His father was the Philippines’ most famous political martyr, his mother its most beloved President. Benigno (“Noynoy”) Aquino III inherited that legacy and, boosted by national mourning at the death of Corazon Aquino in August 2009, won the presidency in 2010. President Aquino quickly began making his own name. The sputtering economy stabilized and became hot. Aquino pushed through a reproductive-rights law that many said was impossible in the fervently Catholic nation. Most important, he became the face of the regional confrontation with Beijing over its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea. It is a brave stance, the long-term consequences still unknown.
In a country of nicknames, Filipinos proudly call their President PNoy — a pun on the word they use for themselves: Pinoy. For his courage, however, he really should have the pet name the family gave his eldest sister Maria Elena: Ballsy.
Chua-Eoan is TIME‘s news director
Next Barack Obama