Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rest in Peace: Corazon 'Cory' Cojuangco Aquino

Although she was probably never as progressive as her husband, the late Senator Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino, and disappointed many people with the lack of major reforms during her Presidency, I will always remember Cory Aquino as the first woman President of the Philippines. She was in many ways the epitome of the Filipina ideal (never too forward, unendingly loyal to her dead husband, morally upright and religious, supremely family-oriented). While I don't fit that ideal myself, and don't like its patriarchal constraints, there was something elegant and beautiful about how Cory carried herself in the world, and how she commanded respect and deference from her people as well as world leaders. I would be lying if I didn't say that the fact that Cory became President of my parents' home country didn't inspire me on some level to want to be the first woman President of the United States someday (a hope I've pretty much abandoned, of course, but my mother hasn't forgotten about it!).

She was a truly feminine leader, and paved the way for the next female Philippines President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (or GMA as she is more commonly called), who in many ways is sort of a shadow-Cory: more outwardly brutal in her suppression of 'subversive' elements and violently abusing her own people's human rights, more ruthless in her dealings with the many powerful men in her political sphere, and nowhere near as popular as Cory even during her lowest times.

I remember when I was in junior high and Ninoy Aquino was shot, and later when the People Power revolution on EDSA took the Philippines (and the world media stage) by storm. At the time, being as young and naive as I was, I was a little bit confused but also very proud of my countrymen (even though I had never been to the Philippines). The drama in the Philippines also played out in a different way in my family, as some of our (and wealthier) relatives were on the 'wrong' side of People Power and later needed to flee like the Marcoses did from the righteous wrath of the masses. I, even at my young age, knew that they were on the wrong side and was happy to see Cory and the yellow-clad people on EDSA drive the corrupt politicians and military henchmen out of the Philippines.

Of course, history would show that this glorious time of saying 'No' to corruption wouldn't last long, but Cory and many, many other of the brave leaders and ordinary people who stood up against a brutal dictatorship could celebrate their victory for a little while. And the Philippines got to bask in the glow of the People Power revolution on the international stage, proving that if we pulled together, we could overcome one of the most entrenched and violent US-supported dictatorships in the world.

Rest in Peace, Cory.

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