This morning as I turned on the television set to watch the morning news, I was immediately hit by the report that former president, Cory Aquino, had passed away at 3:18 AM at the Makati Medical Center where she had been confined for some time now during the final stages of her long and courageous battle against colon cancer.
As I watch the video images of this unfolding news event, I thought that I would not be affected emotionally by the event of her death. In many ways I have become, over the many years, rather cynical, if not downright skeptical, about Philippine politics in general and Filipino politicians in particular.
But Cory, as a person and, yes, as a politician (how can she not be one when she had, in essence, led a bloodless revolution that toppled a totalitarian regime and then assumed the leadership of her country during one of the most tumultuous periods of its history) belongs to a category of her own. She was no ordinary political leader, she was, well, Cory Aquino and the unlikely bearer of the torch passed on to her by her martyred husband, the charismatic Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino who, for the many of us raised during the turmoil of the Marcos dictatorship, had come to symbolize the Filipino nation's desperate yearning for a return to democracy and political pluralism.
Others could have been crushed if not corrupted by the adulation, sympathy and respect millions bestowed upon her upon the assassination of her husband in 1983 but she remained as she had always been - strong, steadfast, deeply religious and humble. It was precisely these attributes that eventually made her a credible, effective symbol and icon of the non-violent, people power revolution that galvanized and electrified the whole world in 1986.
There are many who will point out to the many mistakes and lost opportunities that characterized her presidency. Other critics point out that she was too trusting and allowed friends and relatives to take advantage of her political naivete thus tarnishing what could have been a political administration free of any stigma of corruption and malfeasance.
But Cory remained herself largely unsullied and unstained by charges of such misconduct. In the more than half a dozen attempts by disgruntled military elements to overthrow her government, she continued to hold the respect and support of majority of her countrymen. And true to her word and in what many still say was one of this country's greatest acts of selfless statesmanship, she stepped down in 1992 paving the way for the first orderly and peaceful transfer of presidential power in two decades.
In the years following government life, Cory Aquino did not hesitate to use her moral stature and prestige as a universally recognized world leader to support her advocacies. She was a formidable force to reckon with in fighting failed attempts to change the 1987 Constitution from the time of the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos until the present. She also played a critical role in the 2nd EDSA people power revolt that threw out President Joseph Estrada in 2001 and ushered in the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
There were times during Cory Aquino's term as president in the late 1980's when the many of us, who fought for her and the forces of democratic change during the dark Marcos years, had become disillusioned and frustrated with her and what we felt then was the slow pace of economic and political reform during her watch. There were many who eventually turned against her in the belief that she had betrayed those who had sacrificed so much, including life and limb, in the brutal, pitched battles fought in the street barricades with the security forces of Ferdinand Marcos.
But most, if not all, also remember in their hearts the almost hopeless months and years following Ninoy Aquino's death in 1983 and how the Filipino people finally began to slowly wake up from the torpor of the culture of meek subservience enforced by the more than a decade of martial law. It was the vision and personality of this tiny, petite housewife in yellow that rallied and united the forces of change in no way that other seasoned political leaders of that time could have accomplished.
It was a powerful and defining movement that could not be ignored. For one beautiful and shining moment, all of us Filipinos were one, invincible and unstoppable force for peaceful, moral and non-violent renewal. We have done and accomplished the impossible.
That is how I will mourn and remember Cory Aquino.