By WILLY BLANCO, Commentary | Published August 20, 2009
Salamat, Tita Cory, Paalam! Thank you, Tita Cory, goodbye!
Those words were repeated a million times by Filipinos all over the world, as they paid their last respects and homage to President Corazon C. Aquino, the 11th president of the Republic of the Philippines, who passed away on Saturday, Aug. 1. After more than a year battling colon cancer, President Aquino was laid to rest Wednesday, Aug. 5, at Manila Memorial Park in Sucat Paranaque, beside the tomb of her late husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
Senator Aquino was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983 at the tarmac of Manila International Airport as he returned to the Philippines from a three-year, self-imposed exile in the United States. Despite threats against his life and reliable intelligence of a plotted assassination, he returned to the Philippines to run in the 1984 presidential election. He was quoted as saying, “The Filipinos are worth dying for.”
Ninoy dedicated all of his political years during the Marcos authoritarian regime (1972-1986) to the restoration of democracy in the Philippines. His death catapulted his widow, the self-described plain housewife, Cory Aquino, into the limelight and played the key role in the toppling of the Marcos regime in a bloodless revolution that came to be known all over the world as the “People Power Revolution.”
After the disputed results of the Feb. 7, 1986 presidential elections, in which President Marcos was declared the winner over Mrs. Aquino, a series of civil demonstrations led to the resignation of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, who was appalled by the reported cheating in the elections. He joined forces with the military vice-chief Fidel Ramos and they decided to seclude themselves in the military and police headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame respectively, leading to the People Power Revolution, which precipitated Marcos’ departure from the country into exile in Hawaii. Mrs. Aquino was sworn into office as president on Feb. 25, 1986.
President Aquino became the icon of freedom and democracy as throughout her presidency and beyond, she made sure that the democratic process was followed to the letter and the civil rights of the people protected. She dismantled everything related to the old authoritarian regime to ensure the preservation of democracy. A new constitution was drafted and promulgated in February 1987.
Upon hearing the news of President Aquino’s death, leaders of the Filipino-American community of greater Atlanta spontaneously sprang into action and planned a memorial service for the late beloved leader. Didi O’Connor, a civic award recipient for her dedication and unselfish service and leadership to the Filipino-American community, put together a plan of action. Predominantly Catholic, the Filipino-American community was able to secure St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta as the venue for a memorial service and Mass on Friday, Aug. 7, celebrated by Father Chito Palang. Over 100 people came despite the late notice and Friday being a workday.
Philippine Honorary Consul General Raoul Donato welcomed the guests, which included members of the Atlanta consular corps, Margie Ramos, the daughter of former President Fidel Ramos, and Erlinda McCabe, the sister of former first lady Amelita M. Ramos. The Filipino Sunday Choir led by Vic Romero provided music.
In his homily, Father Palang highlighted the fact that President Aquino was a devout Catholic and her devotion to the holy rosary was her guiding light in her presidency. Roger Olivarez, Winnie Alfelor and Willy Blanco gave testimonials about Mrs. Aquino.
The hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings” was a fitting meditation song, sung by Eleanor Mae Pascual and accompanied by pianist Marites Fernandez Pellicer, because President Aquino basically took the Filipino people under her wings with her love and protection like a true mother would. With this style of governance, she won the hearts and respect of the Filipino people who fondly called her “Tita Cory” (Aunt Cory), the closest thing to being your own mother. Her love and protection to the Filipinos continue from heaven where she now resides with the angels.