Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III died on Thursday morning at age 61 due to renal disease secondary to diabetes.

His family announced that Noynoy, the son of democracy icons Corazon and Ninoy Aquino, “died peacefully in his sleep” at 6:30 a.m.

Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Noynoy’s sister, said the former president had frequented hospitals before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in early 2020.

“Pribado po siyang tao…Nais naming magpasalamat sa lahat ng mga duktor, at sa buong medical team na nag-alaga sa kapatid namin. Naramdaman namin bilang mga kapatid niya, that they did everything to make him comfortable. They became compassionate friends who gave him true respect by valuing and protecting his privacy,” Pinky said.

“No words can express how broken our hearts are, and how long it will take for us to accept the reality that he is gone. Mission accomplished ka Noy, be happy now with Dad and Mom. We love you and we are so blessed to have had the privilege to have had you as our brother. We will miss you forever, Noy,” she added.

Speaking to PressOne.PH, ex-Palace communications undersecretary Manolo Quezon recalled how Noynoy immediately started looking forward to the end of his presidency after he assumed the presidency in 2010.

“My best memory of PNoy is that one of his first acts after arriving in the Palace was to ask his staff to prepare a countdown calendar to track the days until he would leave office. From the moment he began he was looking forward to the end,” he said.

“The start and end of an era was thus bookended by the only two presidents in our history who did not want the presidency and only viewed it as a penance to expiate the sins of their predecessors,” he added, referring to Noynoy and his mother, Corazon, who was swept to power by the 1986 People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

Noynoy’s remains were brought to Heritage Park in Taguig Thursday afternoon.

His political career started in 1998 when he was elected congressman of Tarlac. He would go on to serve three terms from 1998 to 2007 before running for Senate.

Noynoy won a Senate seat in 2007, and in the wake of his mother’s death, the presidency in the tumultuous 2010 campaign.

He served as the country’s 15th president until 2016, known for his “daang matuwid” (straight path) slogan. He earned public admiration for stopping at red lights and eschewing the use of sirens for his vehicle convoy.

During Noynoy’s term, the Philippines went from being the “sick man of Asia” to being “Asia’s Rising Tiger” per the World Bank, thanks to an economy that grew by an average of 6.2 percent.

His government saw the passage of landmark reforms in education, anti-corruption and government procurement, and reproductive health. His anti-corruption campaign saw the arrest of his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, and the impeachment of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Noynoy, a bachelor, was the third of the Aquino children. Since his presidency ended, he had been mostly a private citizen. John Ezekiel J. Hirro