One cannot be emotionally moved and affected by the massive outpouring of sympathy and sorrow in this country and all over the world over the death of Corazon Aquino. As I watch the television coverage of the wake at La Salle Greenhills Gym in Mandaluyong and the procession that transferred her remains to the Manila Cathedral in preparation for the funeral mass on Wednesday, I was simply astounded at the massive crowds that braved the unpredictable weather in order to giver their last respects to the former president and icon of the EDSA people power movement of 1986.
There is no doubt that the death of Cory Aquino last August 1 from the complications of colon cancer had touched something deep within the psyche of many Filipinos, even those who did take part in EDSA 1 or were born after that historic event. It is that part within our collective consciousness that recognizes instinctively the singular greatness of a life virtuously and exceptionally lived through decades of often selfless dedication to the service of others and the country.
Cory had always described herself as an "ordinary housewife" forced by circumstance and the tragic 1983 assassination of her husband and opposition leader, Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, to become the symbol of the Filipino's dream and yearning for a return to democracy during the dark and turbulent years of the Marcos dictatorship. To the surprise of many, most especially Ferdinand Marcos, millions of Filipinos quickly felt an almost mystical, emotional resonance with her and began to identify themselves with her in the almost quixotic quest to topple down an authoritarian regime that had lasted already for almost two decades.
The people power revolt of 1986 that did finally throw out Marcos and showed the world the magnificent possibilities and awesome power of organized, non-violent protest highlighted the role the so called "Cory magic" would continue to play on the politics of this country. Cory Aquino would call upon that magic time and time again over the years even when she was already an ordinary citizen in order to fight what she felt were betrayals of the principles of Edsa 1 that she had so courageously fought for. The power of that magic would wax and wane with the passage of time but no one could argue its role in helping shape and influence the many momentous events that have defined so much of the contemporary history of this nation.
I understand the need for Filipinos to idealize and essentially glorify Cory Aquino and what she had accomplished in her life. She certainly does deserve most if not all of the accolades and tributes she has received both in life and in death. Yet, if there is one thing that even Cory, herself, would agree on, and she has mentioned this fact so many times in the many public utterances she made over the years, it is was always the basic truth that everything she did accomplish, often so spectacularly in the many defining moments of our recent history, she managed to do because the majority of the Filipino people have always trusted and unconditionally supported her and the causes she had espoused.
She had always done things believing that she spoke for the common man. And after fighting for what she though was right, she had always rested easy, whether she was successful or not, knowing that she had done her best and that eventually the struggle to accomplish what is good and right would continue even after she would be gone from the public stage. In return for her faith in the Filipino, most of us gave her our trust, flocked to her banner and fought for her, believing deep in our hearts that she was one with us. She was one of those few rare individuals of her generation who personified what we have always wanted our political leaders to be.
Jim Paredes, the well known singer and composer of the Apo Hiking Society, said it well when he voiced the opinion during one of the televised coverages of the Aquino wake that the reason why these was an EDSA 2 and 3 after EDSA 1 was simply because the great legacy that Cory Aquino started in 1986 remains essentially unfinished. The process to reform and re-invent Philippine society, its politics and economy remains a continuing work in progress. It remains the ordinary Filipino's task to see the job through.
Cory Aquino has made the ordinary man in the street realize that properly united and mobilized, he and the millions of Filipinos like him have the power to change history, that each and everyone of us were all potential heroes in the fight for democracy, transparency and morality in government and society. During her life and recent death her ability to inspire and move her countrymen remained unsurpassed, a tribute perhaps to her abiding trust and confidence in the best qualities of the Filipino people. How then can the nation respond to her calls to action except with enthusiasm and in the unselfish spirit in which they were given.
In more ways than one, she has done a magnificent job of what has been an extremely difficult role so unfairly laid upon her frail shoulders more than two decades ago. But the time to move on has come. She has gone to her well deserved rest and the standard she has laid down must be picked up and the struggle continued. She has already shown us the way.
Time for us to carry on with the unfinished task at hand.