Today in Philippine history, May 8, 1980, Ninoy Aquino was allowed to leave for a coronary bypass surgery

Thursday March 24, 2016 ()

On May 8, 1980, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., a political prisoner, a staunch critic of the Marcos administration, was allowed to leave for the United States to undergo a coronary bypass surgery on recommendation of his doctors at the Philippine Heart Center where he was confined after suffering a heart attack in his prison cell in Fort Bonifacio. He was immediately transported to the center on the evening of May 5, 1980.

According to Aquino's Baylor doctors in Texas, who reviewed his hospital records from Manila, Aquino had had "progressive coronary insufficiency" for almost five months prior to admission. He experienced chest pains accompanied by shortness of breath during routine physical activities while he was in prison.

Ninoy Aquino in Baylor hospital
(Ninoy Aquino in Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas)

Senator Benigno Aquino, also known as "Ninoy", who was sentenced to death in November 1977 for multiple murder and sedation, recounted in one of his speeches, his communication with the Marcos administration, before his sentence was commuted and allowed to leave:

"No, if I cannot be operated in America, then bring me back to my cell, I told them (on May 6). The deputy minister of defense asked me: 'Are you willing to write a letter to Marcos requesting to be brought to America?' I said yes. And so, I wrote my letter Wednesday (May 7) to Mr. Marcos and made two covenants: that if I leave, I shall return, and two, that while in America, I should not speak out against his regime.

The next morning, May 8, the beautiful one (Imelda Marcos) ascended into my (hospital) suite. She talked to me … she was very nice. And then, all of a sudden, after one hour, she said, Would you like to go to America? Aba'y kako, sure. Sure! Oo, oo. Palayasin na niyo 'ko, papuntahin niyo ako sa America. Sabi niya, there's a plane leaving at 6 o' clock. You can be in that plane. And so she ordered the foreign office to issue us passports. They called up the American embassy to get us the visas. At 2:30 in the afternoon, they brought me to my house .... They gave me 30 minutes to pack and take a shower. Then they brought me to the airport, put me in a 747, and out of the Philippines."

Ninoy Aquino moments before disembarking the China Air lines
(Aquino with reporters, moments before disembarking the China Air lines on August 21, 1983)

On May 11, 1980, Ninoy was admitted under the care of a Filipino, Dr. Rolando Solis at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. A triple coronary bypass surgery was successfully performed by the late Dr. Ben F. Mitchel, then Baylor's chief of cardiothoracic surgery on May 13.

Ninoy and his family rented an apartment in North Dallas where they stayed for the duration of his rehabilitation. They proceeded to live in an elegant two story brick house in the upper-class suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, near Boston, when Ninoy got a fellowship at Harvard University.

Ninoy returned in August 1983 but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport (the airport now bears his name) while disembarking the China Air Lines plane he was on. His death would solidify the opposition to the Marcos dictatorship that would eventually lead to the collapse of the Marcos regime, and the installation of his widow, Corazon Aquino, into the presidency.


  1. Heart-to-heart talks with Ninoy, Rolando M. Solis, August 21, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer
  2. Marcos let Ninoy have his surgery abroad, Rigoberto Tiglao, August 23, 2012,
  3. Photo credit: Philippine Presidential Musuem and Library


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