At age 6, Ninoy was first enrolled at Saint Joseph’s School, staying there with his all-girl classmates until second grade. He transferred to Ateneo on his third grade, then located at the Intramuros, while his sisters were chauffer-driven to Holy Ghost College. Ninoy had no yaya, growing up, so he was pretty much an independent spirit, always roaming around the neighborhood, befriending shanty boys and scouring the place for news—he was even nicknamed T-V-T (for Tribune, Vanguardia and Taliba, leading dailies of the time) for reporting every community happening to the family.
During the Japanese Occupation and with the closure of the American-run Ateneo, Ninoy enrolled at La Salle. He is remembered for associating with the older boys of the school, that included Claro Recto Jr., basketball star Tito Eduque and future vice president Salvador Laurel. The Liberation of the Philippines put a temporary halt to his studies with the evacuation of the family to Concepcion, Tarlac. Once school reopened in 1946, Ninoy was sent back to Manila to resume his studies at San Beda College run by Benedictine fathers.
Ninoy had often mused about this period of his life where he “grew old too soon”. His father had been tagged as a collaborator and the family had become a virtual outcast, a rather disturbing and confusing experience for a 12 year old. Ninoy reacted by becoming a loner, immersing himself in his studies, finishing high school in just two and a half years by cross-enrolling during summer at Far Eastern University and National University. The 15-going on-16 teenager from graduated from San Beda on March 1948,
In his own assessment, he was “in the middle bracket, never brilliant, never among the 95s, but never in the 75s either.” His Kapampangan batchmates include: Jose Ayson (Angeles), Apolinar Bundalian (San Fernando), Ponciano Catacutan (Apalit), Ildefonso Dizon (Magalang), Jose Fausto Jr. (Sta. Ana) . Edward Golden (Arayat), Jose Hizon (Mexico, father of Singapore-based BBC reporter, Rico M. Hizon), Alfonso Lagman (Minalin), Benito Mercado (San Fernando), Mariano Santos, Regulo Vicente (Tarlac) and a townmate from Concepcion, Federico Pineda Jr.
Ninoy’s yearbook write-up has this to say about him:
“Political? Ask Benny . He’ll say ‘no’. How, when, and how much. Don’t overlook his intentions, for, mind you, he had a priestly inclination, until he found out that ecclesiastics and politics are two different things. He has dreams of being a missionary in the jungles of Africa, converting the natives”. Gifted with the art of rhetoric (I hope), he’ll make a good preacher, a plaza demagogue, or the opposition stormy petrel. He is such a success when it comes to ‘sales talk’, that he almost sold ‘San Sebastian’ to a by-stander interested in the lot..”
The yearbook description proved to be very prophetic, for this young Tarlaqueno soon entered the political arena, was elected governor and rose to become the youngest mayor at 22, Tarlac governor at 29 and the youngest Senator-elect at 34. In the Marcos years, just less than two decades after his graduation, Ninoy would become the harshest critic and leading threat of then president Ferdinand E. Marcos—the “opposition stormy petrel” indeed, for which he would pay a dearly. Imprisoned during Martial Law then exiled to the U.S., Ninoy was assassinated upon his return to challenge the dictator. His martyrdom spurred his widow, Corazon Aquino, and a whole nation to challenge the dictator, who was ousted in the historic 1986 People Power Revolution.