Corazon Aquino, 1933-2009

Note: this originally was a message I posted on a mailing list for my (now former) students, which I am reprinting here.

At today’s 6:00 AM Mass the priest told us that former president Corazon Aquino died earlier, 3:18 AM as it turns out. I am guessing that none of you, my former students, was even born when she was swept to power in February 1986, and even for those of you who were born during her presidency, were too young to take note of it. As someone who lived through the tumultuous years of her husband Benigno Aquino II’s assassination in 1983, the People Power Revolution, and her six-year presidency, allow me to share my experiences.

I was in Grade 6 when Ninoy Aquino was killed. That was the first time I had heard of Aquino or his family. Fast forward to late 1985, when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared snap elections for February 1986, and a groundswell of support for Ninoy’s widow Cory to challenge him started.

When the snap election took place on February 7, 1986, emotions were high, rumors were flying fast (even without the pervasive cellphone and Internet coverage that we have today, we still managed to receive and pass news around). The election received worldwide, near saturation-level coverage. My eldest sister had just been sent to the US the month before. In high school where I was a sophomore, the juniors and seniors were joking if the JS prom, always scheduled around Valentine’s, would still push through. I wondered how I would celebrate my birthday, which was also close. (Sorry, I won’t disclose the day.) My maternal grandmother’ s birthday was also close to mine, so we were thinking about that.

Then on February 22, news broke of a revolt in the military started by then Minister for Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and Head of the Philippine Constabulary Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. Classes and work were suspended, everyone stayed at home, except for my second eldest sister, then a college student at UP Diliman, who insisted on joining the civilian supporters. Our then yaya also joined the ranks of the those who cooked for the soldiers. My youngest sister and I were kept at home all this time by our parents, so we followed the news on TV.

The euphoria that greeted Cory’s rise to power is something I’ll never forget. Every felt that a new age had dawn, that we’ve been given a fresh start. Of course, the realities of make-classes and cram sessions fell on us students. And throughout Cory’s presidency and beyond, I never wavered in my support for her. Though I’ve never met her personally, both my parents served in sub-Cabinet positions under her tenure, my mother as an Assistant Secretary of DOST and my father a director at the CHR. One picture we always cherish is a group portrait in Malacañang, with both of them along with other government officials gathered around Cory. The one time I saw her up-close was watching on at a book-signing by her at National Bookstore in the Shangri-La EDSA mall.

Today, after breakfast, I went to SM North EDSA to buy groceries, then headed to Cory’s family residence at Times Street to pay honor to her, for myself and for my parents. I set down a lit candle and offered a prayer for her.

Tita Cory, rest in peace. You deserve it. We will always be grateful for your role in restoring democracy to the Philippines.

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