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At Large

A stark retelling of the origins of Edsa

/ 04:05 AM February 26, 2020

One tip I always share with students and beginning writers is that the more emotional and moving the topic you’re writing about is, the more tempered, simple and plain your writing should be.

Resorting to maudlin sensibilities and sentimentality is already “gilding the lily,” layering fancy notions on top of an already emotionally fraught narrative.

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Talking plainly and perhaps even laconically is exactly what the late President Cory Aquino does in her memoirs “To Love Another Day” (edited by Rapa Lopa). The story of how she and Ninoy, their children, their extended family, and their friends weathered the years of Ninoy’s incarceration (I have yet to reach the part about his years in exile, his assassination and the road to Malacañang for Cory) is told in a way so direct and unembellished it becomes even more powerful and moving in the telling.

The events recalled in the years after the declaration of martial law, the very real suffering those years imposed not just on Ninoy and Cory and their family but also on the Filipino people as a whole were so horrible they can only be best conveyed through a bare-bones retelling. But even without the fancy appeal to feelings and sentiments, the tale is still stark in its appeal, powerful in its “hugot.”

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Based on oral recollections on video, an attempt to lay the ground for a full-blown autobiography, the stories Tita Cory tells go straight to the heart and for the jugular. There is the account of how, after months of deathly silence on Ninoy’s whereabouts, Cory finally catches a glimpse of her husband. Separated by fences built of chicken wire, she sees a gaunt and seemingly defeated Ninoy in his and the late senator Jose

Diokno’s secret detention site in Fort Magsaysay. So thin was he, Cory remembers, that “Ninoy looked awful. His hair had grown long and he was holding his pants up because he had lost a considerable amount of weight.” Also, for the first time in their marriage, Cory saw her once-indomitable husband break down in tears upon catching sight of them. But even as Ninoy and the girls were in tears, Cory remained stoic but only because, she recalls, she had taken a more powerful dose of a tranquilizer than she was used to.

Reading the Aquino family’s dark night of the soul was exactly what this witness to Edsa needed as we observed the days of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

For this is where the story of Edsa truly begins: with the declaration of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos and the abuse of power that immediately followed it. The dictator was certainly strategic in his orders of arrest and detention, going after the most prominent and respected figures in Philippine society who had the potential to organize opposition against his rule. And certainly, Ninoy, who even then had been gearing up to run for president after Marcos’ second term, was first on the list of Marcos’ enemies.

But there is another side to the harrowing tale of Ninoy’s years in detention. With Ninoy incarcerated, it fell upon Cory to carry out his public role: dealing with military authorities, facing the foreign press, and later taking Ninoy’s place in discussions with the rapidly thinning ranks of the political opposition.

But even as Cory grew in her public political role, so did Ninoy move deeper into his own private journey of spirituality. At first, angrily asking God why he (and his family) had to suffer so much when many others seemed to be basking in the comforts of sin, Ninoy gradually accepted his fate.

As Cory tells it: “The best thing that happened to both of us is that we really became very much closer to the Lord. We held to our belief that, whatever happens, the best thing to do is to entrust yourself and all your problems to the Lord.”

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On Aug. 21, 1983, the Lord called Ninoy to his home and to his true calling as a hero. And on Feb. 25, 1986, the Lord called Cory to assume the role that Ninoy had prepared for all his life.

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TAGS: At Large, Benigno Aquino Jr., Corazon Aquino, Cory Aquino, Ninoy Aquino, People Power, Rina Jimenez-David
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