In her own words
Ninoy and Cory Aquino in Boston.

In her own words

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2019 - 12:00am

As the wife of a martyred opposition leader, a former President herself, and the mother of a future President (at the time of her death, that is), Corazon Aquino’s memoirs have a bearing on history. She had a front-seat view of it from the time she became the bride of Ninoy Aquino in 1955, held his lifeless hand in hers in 1983, to the time she took on the challenge of running against a dictator in 1986.

She kept a diary, and had started writing her memoirs but never found the time to compile all of them. Upon the suggestion of her nephew Rapa Lopa, Cory consented to give an oral history of times past from Ninoy’s arrest and imprisonment to the day she became President (1972 to 1986).

Rapa and his cousin Rhona Lopa Macasaet started recording her recollections in 1996. Rhona found the democracy icon, Time’s Woman of the Year in 1986 as “relaxed, also reflective and open” during their sessions.

These rare and private interviews, filmed in her office in the Cojuangco Building in Makati City, were transcribed by Rhona and e-mailed to the former President. The transcripts, however,  remained in Cory’s computer until the day she died.

When upon the encouragement of Father Catalino Arevalo, SJ, Cory’s spiritual adviser, for him to come up with a compilation of Cory’s memoirs, Rapa asked Rhona if she still had a soft copy of the transcripts. Of course, the meticulous Rhona did.

After the May 2019 elections, Rapa decided to finally put together Cory’s memoirs with the help of Rhona and another cousin Paolo Reyes.

Rapa had always believed that the Cory Aquino story is a love story: she loved Ninoy unconditionally. This unconditional love made her endure body searches when she visited him in jail, gave her the strength to lift him to the bathroom when he was too weak to take a bath.

This love between the couple, believes Rapa, has translated into unconditional love for country as well, with a willingness to die for it. Thus, Rapa came up with the title, To Love Another Day to reflect the contents of the book. For Ninoy and Cory, loving each other and the country meant not giving up on it.

* * *

Cory’s memoirs are studded with details. She named names, described experiences with heart and soul, and called a spade a spade. She named the military officers who were unkind to them when Ninoy was in jail, she talked about the time when people would shun her table in a party so she would be left sitting there alone, with just a relative for company. She recalled how a friend would call out to her across the street not to forget her if Ninoy became President, then pretend not to see her at Mass when Ninoy’s political fortunes fell.

Cory even stated who she believed killed Ninoy. She said it wasn’t Imelda.

Her humility shines through in the book, when she ended her recordings with this reflection: “Let’s just say we need different leaders for different times. The people thought I was the only one who could unite the opposition, who had a chance. They felt they needed someone who was the complete opposite of Marcos. They believed that someone was me.”

Let me share excerpts from one chapter, “A forty-day hunger strike and a death wish” that shows the rawness of the couple’s suffering, and their subsequent recovery from it.

 “In 1975, Ninoy was again called to face charges in the military court. And, as in 1973, he refused to participate once more. It was at this time, on April 4, when Ninoy declared that he would go on a hunger strike. Fr. Horacio dela Costa had, I think, preciously been able to visit him twice and they had discussed his going on this hunger strike, which as it turned out would stretch to forty days.

In the beginning of his hunger strike, Ninoy would get dizzy often and sleep most of the day. Later, as the hunger strike progressed, he could not sleep for long periods. He would sleep then waken but not fully in control, not fully understand what was happening because he was just too weak. It was just so frightening. I myself was losing a lot of weight.

At first, I was allowed to visit him every day so I could supervise him, because what he needed to do every day was to take a bath. To aid him, I had to position three folding chairs between his bed and the bathroom so that he could rest as he slowly made his way to his bath. I would pour the water over his head, which brought him relief. He had these shivers and would be cold all the time so I would place socks on his feet and make sure the air conditioner was always turned off. Ninoy was also emitting this foul odor. Apparently, when a person is on a hunger strike he emits a foul odor as he burns his ketones.

During this time I kept telling Ninoy, “I hope you will not have a death wish and just surrender to the Lord and do whatever it is that He wants of you. But don’t go. There’s still so much that we have to do.”

Ninoy’s response to me was, “You know, if I go, then my suffering will end and that is my prayer. But, if I don’t go, then that means Jesus wants me to do something more.”

On the fortieth day of his hunger strike, Ninoy told me that he was feeling the urge to go to the bathroom. I was wondering how that could be when he had not been eating anything in the last forty days. While in the bathroom, he began to feel dizzy.

I called out to the guards to help me carry Ninoy back to his bed. The doctors were summoned, and they told him they wanted to do some tests. As Ninoy kept nodding his head, I thought all the while that he was well aware of what is happening.

Hearing of the incident, my mother-in-law hurried to the hospital and hurried to Ninoy to put an end to his hunger strike. I, on my part, assured him that he had already successfully proven his point. To persuade him further, I told him that friends who knew people in the military had heard that Marcos would not allow him to die, but that Marcos also would now do anything to prevent him from lapsing into a coma and becoming a vegetable. What good to the country would he be then?

Finally, we were able to prevail upon him to put an end to his hunger strike. That day happened to be the day of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.”

* * *

What was the last thing Cory told Ninoy in person before he left for the Philippines on Aug. 21, 1983? In the airport, when she said goodbye, she told the love of her life: “Ninoy, basta pag dating na pagdating mo doon, sana makatawag ka.”

The call never came. *

(For copies of the book, please call the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation office at 8812-0403 and look for Amor or Puri.)

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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