commonly known as “Pikoy” or Philippine Green Parrot, was significantly altered in the bill. The Blue-naped Parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis) is found throughout the Philippines including the Talaud Islands and islands off north and east Borneo (with introduced population in Borneo itself, e.g. Kota Kinabalu).
The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, a birdwatchers’ organization, clearly stated that the yellow-beaked parrot on the note does not exist anywhere in the country, since in real life, the blue-naped parrot has a red beak. Aside from the beak, the tail feathers underneath the bird printed in the bill is colored green instead of yellow. Another point raised by the critics is the fact that there are more endangered species of animals existent in Puerto Princesa that seem to deserve more the recognition given to Pikoy. But controversies aside, who is this “bird of the hour” in real life?
Pikoy has been a popular pet bird for most of the people who don’t even know the facts behind this friendly bird. It is one of the rare species of parrot that are exclusively found in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, the blue-naped parrots are classified as near-threatened due to trapping and loss of forest habitat. Today, they are most commonly found in Mindoro and Palawan. This medium-sized parrot averages 12.4 inches or 31 cm in length. The plumage is primarily green except for a light blue rear crown and nape (lower back of the neck). It has a pale blue lower back and rump, scalloped shoulders with orange-brown on black coverts, and blackish underwings with green underwing coverts. Although widely prohibited, some people still catch and sell these birds as common house pets. According to some owners, Philippine Blue-Naped Parrots have the ability to become wonderful, interactive pets. They seem to be the most energetic and social. Whenever they see someone, they’ll bounce up to them, chattering the whole time. They are outgoing and fearless, which can get them into trouble if unsupervised. In addition to that, their voices are like a “wind-up” toy, very clear and understandable.