Thursday, August 06, 2009

Goodbye Cory

Three days ago, I wrote this:

When I learned last Saturday morning that former President Cory Aquino died, I felt an immediate tinge of sadness. The woman who replaced the Marcos dictatorship who was in power for 20 years, the soft-spoken, always smiling widow whose husband was killed by the dictatorship, has succumbed to colon cancer.

Almost all radio stations in Metro Manila were discussing about Cory – memories of the people who have worked with her during her term (1986-92), the People Power 1 theme song, some of her pronouncements and speeches, etc. The sadness in my heart became heavier with each passing hour.

Yesterday, Sunday at noontime, I attempted to see her body at La Salle Greenhills. I parked perhaps 300 meters away from the gate, lots of vehicles parked nearby. When I saw the long queue of people outside the gate wanting to come in and see also Cory, I decided to go home.

Today, Cory’s body will be transferred from La Salle Greenhills to Manila Cathedral. The motorcade will pass by Ayala Avenue in Makati. Around 10:30 am, one side of Ayala fronting Tower One was already closed. By 11am, a thick crowd of people were already waiting in Ayala and Buendia. Both lanes of Ayala were already closed to traffic. By 12noon, I think most buildings in Makati commercial district were already deserted as the employees and staff of those buildings have gone out to wait for the funeral motorcade.

Around 1pm, the motorcade passed by Ayala-PBCom area. This time, the crowd was thick on one side of Ayala. Some were clapping, most were just silent, a few were chanting “Cory, Cory!” Sad faces but excited to see Cory's funeral, that's the prevailing mood.

I followed the funeral motorcade from there to Buendia Axa Life building. I would surmise that up to Manila Cathedral, there won’t be a single square meter of road space that won’t have people standing to welcome the motorcade. Tens of thousands of sad Filipinos coming out of their houses and offices just to welcome the funeral march and motorcade.

It’s eerie to see Cory’s coffin. It’s mounted on a long truck, the coffin draped in Philippine flag, is surrounded by so many flowers and 4 guards. I was very sad to see that Cory is now in a coffin. I tried to control some tears falling from my eyes, but I failed.

Cory is like a second mother to tens of millions of Filipinos. Her death sent waves of sadness into millions of hearts and mind, not only in the Philippines but in many parts of the planet. I’m still very sad as I write this. Have other stuff to do, a paper to write for my talk tomorrow morning. Have to put them aside to put these sad feelings into sentences.

As much as possible, I don’t want any politics to mix up with Cory death. But it’s impossible. Cory was a former President, and she remained a strong political figure many years after her term ended.

Thus, I would wish only one thing, that those in the administration now will heed Cory’s wish before she died: do not tamper with the current Constitution for their selfish and devil political desires.

Paalam, Tita Cory. You will be in our hearts and mind forever....

Yesterday, former President Cory Aquino, was finally laid to rest. Beside the tomb of her husband, former Senator Ninoy Aquino.

Ninoy was killed by military assassins under the Marcos government after his plane from the US landed in Manila airport. That was August 21, 1983. Cory, mainly a grieving widow, rose to political prominence two years after that when the scattered political opposition had to give way to her in late 1985 to fight Mr. Marcos in a one-on-one Presidential election (plus elections in the parliament) in January or February 1986.

Cory’s term ended in 1992 but her shadow and influence as a political figure remained tall many years after that. Mainly because while people may disagree with a number of her policies during her term, as well as some of her political leanings after her term, there is little or no way that people can say that she was dirty and corrupt. She has the high moral ascendancy that no succeeding Presidents could surpass or equal.

Cory’s high moral ascendancy stands in straight opposite to the immorality of the current President who is also a woman, the second woman President of the country. That is why when Cory died, there is deep sadness among millions of Filipinos because it seemed that the moral ex-president had to leave while the immoral, incumbent one still continues to wreak political, financial and moral havoc on the 92+ million Filipinos.

Since Cory died last Saturday, August 1, until her burial yesterday, August 5, all local media and the public, were practically glued on her wake and funeral motorcades. Especially the last 3 days: the transfer of her body from La Salle Greenhills to Manila Cathedral last Monday, the public viewing and necrological services last Tuesday, and the mass and the nearly 9 hours funeral march from Manila Cathedral to Manila Memorial Park.

One proof: the other day, August 4, I was one of 3 speakers discussing drug price control in the Philippines which will officially start by August 15. The 2 other speakers were from the multinational pharma and local pharma industry associations, respectively. This subject occupied front page and headline news just several days ago, it is high on the public consciousness and so many people can get very emotional about this. There were a number of local media people there, so many questions raised and explored, and the 3 of us speakers were interviewed later by one of two biggest tv network in the country, GMA 7. Nonetheless, the interviews and the forum was not shown on the station’s evening news program. It was all about Cory. No problem with me and perhaps with the 2 other speakers as I myself was eager to see practically anything about her during the wake and necrological services.

Yesterday, the scene of hundreds of thousands of people, more than a million in my estimate, standing on the roads just to see Cory’s coffin pass by, was really overwhelming and unbelievable. That was despite the dark sky and occasional downpour several times the whole day. Most of them, me included, watched the mass at the Cathedral first, which ended around 11:30am, before going to the streets to wait for the funeral march and motorcade.

I stood and waited near the South Expressway-Buendia flyover. For about 4 hours total. Every passing hour saw the number of people swelling even bigger. It rained several times during those 4 hours that I stood, but people came with umbrellas, jackets, while some simply braved the rain. It seemed that no one went home despite the rains until they saw the truck that carried Cory’s coffin. It’s really overwhelming.

People were supposed to be sad because Cory will be laid to rest finally. But somehow people were happy. It should be the idea that finally, the Filipinos are united once again, first time since the 1986 People Power revolution, and the idea that somehow there should be hope in the country’s current depressing political and economic environment.

I would say that this kind of hope and unity cannot be captured by politics or by any political party or political movement at the moment. There should be something more than politics, more than religious and cultural belief, more than economic advocacies. It is something that I cannot fathom yet at the moment. I can hypothesize one or two potential explanations, but the facts and human incidents are too many to be captured by any economic modeling or political paradigms.

There is one thing though, that practically anyone can safely theorize, not just hypothesize, as it is backed up by unassailable facts: Cory is loved and respected by so many Filipinos, and even by many foreigners. Her life and death was a phenomenon of inspiration, of a deep yearning for morality and honesty in government. And it is something that is sorely lacking in the current Presidency and administration.

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