He didn't use the word goodbye but President Aquino on Monday might as well have said it as he expressed gratitude in his farewell State of the Nation Address (Sona).
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith," Aquino said, quoting from the Book of Timothy. But Aquino said he'll stay with the Filipino people and will continue to fight for and with them.
"This is only the beginning," he declared, saying that the May 2016 general elections would be a referendum on his administration.
He profusely thanked every member of his Cabinet with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas getting a lion's share of the tributes. It was a near endorsement of Roxas as his presidential candidate but not quite.
But he left out Vice President Jejomar Binay who resigned from the Aquino Cabinet last month.
President Aquino asked the people: Will you squander in one election the gains the country has made under his daang matuwid (straight path) governance?
2016 is a referendum
"There is a prevailing sentiment that I think could be captured in one question," Aquino said, speaking in Filipino. "The question is: Will all that we have invested, all we have worked hard for, disappear in one election?" "With that in view, the next election will be a referendum for daang matuwid," he added.
Aquino said it was the people who would decide whether the reforms the country had achieved would become permanent, or would just be a temporary improvement in a long history of the country being down.
Aquino said the Philippines could become a first-world country in one generation if only the reforms he had started under his watch would continue unabated.
First world dream
It was a dream nobody dared imagine, he said.
"You can see that if we will not be interrupted, if the daang matuwid would continue, we can be a first-world country in a generation," he said.
If the economic reforms would continue, we would be on the same level as-if not surpass-the countries we look up to, he said. He wondered if anybody had dared dream of this when his administration was just beginning.
The question of the President became pregnant with meaning because he delivered it as the faces of three potential presidential candidates for 2016 were flashed across four wide screens in the plenary hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas smiled, Vice President Jejomar Binay laughed and Sen. Grace Poe gave a start to see their faces looking out over the gallery as Aquino spoke of next year's election.
Of the three, it was only Roxas whom Aquino singled out for praise. He was silent on Poe, an administration ally, and made veiled critical references to Binay, the former housing czar of his Cabinet.
It is only Binay who has so far declared his candidacy, styling himself as the leader of the opposition and lambasting the administration.
Beware of crooked path
The President further warned: If the country would tread the crooked path once more, it would wait a lifetime for nothing.
"We would once again be left behind and the upward trajectory of our economy would be broken," the President said.