Remembering Cory, with gratitude
Often we wonder about and lament our short memories as a people. Is it a lack of self-worth and national identity that leads us to be more familiar with historical figures from familiar lands rather than our own? Is it our limited knowledge of Philippine history (thank goodness for the likes of Ambeth Ocampo, who dusts off scholarly tomes and makes history come alive) that makes it easy for some of us to “move on” from the horrors of martial law, for instance? We have been plagued with dark periods in our history—many we have triumphed over, and the lessons of which are lost on us.
It is this kind of scenario that compels me to especially remember former president Cory Aquino on her 86th birthday yesterday. This is not meant to deify her, but to remember and honor her as a heroic woman to be proud of.
With her Jan. 25, 1933, birthdate and the 33rd anniversary of Edsa and the People Power Revolution on Feb. 25, this is an apt learning and teaching opportunity in classrooms for students to get to know a woman whose courage led us to regain democracy after 14 years of the Marcos dictatorship.
Cory Aquino only learned the ways and wiles of politics through osmosis, from her marriage to opposition hero Ninoy whom the dictator considered his most formidable foe. Thus, she was easily dismissed as a mere housewife. But her simple narrative of her family’s experiences during martial law was one that resonated with her audiences, who voted her into office as 11th president and the first woman to head the country. She was incredulous that they would weep just listening to her. Her tenure as president was far from perfect, as all presidencies are. And even as there continues to be debate on Edsa as a revolution, she continues to elicit respect and gratitude.
Today’s pejorative term “dilawan” goes back to the antidictatorship rallies where yellow became the color of protest, the color of what initially appeared to be a futile effort against Marcos. Cory never meant to go into politics, but what poetic justice to triumph after Ninoy’s years of detention to exile to his assassination on the tarmac. And look at how history views them today: Cory, known the world over as a freedom fighter, and Marcos forever branded as a corrupt dictator.
Twenty-seven years after she stepped down from office, her coworkers in government feel the need to gather in her memory. At an intimate dinner on the eve of her birthday, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez said it best for all of us: “We remember President Cory in gratitude. We are where we are today (in our personal and professional lives) because of her.”
Her longtime confessor and family friend, Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, insisted on the long trip from Loyola Heights to the Manila Memorial Park to celebrate Mass. Her loyal secretary Margie Juico had again organized an afternoon Mass at Rockwell. Yes, I proudly continue to wear yellow as a badge of honor and courage.
As we hold up Cory Aquino as a historical figure to know and appreciate, let us also get to know other individuals who have significantly contributed to the shaping of intellectual thought in the country. One is grateful for a readable, scholarly volume by La Salle history professor Lisandro Claudio, “Liberalism and the Postcolony: Thinking the State in 20th-Century Philippines” (National University of Singapore and the Ateneo University Press, 2017), which introduces us to the life and times of Camilo Osias, Salvador Araneta, Carlos P. Romulo and Salvador P. Lopez. The Southeast Asia Council (Seac) of the Association for Asian Studies and the Kahin Prize Committee have selected Claudio to receive the 2019 George McTavish Kahin Book Prize.
Claudio is the youngest and the first Southeast Asian based in his home country to have been recognized. The Kahin Prize is given biennially to an “outstanding scholar of Southeast Asian studies from any discipline or country specialization to recognize distinguished scholarly work on Southeast Asia beyond the author’s first book.”
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected] gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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