Unforgettable: More than a million mourners turned up for Ninoy Aquino’s funeral

Unforgettable: More than a million mourners turned up for Ninoy Aquino’s funeral

Editor’s Note: Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.’s assassination upon arriving at the motherland from the United States on Aug. 21, 1983, drew widespread outrage that fanned the slow burn over the excesses of the dictatorship.

These dramatic black and white photos of Ninoy Aquino’s funeral cortège were taken by the freelance photojournalist Alberto “Bullit” Marquez, who was then stringing for The Associated Press and Celebrity magazine (since defunct).

CoverStory is running Mr. Marquez’s photos and accompanying text by Ms. Bailon as part of its looking-back series to help boost the education of young Filipinos on contemporary history.

In 1967, 34-year-old Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was elected to the Philippine Senate, the youngest-ever senator of the republic. He rose to prominence as an outspoken critic of President Ferdinand Marcos’ administration.

Aquino, along with other opposition lawmakers, as well as journalists, activists, and other dissenters, was arrested and thrown into jail after Marcos’ declaration of martial law in September 1972. He was held captive for seven years, enduring periods of solitary confinement, and suffered a heart attack while imprisoned.

He was allowed by the administration to leave his jail cell for medical treatment in the United States. He lived in exile near Boston, Massachusetts, for three years before deciding to return to the Philippines to help unify the political opposition.

Aquino was assassinated shortly upon landing at the then Manila International Airport on Aug. 21, 1983. 

Beginning of the end 


If you were a Filipino born in 1983, you would be 39 today, and would have no memory of Aquino’s assassination and funeral that signaled the beginning of the end of Marcos’ 20-year presidency.

But any Filipino over the age of reason then should still recall that day, Aug. 31,1983, when the slain former senator was laid to rest following the largest funeral ever witnessed in the country at the time.

It was an event etched in the nation’s collective memory: More than a million mourners from all walks of life poured onto the streets to meld with the human tsunami that formed Aquino’s funeral cortege. 

The 10-day wake at the family residence on Times Street in Quezon City—in which, on his mother’s insistence, Aquino lay in state in the bloodied clothes he was wearing when his family retrieved his body—was attended by a long and steady stream of mourners. 

Related: Doing justice to Ninoy Aquino’s memory

10-and-a-half hours 


Following the funeral service at Santo Domingo Church, Aquino’s coffin was placed on a flatbed truck laden with yellow flowers. The color yellow became the iconic symbol of the anti-Marcos opposition in the 1980s.

The truck bearing his body and a multitude of mourners slowly made their way southward from the church in Quezon City to the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Paranaque, in a 10-and-a-half-hour funeral procession never before seen in the metro and elsewhere. The streets on the route were thickly lined by even more mourners.


Amid chants of “Ninoy! Ninoy! Ninoy!” the crowds seethed with grief and anger. And a growing unrest marked the days and months that followed.

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