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Cory on Cory

(Article published in the Aug 5, 2009 issue of Manila Standard Today) 
         Anybody who is somebody has by this time said what is felt by Everybody and the floor, I submit, now belongs to Nobody.  To all the nobodies who found themselves suddenly orphaned last Saturday morning, to the nobodies who fell in line, in the heat of sun and in the wet of rain, regardless of hour, for a chance to view their loved one’s face for one last time before the angels are to come to take her away, to the nobodies who will ultimately decide whether it is time to come together again because the need to do so is at hand.

 Their nobody had wanted to be just a nobody herself.  And for a time, Corazon C. Aquino was in fact successful at it, at least to the extent that, as she was described in Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s “The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos”, a real heiress, a woman born with a silver spoon in her mouth, whose family was one of the richest in the Philippines, could.  With Ninoy on center stage, Cory was in the wings and was happy to be there. But not for long.

 “History was thrust upon her,” as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s statement read by GMA herself, dead pan and with not a whit of feeling said,  “when her noble husband was cut down in the prime of his life as he fought for democracy and the rule of law.”

 In a book written sometime in 1995, entitled “In the name of Democracy and Prayer”, Cory presents fifteen of her speeches, “perhaps not all of her best ones,” says Teddy Boy Locsin, “but they tell better and more faithfully than other records the story not just of her thoughts and feelings but of the experiences of the country she ruled and whose imagination she dominated with the greatest respect and…a deep affection as well.”   

 The speeches Cory annotates with introductory comments and recollections.  Written years after the speeches were delivered, they not only shed light on the historical context of the addresses, but, more relevant for us now, provides us a clearer idea of the person Cory really is.


 Faith and Prayer are predominant themes. Number one in the selection was the address Cory gave when she was conferred her very first honorary doctoral degree on 19 May 1984 by her alma mater, College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York. She ended, “And I pray that the Faith which sustained me and Ninoy will continue to sustain my people until the day of our redemption.  I ask you to join me in my prayer.”

 Her habit of prayer Cory, commenting on her address, says she picked up at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.  It was a constant recourse since then, especially in difficult times.  Cory writes:  “During Ninoy’s incarceration, I prayed often for the Good Lord to help me accept His will. And when I lost Ninoy, I prayed even harder for God to give me and my children the courage and the strength for it.”

 Fueling Cory’s faith was, in part, her people’s responding love.  Introducing her speech before the joint meetings of the Rotary Clubs of Metro Manila at Manila Hotel on 23 January 1986, less than a month before the EDSA revolution, she recalled how she was treated in Mindanao.

 “I shall not forget,” Cory said, “one rally in Mindanao.  It was in a pineapple plantation.  While I was speaking, I noticed that a plastic bucket was being passed around.  After my speech, the village leaders climbed up the improvised stage and presented me with baskets of fruits—and then the plastic bucket which contained five- and ten-peso bills and coins. I was overwhelmed.  Here were those who had so little giving so much of themselves, showing me that they too believed in our cause.  This incident inspired me even more to give my all…”

 Faith and prayer, however, do not fully explain what made Cory tick.  She, in addition, takes matters into her own hands when necessary.  Cory’s recollection of the preparations for the speech she delivered at the Joint Session of the United States Congress on 18 September 1986 barely 6 months after she was installed by the people in Malacañang in a most unique fashion demonstrates little known her take-charge personality.

 Cory was, like anybody else in her shoes would be, upon receipt of Speaker Tip O’Neill’s invitation, “excited and honored” and “determined to come up with a very good speech.” But ten days before she was scheduled to leave for the US, she had to have a long talk with Teddy Boy Locsin; she told him she did not like any of the drafts which had been submitted so far. 

 Many factors, such as resistance from friends of her predecessor in office and the exigencies of protocol, worked against her being accorded State Visit status, but she was assured that Congress would pull all stops in welcoming her.  Hence, she felt  she had to reciprocate by delivering a good address. 

 To help Teddy Boy compose an acceptable draft, she asked him to “keep it simple, in three parts, starting with the phrase “three years ago” (the only line she liked from the many drafts that she had earlier rejected): the story of Ninoy’s struggle to his death, the story of the country’s struggle to its freedom, and its continuing struggle for economic recovery. Three parts, starting three years before.”

 Teddy Boy worked at it, per instructions, and was able to come up with a draft they could work on.  On the eve of her departure for the US, the draft was finalized at the Guesthouse.  Unfortunately, it still it had no ending. 

 Here, I pause to let Cory take over the narration: “As so I wrote in my own hand the last paragraph, which was left unchanged.  I ended with the speech with “Three years ago, I said thank you, America,…”

 The portion she omitted in the introductory remarks to the address, I feel I need to reproduce here to give us a glimpse of her literary skill: “…for the haven from oppression, and the home you gave Ninoy, myself and our children, and for the three happiest years of our lives together.  Today, I say, join us, America, as we build a new home for democracy, another haven for the oppressed, so it may stand as a shinning testament of our two nation’s commitment to freedom.”

 A tinge of the prophetic in Cory’s seems to show in her comments on the last speech she included in her collection. That final address was the one she delivered at the Sto. Domingo Church on 21 August 1993, the 10th anniversary of Ninoy’s death.  Recalling the celebrations of that day, Cory wrote:

 “…We decided to hold a rally in Makati, the heart of the protest movement that led to the EDSA revolution.  The militancy was gone, of course; the atmosphere was happier, but I could still detect the desire to show that the power which had marched on that street before could so do again if the need arose for it…”

 Last Monday, confetti rained on Ayala Avenue again, as it did on the many Fridays after Ninoy’s death, as it did on that day that the nation celebrated its 10th anniversary that Cory wrote about.  But this time, the confetti was for Cory and in thanksgiving for all that she had done for the country. 

 After the flat bed truck carrying Cory had passed.  The crowd went back to work, as they had always done in previous rallies.  But somehow, my biased eyes detected the desire on the part of the nobodies who lined the streets and who convoyed the hearse to show that the power which had marched on that same site before could so do again if the need arose for it.  Whether that need is indeed at hand  is anybody’s guess and, as of now, nobody can tell.