By the time this comes out, numerous tributes and accolades would have already been written about P-Noy’s well-deserved but unheralded accomplishments and legacy. What I’ll do is share my personal experience on how the “Daang Matuwid” message originated and was put into concrete form as the overarching platform of his presidency.
First, a bit of relevant history. As a boy growing up and staying for some time in the home of our relatives, the Aquinos, I saw my overachieving older cousin Ninoy in action close up and couldn’t help idolizing him.
At 18, he was already a reporter for the Manila Times, that era’s leading newspaper, and he covered the Korean War from the front lines, accompanying the Philippine military contingent which fought in Korea. Still in his teens, as the emissary of President Ramon Magsaysay, he successfully negotiated the surrender of Huk supremo Luis Taruc. Without any fear, Ninoy kept going up to the Huks’ mountain lair and after a few months, Taruc came down to surrender, effectively ending the Huk rebellion. Ninoy’s journalistic account of the landmark event was front cover material for Time magazine.
Through the years, Ninoy climbed the political ladder as fast as the minimum age requirement would permit—mayor, governor, senator.
So, sometime in 1970, when I was already in advertising for several years, I felt privileged when Ninoy, then a senator, confidentially told me to be ready to help in his next political run. This never materialized because of martial law in 1972, which ultimately led to Ninoy’s transcending politics by becoming a martyr-hero of our country.
Fast-forward to 1985. I never imagined that instead of Ninoy, I would be helping his widow, Cory, in her presidential run when Marcos called for a snap election in an effort to legitimize his flagging regime. From the start, our media campaign team was denied access to mass media outlets, and we had to constantly improvise to get Cory’s message out to the people. Despite all the campaign’s disadvantages, the people’s will prevailed, Cory won, Edsa happened, and the rest is history.
Fast-forward again to 2010. This time, it was Ninoy’s and Cory’s son, Noynoy, who was running for president, responding to public clamor in the wake of his mother’s death.
Because he belonged to the next generation of my many nephews and nieces on the Aquino side, I didn’t know Noy well, notwithstanding my closeness to his dad in my younger days.
But as some form of déjà vu, and although I had retired by then, I was asked to oversee his media campaign, working with the two ad agencies that had been selected to produce the creative materials, and the media agency assigned to place them in mass media. One agency was to produce the “solo” ads of Noy, and the other one to come up with the “tandem” ads, in which he and his running mate, Mar Roxas, would appear together.
Unfortunately, when our team presented the “tandem” materials to our two principals, Mar asked to be taken off the ads, saying we should concentrate on Noy, who at that time was still playing catch-up (Mar was then way ahead in the poll surveys for VP).
Although we did not agree to this approach (and subsequent events proved us correct), this left me to work on Noy’s “solo” ad campaign with the husband-and-wife team of Mon and Abby Jimenez (Mon would later become the secretary of tourism during P-Noy’s term).
To expedite approval of the ads, I had earlier requested that we present to as few people as possible. So, for his “solo” ads, it was only to Noy that Mon, Abby and I made our presentations.
At our very first session, we got several approvals within 20 minutes. But candidate Noy surprised us by also asking that another TV ad be made for an idea he was very enthusiastic about.
He said, “Can you make an ad which shows a road forking into two separate roads, the one on the right being very straight, the one on the left very crooked? The idea is that we should all take the daang matuwid, not the daang baluktot.”
He then showed us an actual map and pointed to a winding road, apparently constructed to accommodate a large real estate company which had somehow arranged for a public road to pass close to several big properties it was developing.
We readily complied, and thus was born the Daang Matuwid television commercial which became the signature ad of his presidential campaign, and which can be viewed to this day on YouTube.
The final produced material of this memorable anticorruption message is also part of the creative legacy of Mon and Abby Jimenez, both of whom have already passed on.
I believe P-Noy insisted on seeing his Daang Matuwid idea expressed in an enduring television message because it most concretely reflected a core value he was passionate about, which has become a hallmark of his presidency—uncompromising integrity in governance, as well as in everyday life.
At the end of his last State of the Nation Address in 2015, after citing the unprecedented progress of our country on many fronts during his term, P-Noy prophetically asked (in Filipino), “Will we lose all that we have built—all that we have worked hard for—in one election? From this perspective, the next election will be a referendum for the Straight and Righteous Path.”
Today, six years later, it is painfully evident that under the present leadership we have lost our way once again in our nation’s continuing journey. But hopefully, next year we will have yet another chance to get back on P-Noy’s Daang Matuwid.
And once more, for better or for worse, the choice will be ours. —CONTRIBUTED INQ