On Cory’s 90th birth anniversary: ‘I miss her more’ — Ballsy

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
On Cory�s 90th birth anniversary: �I miss her more� � Ballsy
Democracy icon and former President Cory Aquino would have turned 90 tomorrow.
Photo by Manny Marcelo

Cory Aquino would have been 90 tomorrow, Jan. 25.

“I miss her more even if it’s been 14 years since she passed away,” her oldest daughter Ballsy Cruz said when I asked her thoughts on what would have been her beloved mother’s 90th birthday. Cory passed away on Aug. 1, 2009 from cancer of the colon.

“With so many personal problems today, I know that if she were still around everything would be okay.  She always managed to lessen if not eliminate my anxieties. I pray that I could have even half of her deep faith in God and determination in surrendering to His will,” Ballsy continued. She did not elaborate on the personal problems she is facing now, but one could guess she is concerned about her youngest sister Kris’ continuing battle with auto-immune disease and is still grieving the death of her only brother, former President Noynoy Aquino, who passed away suddenly in 2021 due to renal disease.

Viel Dee, Cory’s third daughter, says that on her mom’s birthday, “I can imagine she must be excited to be reunited with her dear friend, Fr. Catalino Arevalo S.J., who died last week.” Arevalo was her spiritual adviser, who knocked on the door of their Boston home shortly after Ninoy Aquino was shot, to offer his prayers. He had stood by their side ever since.

“And with the love that Fr. ‘Rev’ showered on us, it makes me realize that we her children are truly fortunate because the love for Mom was passed on to us.”

Ballsy Aquino-Cruz greets her former classmate Imee Marcos and her brother Bongbong, now the country’s President, when they paid their respects at the wake of former President Cory Aqui-no at the Manila Cathedral in August 2009.


Faith and courage in the face of adversity are the two traits of former President Cory Aquino that stand out in my memory. She stared down seven coup attempts during her presidency and refused to abandon post. One of the few material things she asked her friend and appointments secretary Margie Juico to take out of the besieged Palace was Ninoy’s diary.

Cory, Time magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1986 (one of the most “thrilling moments” in her life, she would say, the other being the standing ovation she got after she addressed both houses of the US Congress in 1986) was ready to face her Maker the minute she knew she had stage four cancer, something she suspected when she saw the expressions of her doctors and loved ones after a battery of tests. “If this is the end of the road for me, so be it.”

“We all have to suffer in life,” she told me in March 2008, shortly after she found out she had the disease that claimed her mother, Doña Demetria Sumulong Cojuangco. “Jesus Christ didn’t sin and yet he suffered.”

“I have led a full life. I cannot complain,” Mrs. Aquino added. “I cannot ask for more. I have had it good.”

In an earlier interview with daughter Kris for PeopleAsia in 2001, Cory said she coped with sorrow by praying. During her battle with cancer, she and her daughters prayed the rosary together four times a day.

“Suffering is also a great learning experience,” she said.

Among those who paid their respects at her wake at The Manila Cathedral was Ferdinand“Bongbong” Marcos Jr., now the president of the Philippines.


Cory once said that becoming Time magazine’s ‘Woman of the Year’ was one of the most ‘thrilling moments of my life.’

I am certain that if she were alive today, she would have a gathering for relatives, close friends and former members of her Cabinet, the way she would always have on her milestone years: her 60th, her 75th usually in her late parents’ home in Forbes Park or in a popular restaurant.

In all those gatherings she was always sprightly, effervescent — we never thought she wouldn’t live beyond her 76th year. She had healthy habits, slept eight hours a day, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, took her vitamins dutifully and watched her weight. She even took up painting and it helped her unwind.

Cory, who I am proud to have served during her presidency as executive editor of the Presidential Press Staff, told me during her 75th birthday that with every new day that God gave her, she would think about “what else I could do for the Filipino people.” She was true to what she had said before she stepped down from the presidency that, “while my power as president ends in 1992, my responsibility as a Filipino for the well-being of my country goes beyond it to my grave.”

Cory had a quiet 76th birthday celebration with her family in January 2009 in one of her favorite restaurants in Makati — her last birthday. She was already in the late stages of her cancer, but she was bravely carrying on, not wanting to make her children orphans when they were so unprepared to let her go. She had been their mother and father and their rock since their father was assassinated in 1983.

In the book To Love Another Day: The Memoirs of Cory Aquino, a collection of several video interviews with Cory conducted by her nephew Rapa Lopa, painstakingly transcribed by Rhona Lopa-Macasaet, the former president said she never fancied herself as God’s gift to the Filipino people. In one chapter titled “The People Power President,” she very humbly said: “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 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 daughter Ballsy told her it was unfair for her (Cory) “to be made to suffer more.”

But she had made up her mind.

“For me, as I said, seeking the presidency was a mission, and my concern was to do the best I could.”

Happy birthday, Mrs. President. Mission accomplished, beyond your presidency, to the grave, indeed.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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