Cory Aquino stories

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative is a collection of essays, columns and stories about the Aquino family. There are many stories in the book about Corazon Aquino whose birthday is Jan. 25. Here are some excerpts  from a few of the stories – with the corresponding titles – in the book.

The sixth child

Nothing ever happened by accident, Cory Aquino liked to say. It did not seem so at the start. It seemed, rather, that she was destined from birth to lead a genteel life.

She was born on Jan. 25, 1933 to a wealthy and landed family, the sixth of eight children of Jose Cojuangco and Demetria Sumulong Cojuangco, familiarly known as Don Pepe and Dona Metring. Her older siblings are Ceferino, nine, a stillborn child, Pedro, Josephine Cojuangco Reyes, Teresita Cojuangco Lopa, and Carmen (who died of meningitis before she turned two). Younger siblings are Jose Jr. (Peping), the only surviving sibling, and Maria Paz Cojuangco Teopaco.

Cory went to elementary school at St. Scholastica’s College, Manila, a Catholic convent school run by the Missionary Benedectine Sisters of Tutzing, Germany. The school was known for its motto Oro et Labores (Pray and Work), and the strict discipline and work ethic it instilled in its students. The sisters were reputed to be so strict that they did not even allow black patent shoes.

The young Scholastican

Carina Tancino Manalac recalls that during her grade school years at St. Scholastica’s College  (SSC) with Cory Cojuangco (she was called Corazon or Core then, as her older sister was known as Tere), she was not particularly close to Core, who belonged to the quiet group that included the class nerds Celine Olaguer, Lita Trinidad, and Aleli Bautista. On the other hand, everyone knew or has “heard” of Carina because she was one of the livelier members of the class.

Carina said the class knew that Cory belonged to the politically prominent and wealthy Sumulong and Cojuangco clans, but one would never guess that because her uniforms were hand-me-downs from her Ate Tere.

Cory was class valedictorian of her sixth grade class in 1943, always in close and friendly competition with Celine Olaguer who was salutatorian. In other accounts, Cory would say that if Celine did not have to return to her hometown in Bicol, Celine would be the valedictorian, rather than her. The German sisters who taught her described her as “quiet but exceptionally bright.”

Life with Ninoy

Returning home for good after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in French and Math (the unorthodox combination because she wanted to be different), Cory tried to satisfy her perennial fascination with law by attending law classes for a full  year and a half. This she had to forego with her eventual marriage to Ninoy.

Despite what may have seemed a major irreconcilable difference, Cory never felt this was a serious threat to her marriage. It merely seemed the most natural thing that both she and Ninoy had enough old fashioned sterling love to sustain the complexities of an unconventional marriage. To Cory, marriage meant forever. It was a path she had taken and there was no turning back.

Besides, Cory candidly claimed, “With his charm, you could not stay angry with him for long. He would turn everything into a joke.” For instance Ninoy never stopped teasing her for her initial coyness when she first discouraged the infatuated young man. Cory said of that rebuff, “it was probably the only time in his life that anyone ever turned him down.”

Cooking for the President

Fresh lumpia, pesang dalag, chicken pork adobo, inihaw na spare ribs, bouillabaisse soup, lechon kawali, Japanese dishes, monggo soup, and fried fish – these according to the lady who cooked for Cory Aquino, were some of President Aquino’s favorite dishes.

Such a simple menu and as the presidential tastes veer toward the lutong bahay (home cooking, but a Kapampangan home, mind you) it goes without saying that tending this Malacanang kitchen was an easy task.

Yes, the president was the easiest to cook for, swore the former president’s caterer, Linda Diaz who, for security reasons, we could not call by her real name during the time of her interview.

President Cory insisted that what she ate, the rest of her staff must also eat. Of course, out of solicitousness, Linda gave the President an extra special dish, like pasta with blue cheese or a soufflé or even a Cesar’s salad which the regular P40 per head buffet budget could not cover. 

Cory’s last day as President

There was something nostalgic and vaguely familiar about driving to Times Street in Quezon City at lunch time on June 30, 1992. Yellow ribbons welcomed the homecoming of the neighborhood’s most prominent resident. And if a passerby wondered what the fuss was all about, the streamer on the gate from the women of Negros Occidental, effusively thanking President Cory Aquino for a job well done, was a sure giveaway.

While media and the nation watched and wondered about President Ramos’ first afternoon in Malacanang, old friends and loyal supporters spent the afternoon with Citizen Cory at her family home.

What was originally meant to be a quiet and private lunch with her family turned out to be an impromptu mini-reunion of Cojuangco Bldg. habitués during the snap election.

Cory Aquino

There will be other major historical events in the future. But the drama and glory of the Cory Aquino period will never be replicated.

In one short term, she led a nation from oppressive dictatorship to democracy. She led the economy’s transition from crony capitalism to free enterprise and allowed entrepreneurship to expand. She restored the freedom which we now take for granted and she made human rights once more a right and not just a privilege.

The book Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative was co-authored by Elfren Sicangco Cruz and Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. It is available in all Fully Booked stores.

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