To Cory, with love and gratitude
Ten years ago today, Cory Aquino’s flag-draped coffin was carried on a 10-wheeler flatbed truck from La Salle Greenhills to Manila Cathedral for the continuation of her wake and final rites, before her burial at the Plaza of Dignity at the Manila Memorial Park on Aug. 5. People lined the streets in love and gratitude for a final farewell to a much-loved individual who, even after her presidency, joined street protests for love of country. Something she really did not have to do but was compelled to do when our democracy and human rights were threatened. She, after all, was instrumental in the restoration of our democracy in February 1986. She did not claim sole credit for it, as it was a long, arduous struggle of many years against a dictatorship that we had seemed doomed to endure for a lifetime.
That street scene that stalled traffic for hours was akin to the daylong funeral procession in August 1983 when her assassinated husband Benigno S. Aquino Jr. was to be laid to rest, and was sent off by 2 million people. It was Ninoy’s assassination that changed our life as a nation, that galvanized forces to work more fervently toward ousting the dictator.
I was privileged to get to know Cory Aquino in a more personal way—and not only because my husband, Elfren, worked in her Cabinet as head of the Presidential Management Staff and Metro Manila governor. It was as a journalist assigned by feisty publisher Eugenia Duran Apostol to write about her for Mr. & Ms. magazine. I was to interview her for the Mr. & Ms. Special Reconciliation edition (edited by Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, another woman warrior) upon her arrival from Boston, and the story had to be written immediately because none of the establishment broadsheets was allowed to carry any news about Ninoy Aquino. This would be followed by many other articles and books, because the Aquinos were always good copy that the public faithfully read with interest.
I particularly enjoyed teaming up with Justice Adolf Azcuna to write the chapter on Cory for the book “Seven in the Eye of History,” edited by Asuncion D. Maramba (Anvil, 2000). For Adolf, it was also a way to document his Malacañang years, as it was his assessment of her presidency. I got a kick from his telling me that Cory preferred my human-interest profile to his piece.
Her transformation from a daughter of privilege to a politician’s wife who had to endure his detention and exile to a freedom fighter and then president of the Philippines, is well-documented—and continues to inspire especially the youth who never knew her.
In her last State of the Nation Address in 1991, President Cory said: “I hope that history will judge me as favorably as our people still regard me, because, as God is my witness, I honestly did the best I could. No more can be asked of any man.” She also said in one of her speeches: “I should be judged as much by the circumstances that defined my choices then, as by the consequences of those choices today.” It was her genuine farewell to the country; admirably, she exerted no effort to prolong her term.
Why do friends and followers and supporters continue to remember Cory Aquino especially on Aug. 1, Jan. 25 and Feb. 25? Why do Cory faithful continue to style the tomb with yellows and whites each time? Why the morning and evening Masses? And why the memorabilia like this year’s yellow pouch from Gina de Venecia, and Margie Juico’s prayer cards and stationery sets with Cory paintings from the Juico collection?
Because we gain strength from being in the company of kindred souls who know that courage and fortitude are much-needed in today’s clime.
Who’s afraid of being yellow? Call me names, but I remain proudly yellow. I wear yellow as a badge of courage, to honor our many fallen heroes in the democratic struggle, and to honor the principles of truth, justice and democracy we fought for—and continue to adhere to.
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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