Philippine News: Millions Celebrate The Legacy of Cory Aquino
A few weeks ago, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came back from a trip somewhere, and got quarantined at the Asian Hospital to keep up with regulations of the H1N1 pandemic. At around that same time, former President Cory Aquino got confined at another hospital for her treatment of colon cancer. Also at that same time, former First Lady Imelda Marcos celebrated her 80th birthday. I wanted to write something about how while two Philipine women leaders were in the hospital holding on to the edge of a hospital bed to put on their hospital slippers, an 80 year-old Imelda Marcos was gloating in her birthday present – a pair of Manolo Blahniks (her 10,234th pair in this lifetime.) And then, I wanted to wrap up the blog with something like – masamang damo, matagal mamatay.
Of course, I never wrote it, or otherwise you’d find it here. Fast forward a few weeks after, and Imelda has gotten probably 22 more pairs of shoes, Gloria is out of the hospital clear of the H1N1 (and perhaps allegedly a tummy tuck), and sadly former President Cory Aquino has passed away.
I was in high school when a few friends invited me to take part in NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Elections), which was the movement responsible for double-checking that there would be no cheating at the time that the elections slated Ferdinand Marcos vs. Cory Aquino for the Philippine Presidency.
As a young teenager at that time, I wasn’t completely clueless as to what was going on with the country. Yes, I was very supportive of Cory Aquino and the whole move to get the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship ousted from Malacanang. But then, I was a teenager, and my real motivation in taking part in the whole NAMFREL process was to get to hang out with my friends, and perhaps a crush or two whom I knew were going to be there.
Of course, there was also something a bit more personal. On the day that Ninoy Aquino was to return to the Philippines, he spent his last mass in Boston, Massachussets, along with my grandfather Jose “Pepe” Calderon and my grandmother Belen “Betty” Fabros Calderon. Back then, Cory Aquino was just a simple house wife, and the dream of People Power was something no one ever envisioned. There is a historic picture of that walk from the church that was in my grandfather’s condominium, and is now at my mother’s house.
Anyway, during the 1986 elections, I was in La Salle Greenhills manning the documentation department, being in charge of collating information on complaints and incidents on cheating, harassment, election fraud, violence and such. On one occasion, there was a call to our department that said that the Comelec officials resigned from their posts and were headed to the Baclaran Church.I was one of those who hopped in the car and secured the place, carrying pews to block the doors in case the military were to execute and arrest the Comelec resignees.
That entire election was a weird process. On one side – the Comelec’s tally had Marcos ahead. On the NAMFREL count, it was Aquino who was ahead. Crazy times indeed. And, of course, the resignation of the Comelec officials just signified that indeed there was something askew being done to assure a Marcos victory.
Anyway – a few days later, Marcos was seen in television being sworn in as President – and a few hours after that, people went to the streets of EDSA in what the world will remember as People Power. I was there. I took pictures. I put a rosary on the M-16 of a soldier standing by a tank.
And when Marcos fled the country, and when Cory Aquino took her oath as President a few days after, I was dancing with friends on EDSA just in front of the gates of Camp Aguinaldo.
My grandparents returned from the USA, and Jose Calderon was appointed to the 1987 Constitutional Commission while Betty Fabros-Calderon then became the OIC appointed Governor of Nueva Vizcaya, since the post was immediately vacated by her pro-Marcos predecessor.
There would be moments where I would get to personally meet Cory Aquino at dinners and social events where I had to be the companion of my grandmother or my grandfather. But, of course, I never really was not that much into the whole concept of politics and political social settings. There was a nice privileged feeling at being in a room with loads of important people, but that was about it. In hindsight, I wish that I took the time out to engage in conversation – a polite question or two about the weather, the traffic, the dessert, the Chicago Bulls – especially with Cory, who was always very accommodating to everyone around her. She conversed with our housekeepers and our drivers. She would be the one to stand up and go to the kitchen to ask for a glass of water refill. Oh well.
A few Presidents after Aquino’s term, and some look down on the Aquino administration as a very difficult one. Her time was marred with a few coup attempts, and a couple of big natural disasters, including the devastation of a Mt. Pinatubo eruption. I don’t really know the yardstick used in measuring the success of a President, especially in a country like the Philippines. Is it because employment rates took a big leap forward, or more laws for the people were enacted, or more infrastructure was developed, or is it the economic growth and the stability of the GNP? Or is it popularity?
Whatever it is they think they know – one thing I do know about Corazon Aquino is that her simple, humble and God-fearing nature as a person who understands love and compassion is what inspires me. She lead by virtue, and that’s more than what can be said of others who have schemed and politicized their way to whatever throne they want. She never asked for the throne, and yet when it came her way in 1986, she did the best of what she could with it, keeping her virtue and God’s love as her compass. That truth is what true freedom could stand for.
Right now, it rains. And the heavens shed their blessings and tears for her as she soon comes to lay to rest beside her beloved Ninoy Aquino at the Manila Memorial Park. And like the millions of Filipinos, all I can say is maraming salamat, po.