At around 3am on August 1, 2009, D and I were woken by a sound. We did not know what it was, I thought it was an earthquake but the walls were not shaking, D thought it was just the sound of a door slamming. We slept, perplexed. Something had bothered the peace of the night.
In the morning, I knew why. An angel took in her last breath and ceased to be.
President Cory Aquino had succumbed to the colon cancer that she had battled for several months.
The year was 1983. I was barely out of my childhood. The television was on and I saw my mother burst into tears. Ninoy Aquino’s bloodied body had just hit the tarmac. He came amidst the flurry of yellow ribbons (I barely understood the symbolism), against the advice to him that it would cost him his life. It was a much anticipated return, the return of a hero, who was imprisoned and exiled through the machinations of Marcos.
Ninoy was the antithesis of Marcos, much loved by the people, much feared by Marcos, who, at that time, was in his nth year of presidency and looking to extend his reign to forever. Ninoy’s coming home cost Ninoy his life but it ushered a new era in the Philippines, one without the reigns of a dictatorship.
The year was 1986. In Ninoy’s shoes stepped Cory, his widow, a housewife in all her simplicity. She was thrust into the presidential race by the people whose love of country and hatred of corruption and killings and disappearances and a ballooning national debt reached fever pitch.
That campaign was bittersweet. I remembered fear, I remembered exhilaration. Excitement and change was in the air.
The unthinkable happened
Cory had won, the people had won, the dictator and his family had flown out of the country in fear, not knowing when it was when all their reckless laughter died. The Philippine Constitution was rewritten with several safety measures to ensure that a Marcos will not again have the people by their necks.
Down to business
Cory’s presidency was a golden era. Hers was more than 20 years ago but that reign will forever be etched in the memory of the people. We had felt strongest at that time, invincible, one. It was as if everything was possible, and that we would take the road to great economic progress, that the Philippines would fulfill her destiny to be a great nation.
Cory. The firm and the strong, withstanding several coup attempts, unbending, incorruptible. Humble and honorable, simple and caring, religious and unbending. We take a break to remember her and all that she had done.
Now the whole damn bus is cheering and I can’t believe I see… a hundred yellow ribbons round the old oak tree.
Madame President, with your death, you are again changing the political landscape of the Philippines. We again feel the winds of change.
We can only utter, amidst our tears, a grateful thank you.