A teaser on the life of Cory Aquino
Anyone who has read hagiography or the lives of the saints will know that tears and prayers form the arsenal of the canonized. Most of them will offer the other cheek when unjustly slapped, while you and I will do what is natural and hit back — harder. Presidents of the Philippines, especially the current one, like to project power and strength, so tears and prayers are not in their vocabulary—and that is what made Corazon C. Aquino unusual. She was unlike other presidents in gender and temperament. She had little or no political experience save for what she learned, by osmosis, from her husband. Ninoy Aquino vainly chased after the presidency that then fell unbidden on the laps of his widow and son. Looking back on two Aquino presidencies, we are reminded of a line from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”When she stepped out of Malacañang, Cory was often asked to write her memoirs, to leave her version of history. She attempted to do so in 1996, drafting stray recollections, and then got stalled. To jump-start the autobiography, she was interviewed on camera and transcripts were made for her reference. Alas, nothing materialized still, because she was not keen on drawing attention to herself or her deeds.
While she wanted to clear cobwebs and untangle fake news through a memoir, she refrained from harming anyone through words, not even those who deserved it. Fortunately, Cory’s nephew, Rapa Lopa, has published the 1996 recollections, “To Love Another Day: The Memoirs of Cory Aquino.” It is a slim volume of 134 pages that you can finish in one sitting, but it is not an autobiography. Not a chronological retelling of a life, identifying significant events from birth to twilight, but a memoir, a selective recollection of events, starting from 1972, when her world came crashing down with the imposition of martial law, and the imprisonment of her husband for over seven years, partly in solitary confinement. Lesser people would have been crushed by such a drastic turn of events, but in the case of Ninoy, Cory, Noynoy and even Kris Aquino, that very misfortune was what would make them iconic in our history: martyrdom for Ninoy, the return of democracy under the Cory presidency, a reprise in the Noynoy presidency, and short periods of distraction in the antics of Kris.
As Cory herself put it: “When I look back on what has happened thus far in my life, I begin to realize that all the trials my family and I were made to undergo were to prepare us to face the many challenges ahead. If early on, someone had foretold what my life would be like, I would have said that I would go mad. But this is probably one of my greatest strengths, that in the most crucial periods in my life I did not break and collapse.”
At the height of the 1989 coup attempt against her administration, Fr. Bernardo Perez, OSB, rector of nearby San Beda College, was summoned to Malacañang, where he found the President secured in an inner room, the windows of which were covered with mattresses. Cory was not in her trademark yellow dress but clad in a tracksuit and sneakers. When she asked for a blessing, Fr. Perez obliged, without telling her he was imposing the last rites. Cory handed him a small bag for safekeeping, which Fr. Perez hid among his clothes in the monastery. Weeks after surviving the coup, Fr. Perez returned the bag and asked what was inside. Cory said it contained all that was dearest to her — her diaries, and those of Ninoy, too. Fr. Perez didn’t even take a peek at them, while I would probably have read them all and made photocopies. Note to self: Never trust a historian.
“To Love Another Day” is an engaging and inspiring read, and I will not spoil the fun by summarizing its contents here. It begins with Ninoy’s imprisonment and ends with the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution and the early trials of Cory’s presidency. It is at best, a teaser, edited with the soft lens of Rapa Lopa’s idealized image of his saintly aunt.
Someday, I hope the diaries of Ninoy and Cory Aquino will be made available to historians and the nation for whom they offered their lives. These diaries will provide context to textbook history, and a glimpse into the life and exciting times of a remarkable couple who, rightly or wrongly, shaped the Philippines we endure or enjoy today.
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