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Opinion

Corazon Aquino

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was born Jan. 25, 1933. If she were alive, she would be celebrating her 89th birthday on Tuesday. She passed away on Aug. 1, 2009 after battling cancer for over a year. Hundreds of thousands and some say more than a million lined the route of her funeral procession on the day of her burial. This lasted for more than eight hours due to the huge crowd and their emotional responses.

While her name is very familiar to the Filipino people, there are many among the new generation who are not that familiar with the story of her life. For their sake, I am including in this column a short biographical sketch.

Corazon “Cory “ Aquino was the sixth of eight children of Jose Cojuangco and Demetria Sumulong, both from politically prominent and wealthy clans. She attended grade school at St. Scholastica’s College and then went to the US for her high school education. She continued her studies at Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia and Notre Dame Convent School in New York City. At the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York, Cory graduated with a bachelor’s degree in French and a minor in Mathematics. After returning to the Philippines, she took up law classes at the Far Eastern University, but discontinued when she married Ninoy Aquino.

Known for her deep spiritual faith and simple lifestyle, Cory preferred to be in the backstage during her husband’s political career, supporting him during campaigns and his incarceration, even as she endeavored to give their children as normal a family life as was possible.

Cory was put in the spotlight after her husband was assassinated in 1983, as she was seen by the overwhelming majority of the people as the only force that could unify the opposition. She was eventually prevailed upon to be the united opposition’s presidential candidate and run against Ferdinand Marcos during the 1986 snap election.

She was a very reluctant candidate. After the assassination of her husband in 1983, she came back to the Philippines. She became a very popular personality. I was able to meet her occasionally when opposition leaders like Nene Pimentel and Jaime Ferrer would visit her.

My wife Neni reminded me that she had already met Cory because she was the first Filipino journalist to interview her upon her return to the Philippines. It was an assignment for the Mr. & Ms. Magazine, which was originally a lifestyle magazine published and edited by Eggie Apostol. However, it had started carrying political stories when Eggie decided that there was need to counter the controlled media of the Marcos regime.

By this time we had become very active in organizing the political opposition party PDP LABAN. Jaime Ferrer was our Metro Manila chairman. He then appointed me as deputy secretary general for Metro Manila.

Ka Jaime Ferrer called me one day and told me to invite Cory to be our guest speaker at the general assembly of our party gathering for Parañaque and Las Piñas. I remember distinctly that he told me that Cory would be the next president of the Philippines. The venue was to be at the Tropical Palace Hotel in BF Homes.

I was very nervous because it would be the first time I would be meeting her by myself. I remember she was very gracious and I remember thinking she was very charismatic like her husband, but in a more quiet way.

I was tasked to introduce her at our assembly and I ended my introduction by announcing: “The next president of the Republic of the Philippines – Corazon Aquino.”

After her talk, she called me aside and severely scolded me for my introduction and threatened never to accept any of our invitations again. She was serious and I could see she meant every word. I apologized and promised it would never happen again.

I remember later telling myself that they would have a hard time convincing her to run since she did not even want to be president. Of course, events and forces greater than us intervened and Philippine history took a dramatic turn.

For several decades between her presidential campaign and her death, Cory Aquino exercised power even when she had no more legal authority. She could call on people to come to the streets and make their voices heard. When major decisions in the country were discussed, she would always be consulted and chances are her counsel would prevail. The force of arms was never part of her arsenal.

I used to tell people that I believed that what she had was a combination of charismatic power and moral authority. The ancient Greeks often thought of charisma as a gift from the gods.

I noticed during rallies that she did not speak in the loud bombastic style of the traditional politicians. Nor did she speak in the angry tone of the leftists and activists. I often described her style as telling stories.

The one thing that was clear is that she had the power to persuade through her communication style. I do not know anybody else who could do that.

Another type of leader might have led us to a bloody revolution. We were fortunate that the main personalities of EDSA People Power – Corazon Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin – led us with the power of words and charisma. That is why I sincerely believe that the Filipino people have been specially blessed by God.

*      *      *

Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom: Jan. 29, 2-3 pm. with Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. Contact [email protected]. 0945.2273216

Email: [email protected]

CORAZON AQUINO

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