COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
TIME magazine in its January 5, 1987 issue where President Corazon (Cory) Aquino was on the cover as Woman of the Year for 1986 described her abrupt rise into power as “fairy-tale” in nature, and that “history is rarely a fairy tale—a narrative that instructs as well as inspires.”
Yet twenty-three years later, looking at the throng of people that flocked at Cory Aquino’s funeral to show their love and respect for a great leader, I am reminded of fairy tales and legends where people would line on the streets to pay homage to a monarch. And now I am inclined to believe that legends perhaps have their bases on reality, otherwise, truth indeed is stranger than fiction.
For in a segmented society like ours, we have never been under a sovereign that would demand collective action from a centralized power. And even while under Marcos’ dictatorial rule, the big mass actions it ever had were contrived and never a natural outpouring of sentiments from a free people.
So it is heartwarming to observe the sea of humanity that displayed public affection with the passing of a true leader and a great human being in our time. And a revelation, “that instructs as well as inspires,” that the higher values still exist in the hearts and minds of our people. For it is this higher value such as selflessness, faith, humility, and courage which Cory symbolizes and which our people responded with her passing.
Corazon Aquino may not be the best administrator in our time but she was a true leader, leading the nation in the path towards social transformation. She brought about the most significant things that should govern our lives and preserve the people’s newfound freedom; the possibility of social change without violence, a new constitution and the return of democratic institutions, a peaceful transition of power, and the restoration of the Filipino people’s honor and faith in themselves.
Cory is stronger and more confident than what we ascribe her to be. She could allow dissent and bigger democratic space for a people that were freed from despotism, for a people “na nakawala sa hawla.” After she was installed into power, there was a sudden return to press freedom and the other democratic rights of the people. Critics were so noisy throwing accusations in the various media outlets, Marcos’ loyalists holding protest assemblies, armed groups destabilizing peace and order, and the rightist military staging several coups in an attempt to grab power. The atmosphere at that time appeared unstable and chaotic but Cory did not resort to the temptation of declaring a state of emergency or martial law.
And Cory was no feminist, in fact, she wryly quipped that “my husband was the original male chauvinist.” This she said in the light of her being “a supportive wife, for remaining in the background and not meddling in her husband’s public life, and staying at home.” Cory is beyond feminism for she is a total woman, without having to relinquish her role as a fulltime wife and mother to serve the country and the people she dearly loved. She was a committed individual, totally fulfilling the roles she had to take, each in its own time.
Indeed at a time when the Philippines is considered as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, it is encouraging to see the millions of Filipinos all over the land sympathize with the death of Cory, who was incorruptible and the embodiment of decency and simplicity. Love and goodness, of which Cory manifested most in her life, is still buried within the hearts and minds of our people, only to emanate at the appearance of a “true queen.” Just like in the fairy tales and legends.