For Cory, not just for Ninoy

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez -
Former President Corazon Aquino seemed eager to move on, hardly dwelling on past hurts, at the 19th death anniversary of her husband Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. Nineteenth-year celebrations – birthdays, wedding or death anniversaries – are usually nondescript. But the 19th anniversary of Ninoy’s assassination saw an "SRO" crowd by his tomb. It could have been because of controversy – Education Secretary Raul Roco had just resigned from the Arroyo Cabinet, and both he and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were at the Mass; Kris Aquino had just returned after some soul-searching in LA. It could have been a regrouping of stalwarts of the "Yellow Army" for a cause that did not die with Ninoy.

But I think that for many, their presence at the anniversary Mass was an act of loyalty not just to Ninoy but also most especially to his widow. Ninoy is in perfect happiness in heaven. Cory on earth needed to know more who is by her side, and last Aug. 21, she got her answer.

After the Mass celebrated by Fr. Catalino Arevalo S.J. by Ninoy’s tomb at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque, Cory gave a very moving speech.
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Later, at a lunch that followed the Mass, someone very close to Cory asked her why she seemed to have been saying "goodbye" in her speech.

"Well, I am 69 years old! You can never tell," she answered. Cory has always described herself as fatalistic. If Gloria Arroyo’s philosophy is "Do what is right, do your best and God will take care of the rest," Cory’s is: "Pray with all your heart, work with all your might and leave the rest to God."

She said one of her daughters had recently given her a French magazine, and there was a line there that struck her. It went something like, "If you were to die today, what would you leave behind?" To me, it seemed that at this point in her life, Cory does not want to leave any bitterness behind.

The day after the anniversary, Mrs. Aquino left for Japan for a series of speaking engagements and for what her spokesman former Press Undersecretary Deedee Siytangco said was a "much-needed break."

Deedee was one of the few people Cory thanked for being "faithful to me through all these years." She also acknowledged Gina de Venecia, who was seated between her and Raul Roco during the Mass, and called her "my personal favorite."

She thanked the media – which she rarely does – and made special mention of STAR chief photographer Val Rodriguez, who was her official photographer in the seven years she was president.
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During the lunch in her late parents’ house in Forbes Park, Cory spent a lot of time at the table of the choir, mostly juniors and seniors at the Ateneo High School. They did not know the lyrics of the Impossible Dream – the crowd had to finish the song for them – but they knew who Ninoy Aquino was from their parents and from their schoolbooks.

The choirboys included Bodjie Santiago, Amos Francia, JJ Ignacio, Mario Garcia, JM Lopez, Carlo Cannu, Arnel Mendoza, Justin Lladoc and Chris Ong (the conductor).
‘Your country in the sky’
Philippine Airlines (PAL) launches tonight its brand new Frequent Flyer Program, Mabuhay Miles. Joy Lynn Pasiliao, PAL assistant vice president for products, gave me a glimpse of those who have flown PAL consistently through the years. One of those who have logged over a million miles with PAL is 82-year-old Xavier Nepomuceno, a former Ayala Corp. executive and board member. He is a regular on PAL’s service between Manila and San Francisco, where he and his family are now based. He makes five or six round trips between Manila and San Francisco every year – that’s why he flies PAL.

"PAL has never lost a plane over the Pacific, a fact that not many people are aware of," points out Nepomuceno. Good point.

Another reason Nepomuceno favors the flag carrier is its "soft landings."

"At times I was not even aware that we were already on the ground." These soft landings apparently weigh in heavily as far as PAL passengers are concerned. They are major reasons why another businessman, Oscar Reyes, former chairman of the Shell companies in the Philippines, flies PAL.

"PAL has the smoothest landings. So soft touchdowns … you wouldn’t even notice that you have landed. The sensation is different," says Reyes.

Both Nepomuceno and Reyes have also been spoiled by the in-flight pampering at PAL and make no bones about it.

"The outstanding feature about PAL from the beginning was the reputation of its flight stewardesses – for attentiveness, cheerfulness, efficiency – and attractiveness!" says Nepomuceno. He and wife Asuncion have a daughter.

Reyes, who met his wife Editha during a flight to Canada, says it is the warmth and friendliness of service that makes him fly PAL.

"Flying PAL is being at home. It is your country in the sky; with a long flight you will feel the comfort. You have a crew that understands you. It is an extension of your home, your country, I appreciate the value they extend to their customers whether Filipino or not."

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