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Home » Migrated » A Jesuit Remembers President Corazon Aquino

A Jesuit Remembers President Corazon Aquino


We have much to learn from the life and death of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, President of the Philippines from 1986-1992. After her husband Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983, she became our beacon of democracy and led the world-famous 1986 People Power uprising that drove away the Marcos dictatorship. EDSA 1 inspired later peaceful revolutions in other parts of the world. Cory Aquino has been compared to Mahatma Gandhi of India and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

Those who never knew Cory can listen to all the accolades expressed at her funeral – courageous, honorable, truthful, humble, caring, selfless, a woman of deep faith and integrity, etc. She was the exact opposite of those who deceive us at every turn and who would, by hook or by crook, cling tenaciously to power.

She never wanted to be president. She was a grieving widow forced by circumstances into public life. Critics later say she was not an effective president, but she certainly was a brave and honorable president. The nation knew this and spontaneously came out during her funeral to express their respect and love for her.

More than a state funeral organized by the government, what we witnessed at the Manila Cathedral and the streets of Manila on August 5, 2009 was truly a People’s Funeral for Cory. There were no organized hakot crowds, just thousands and thousands of grieving crowds saying good-bye and thank you to our beloved icon of democracy. To the young who do not know what People Power is, this is what it is.

Observers noted the difference between the crowds at Ninoy’s funeral and the crowds at Cory’s funeral. In 1983 the mood was one of protest and anger. In 2009 it was an outpouring of love and farewell. In 1983 we saw the biggest funeral in Philippine history. 26 years later Philippine history repeated itself during Cory’s funeral. They say that lightning never strikes twice. This is not true in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Benigno Aquino II.

Just like her husband’s death, Tita Cory’s own death united all of us as a nation – the rich and the poor, the empowered and the powerless. In 2001, years after her presidency, she was one of those who led the call for Joseph Estrada to step down as president. During her dying days, Erap visited her without attracting attention. Kris Aquino expressed her respect for Erap for quietly showing his support and sending food regularly, despite their political differences. Imee and Bongbong Marcos came to show their respect at the wake of Cory. Kris also expressed her thanks to the Marcoses for their sincerity in praying for her mother.

Indeed, what manner of woman is this, she who even in death, can inspire people to transcend their animosity and be united, even if fleetingly? To paraphrase scripture, there is more than meets the eye here. We see the spark of the divine in the shared grief of the opposing families. She had the “right stuff” like the Apollo astronauts, in contrast to all the others with the wrong stuff. Truly, God’s ways are not our ways.

A cursor is a pointer. John the Baptist was the pre-cursor paving the way to Jesus, and Jesus pointed us to God, who is present in our daily life, in the way we treat others with respect, care and concern. Future generations of Filipinos will look back at our time and may probably say that Ninoy was actually the pre-cursor to Cory’s presidency.  Only time will tell us if Cory has pointed us in the right direction of true nationhood. 

For each of us, what lessons can we learn from Cory’s life and death? What values and priorities are operative in our lives? What do we see happening around us? Do we see unity, or division among ourselves? Do we see selflessness, or do we see self-aggrandizement? Do we see ourselves humbly serving others, or do we always see one-upmanship or pataasan ng ihi? What is real to us – pakitang-Diyos, or pakitang-tao? Once again, our ways are not God’s ways.

A pervasive kanya-kanya (to each his own) syndrome exists, where the highest government official down to the lowliest wage earner all compete in makasariling sikap. Instead of a homeland we are proud of, where there is a shared dream of providing a better future for all, our country has become a land of hopeful expatriates seeking greener pastures elsewhere. The biblical exodus or escape from Egypt is a reality today in the Philippines. The papers report that the Filipino dream today is to go abroad. Sad indeed, but understandable, is the reality of this self-survival mode. Can we not learn from the example of Cory’s selfless life?

The names of Ninoy and Cory Aquino are now part of Philippine history. Some have started calling her a saint, others want her proclaimed a hero. Even if the official titles are not yet there, we know that deep in our hearts, the spirit of Ninoy and Cory will always be there to remind us what it is to love our country and serve others.

Cory’s dying message was, “Take care of each other…” It was not only for her children. It was for all of us, as a nation. Let us listen to her, and let us truly care for each other. Like her, let us truly be Pro Deo et Patria – for God and country.