Goodbye, Tita Cory!

(by Bon Robert Astillo Luzon)

(by Bon Robert Astillo Luzon)

Pres. Corazon Aquino walked her talk.

In the history of Philippine presidents, she is the only one I know who did not seek the position, reluctantly assumed it, stayed faithful to her Presidential oath and to the Constitution, and willingly gave it up to her elected successor.

Yes, she was not always popular to everyone. The 7 coups under her Administration showed the restlessness of some military quarters. After she left government, she supported some issues that did not sit well with some people. Some thought the Cory magic was gone and questioned her moves.

But she proved that what is popular is not always right. She followed her intuition, guided by the Divine, and did what she thought was right. And I believe she has been vindicated. When the people first learned of her cancer last year, the entire nation prayed for her till the very end. And we all came out in droves, in the driving rain and heat, waited patiently in line for hours just to catch a 3-second glimpse of her, brought our children into the streets to hail her funeral cortege wherever it passed, and mourned her loss as though she were our very own mother. We embraced her family as though they were our own. And when they cried, we cried with them.

Tita Cory proved in the end that gentleness overpowers might. Everyone agrees she was the most honest President we have ever had. She never spoke about herself but always asked about others and clearly loved country and countrymen second only to God. As a civilian after her Administration, she continued her quest to better the lives of Filipinos via her microfinance endeavors. For her, uplifting the Filipino women who were home-based and who mostly had no livelihood means not only allowed them to augment their family income but also imbued these women with self-respect and self-esteem.

I have personal reasons for my own deep sense of loss at her passing:

– I was in the States around the time they were in exile and while I never met Ninoy as he made his campus tours, I did get to meet Charito Planas who was in exile with him and learned from her how they left the Philippines, how she coped with a meager livelihood there, and how they all longed to return one day.

– Ninoy was shot on my birthday. Every year since then, my birthday always took on a more somber atmosphere as I could not help recalling that day as the country commemorates his death.

– I was an active Namfrel Operation Quick Count volunteer (in the 1984 elections as well as in the 1986 snap elections). I sat at pre-election meetings with the Namfrel leadership including Joe Concepcion and Gus Lagman to work out the tabulation process (both automated and the manual backup system using CPA volunteers). I remember the days that stretched into nights as we took our duty turns at La Salle Greenhills. I was there when we heard stories of ballot snatching in precincts as well as accounts of cars parked outside LSGH that had paint splattered on them by unknown persons. I was present when Cardinal Sin, Senator Lugar (with his US observation team) and other dignitaries visited to take a look at our operations. I felt the sense of worth in what we were doing when the PICC tabulators walked out in disgust over the manipulation of electoral reports on their tally board which differed from their own tabulations.

– When EDSA 1 broke out, my siblings and I plus our Dad headed for EDSA to be one with the people. We had a tiny transistor radio with us as we monitored developments reported by Radyo Bandido.

On the evening of Aug. 1 (Saturday), my daughter and I tried to visit Tita Cory at LSGH but the hard rains and long lines that stretched from the gym all the way to Ortigas Ave. and beyond Gate 1 near EDSA prevented us from lining up, especially since I needed to be up early the next day. I was resigned to the fact I would have to just watch everything from my TV set.

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On Aug. 3 (Monday), I woke up early, checked my online messages, and found out that my blogger friend Noemi, who was in the media group at LSGH, had posted a message that public viewing was allowed before the 9 AM Mass (prior to the transfer to Manila Cathedral) and that THERE WERE NO LINES!

I literally jumped out of bed and into my clothes, rushed to LSGH, and true enough, breezed right through the gate. In 5 minutes, I was already in line with a few others to view Tita Cory.

Inside LSGH Gym

With Noemi

Falling in line to take one last look at Tita Cory

NAMFREL's 1986 tally board (lovingly preserved by the La Salle brothers) is displayed as one final tribute

NAMFREL's 1986 tally board (lovingly preserved by the La Salle brothers) is displayed as one final tribute

Then the following day, Aug. 4, I acted on a compulsion to visit EDSA Shrine. I bought a single yellow Carnation along the way, with a tiny card, and laid it at the feet of the statue of the Blessed Mother.

And as one final, loving tribute to the only President in recent history who, to my mind, truly loved and served this country the best way she could and without taking advantage of position or power, this is the view from my bedroom window:

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Goodbye, Tita Cory. Thank you for everything you have done for our country and for us individually. Rest now with our good Lord and with your beloved Ninoy. Continue to pray for and guide the Philippines. Mahal ka namin. Hindi ka namin makakalimutan. Sana lahat ng pinangarap mo at pinagdasal para sa ating bansa ay magkatotoo.

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