Cory, the young Scholastican

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

(Part I)

Yesterday, Jan. 25, was the 90th birthday of President Cory Aquino. There have been many stories written about her. One aspect of her life that has been seldom written about was her student days as a young Scholastican. This is a two-part column on Cory as a Scholastican written by a fellow Scholas-tican, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz.

A classmate, the late Carina Tancinco Mañalac, 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 have “heard” of Carina because she was one of the livelier members of the class.

The war years brought Carina to Boac, Marinduque, her family’s hometown. Because her schooling was not disrupted unlike that of her classmates in Ma-nila, she ended up one year ahead of the class when she returned to SSC. When the young Cory asked her why she was suddenly in a different grade, Ca-rina’s standard answer was, to the chagrin of her former classmates, “Brains! Brains! You can’t stop the progress of bright girls.” Cory told her, “Yabang!”

Carina remembers how she and Cory shared a love for reading. (In one of my numerous interviews with Cory, she had said she developed her clear enunci-ation and public speaking voice because as a young child, she loved reading aloud from any book, to an actual or an imagined audience.)

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 sis-ters who taught her described her as “quiet, but exceptionally bright.”

Carina lost touch with Cory when they were both starting their young families – she was by then married to journalist Gabby Mañalac. She remembers see-ing Cory again during martial law at Mercury drugstore, buying medicines for the detained Ninoy. They were exchanging pleasantries but Cory quietly warned her, “Carina, don’t talk to me, as I am being watched.”

When their Scholastican classmates gathered for services at the college chapel after Ninoy’s assassination, Carina went up to her to say, “Ikaw na ang next president.” Cory reacted the way she usually would to what she thought were Carina’s typical outrageous remarks.
“Ayan ka na naman. Wag ka nga loka-loka.”

Their bantering continued even after Cory became president. She teased Carina, who was her usual irreverent self: “Oy, presidente na ako. Wag mo na ko tulak-tulakin.”

Cory invited her Scholastican classmates and friends to Malacañang and even succeeded in having some of them work in her administration, for they were women she trusted. A classmate, Heidi Perez Cruz, was assigned to the Goldenberg Mansion, a nineteenth-century structure that is part of the Palace com-plex. Celine

Olaguer Sarte also found herself, 42 years after their grade school graduation, “working next door to the conference room of President Corazon C. Aquino? an honor and a privilege made possible by a friendship formed in grade school.”

Another Scholastican, Amelia Bautista, the elder sister of another classmate, Aleli, and who had then just retired from a long distinguished career as execu-tive secretary to Procter & Gamble presidents, was with the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation for nine years.

Cory did not succeed in inviting Carina to work, despite the president’s encouraging words that she could use Carina’s aggressiveness and fearlessness in government. Carina, the woman of leisure, had the lame excuse that she could not give up her siestas.

Carina saw President Cory more regularly over the years because her husband, business columnist and editor Gabby Mañalac, wrote on Malacañang af-fairs. One particular column did not please the president, who snubbed Gabby when they would meet and complained to Carina that her husband wrote nasty things about her.

Carina defended Gabby by saying he meant well because he cared about her administration. Gabby had suggested that Cory should meet with businessmen to find out their true sentiments, without her Cabinet members. Cory was not appeased with Carina’s reassurance. “If that’s love, forget it.” It took some time before Cory and Gabby were on friendly terms again and she invited him to come to Hacienda Luisita to visit the Aquino Museum and play golf.

She wanted Carina to see the blown-up grade school photo of their SSC class proudly on exhibit at the museum. It was also then when she noticed that Gabby was carrying Carina’s heavy purse and how she wished she had “trained” Ninoy to do the same for her.

Carina once teased Cory about talks of suitors queuing for her attention, even naming them. And Cory, laughing this off, dismissed it as out of the question because anyway, none of them was from royalty nor nobility.

(Part II continues on Sunday)

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with