Remembering Cory: âI suppose it was all providentialâ
Former President Corazon Aquino, 1933-2009.
Manny Marcelo
Remembering Cory: ‘I suppose it was all providential’
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - July 31, 2020 - 12:00am

When there were moves from some congressmen this year to change the name of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport the name the terminal has had for 33 years now no one could point a finger at Ninoy’s widow, the late former President Corazon Aquino, for the renaming of the airport during her presidency. She didn’t sign the measure out of delicadeza, and it “lapsed into law.”

I told myself, now I realize even more clearly why Cory kept her hands off that measure. She knew that history would judge her every move and she didn’t want to be seen as favoring a measure that would put her surname on the marquee of the Philippines’ premier airport.

Tomorrow marks the 11th death anniversary of President Cory and among the things I learned from covering her presidency as part of the Malacañang Press Office was her insistence on NOT using her position for personal gain or aggrandizement. I’m not saying she didn’t have friends or relatives who did that — but I am certain Cory’s immediate family did not.

In her own words, the memoirs of Cory Aquino.

***

Last November, Cory’s nephew Rapa Lopa launched the book, To Love Another Day: The Memoirs of Cory Aquino. Rapa and his cousin Rhona Lopa Macasaet did several video interviews with Cory, which Rhona painstakingly transcribed. Cory was very candid in the interviews.

She was also very self-effacing. She never fancied herself as God’s gift to the Filipino people. In one chapter titled, “The People Power President,” she very humbly says, and in a way distills the essence of why Filipinos elect certain people to be their leader.

“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 (Ferdinand) Marcos. They believed that someone was me.”

In the same chapter, Cory, who said never in her wildest dreams did she ever aspire or think she would be President, recalled the day she decided, after much soul-searching, to run for the presidency.

“Even if events were pointing to that direction,” she said, “did I have to accept this cross?”

But she thought about what Ninoy would have done if he were in the crucible of destiny himself, and she remembered what he said in an interview with Teddy Benigno, “that he would not be able to live with himself knowing he could have done something for the country, but did not do anything about it, did not even try.”

So to help her make that fateful decision, Cory went on a one-day retreat with the Pink Sisters. She emerged from the retreat in tears because the crucible tipped towards the cross that she must bear. Her mother-in-law Doña Aurora Aquino cried, her eldest daughter Ballsy told her it was unfair for her (Cory) “to be made to suffer more.”

But she had made up her mind.

President Aquino got a standing ovation after addressing a joint session of the US Congress in 1986.

“For me, as I said, seeking the presidency was a mission, and my concern was to do the best I could. At the beginning of each day, I would pray to God and ask for His help, pray that everything would turn out all right. And while I had been thinking of whom I would ask to be members of the Cabinet (I had always had in mind Jimmy [Ongpin], Nene [Pimentel], and some other politicians who were helping, like Neptali Gonzales), in truth, I did not think very much beyond what if I won or lost. I think the people around me were also that way. Our focus was not what kind of government we were going to have. Our focus was getting Marcos out. This by itself was already a formidable task, and to succeed in it would have already been a tremendous accomplishment.”

In the last chapter, Cory immortalized what it was like on Feb. 25, 1986.

“So there I was, from housewife to President, the highest position in the land. I suppose it was all providential. If (Fabian) Ver had not discovered the coup plot, there would be no reason for (Juan Ponce) Enrile and (Fidel) Ramos to go hiding in Camp Aguinaldo. But if I had not participated in the elections, what would they be protesting about? Everything just fell into place. I would say that all this was wrought by prayer and that it was through the people’s sacrifices that God came to our rescue and did things in a very peaceful way. Suppose, also, that Marcos had let me win. I don’t think I would have lasted because he would still be controlling the Batasan and could very well arrange for me to be impeached. He would also still be in control of the military.”

In the book, Rapa explains why he titled the book, “To Love Another Day.” Rapa believes the love between Ninoy and Cory had translated into unconditional love for country as well, with a willingness to die for it. Thus, Rapa came up with the title to reflect the contents of the book. For Ninoy and Cory, loving each other and the country meant not giving up on it.

Tomorrow, on Cory’s 11th death anniversary, I will remember a leader, who, though imperfect, loved her country in the most perfect way. *

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

CORY AQUINO
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