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Cory Aquino on my mind

For several years now, every time July comes to a close, I cannot help but think of President Cory Aquino with much gratitude and continuing admiration. She whom we lost on Aug. 1, 2009.

I thought of her much earlier this year—even days before her former appointments secretary Margie Juico sent her unfailing reminder for a 5 p.m. Mass at the Rockwell Power Plant Chapel on Aug. 1, Wednesday—thanks to a student from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

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Edmerose E. Javier had written seeking help for a class assignment in Readings in Philippine history. She needed a “testimony from a person who has knowledge and participated in the People Power Revolution back in 1986.” The way she described the era, it did sound like an event from a distant past. I was happy to spend time and to oblige, feeling an urgency to do so, especially in these times when revising history has become so common, almost a favorite pastime. Of course, I commend her professor for such an assignment.

I set her straight by saying that she needed to understand that the February 1986 People Power Revolution led by Cory, the woman in yellow, not today’s favored color,  began years earlier, when pockets of opposition rallies happened after the Aug. 21, 1983, assassination of Ninoy Aquino. It was a long and arduous trek to Edsa, dating to 1978 with the organization of Laban (Lakas ng Bayan or People Power Revolution), Ninoy Aquino’s political party.

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I was happy that her teacher gave that assignment, allowing us Edsa veterans to tell our story. I could then see the value in documenting our personal experiences and those of others in the book my husband and I published in 2015, “The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative.” We did say then that we wanted the youth to understand and appreciate the sacrifices Ninoy and Cory Aquino and others like them made to restore freedom in the country after 21 years of dictatorial (mis)rule—whether it remains an unfinished revolution or not.

I thought of Cory again as I cringed in embarrassment at the pre-Sona circus, a power grab in living theater that outdid the most treacherous of Shakespearean dramas.  How do we explain to our students and our children what it was all about? Where lies our respect for tradition and government institutions? Of course, we must practice what we preach and tell it as it is. I thought of Cory and other highly respected government officials—a rare breed nowadays. How would they have behaved under the same circumstances? Would they even condescend to be part of such a plot and steal the thunder from the Sona?

I especially remember Cory Aquino these days for the moral force she personified even after her presidency, providing the leadership for mass action especially against corruption in government.

A grateful nation paid her supreme tribute by sending her off on the day of her funeral with an eight-hour long crawl from La Salle Greenhills to the Manila Cathedral to the Manila Memorial Park. It was a people’s funeral, for she had shunned state honors.

Her honors and distinctions were numerous—our first woman president, a Magsaysay awardee, Time’s Woman of the Year. But the hope she offered the country in December 1985, when she announced that she would run against Marcos in the 1986 snap election, was a priceless legacy. It was a decision that seemed both reckless and daring for one dismissed as an ordinary housewife.

She had said then, “We must offer [the people] unequivocal change. Anything less will dull and dim the hope and inspiration they need if they are to link their arms and work as one in rebuilding our devastated nation. I have spared no effort in calling on our people, at every opportunity… to dig deeply into their hearts to determine the respective roles that they must play at this crucial moment in our nation’s history.”

Three decades after, these words still resonate with relevance. These words demand to be heeded and held close to our patriotic hearts.

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Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Cory, Cory Aquino, History, Margie juico, Mass
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