Originally posted on August 5, 2009, on the day of the burial of former President Cory Aquino
by Eric Santillan

Today, Corazon Aquino, eleventh President of the Republic of the Philippines, first female President of the Philippines and of Asia, the Woman who took over the Presidency after a 20-year dictatorship, the wife of national hero Ninoy Aquino, mother of five, Mother of the nation, will be sent to her final resting place.

It is a sad and glorious day for the country. We have lost one of the most beloved President we’ve ever had. And we have lost one of the great icons of democracy in the modern world. Before the Berlin Wall came down, before that man stood in front of the tanks in China, the world stood in awe and wonder as thousands stared down tanks and guns with rosaries and flowers. The world witnessed how we won our freedom back without firing a single shot. We won our freedom not with the strength of our arms but with the power of our prayer. We showed the world at EDSA what Fr. Horacio dela Costa said decades before that: the Filipino has two gifts from God–our prayer and our song. And so we prayed–for our deliverance. And so we sang–for our dream and our land. And so we won our freedom.

We have lost one of the great icons of spirituality in our country. When the late Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin was very sick and was about to die, he was supposed to have told people who came to him and asked for counsel, to go to Cory and ask for her counsel too because he knew how important her advise was. Her life would be incomplete in the telling if you do not mention her great faith and deep hope. How she prayed with us and for us during the darkest times in our history.

We have definitely lost one of the best among us. She is one of the best a Filipino or Filipina could ever hope to be.

As Conrado de Quiros put it,

“Throughout her life, she defied expectations.

Nobody expected her, an ordinary housewife, to rise to topple someone who, wielding unbridled and inexhaustible power, seemed destined only to last forever. Nobody expected her, an ordinary housewife, to deliver a nation that, torn and bleeding from the cancer that had spread across its every pore, seemed destined only to be grabbed by sundry plotters and would-be saviors. Nobody expected her, an ordinary person, to live a life that, by the warmth and radiance felt by those who came in contact with it, would make that person an extraordinary human being.

But she did.”

But the legacy of the Aquinos, then as it is now, has been that hope does not die when they die; in fact, hope bursts forth with greater power after their death.

When Ninoy died, millions flocked to the streets to cry and grieve and mourn the death of him who was the best President we never had. Hope could have died when he died. But it did not. In defiance, we shouted at the top of our lungs, “Hindi ka nag-iisa!” (“You are not alone!”) And we stood our ground against cruel tyranny. And won.

Now that Cory died, let it not be said that hope for a better country died with her. Now, as it was when her husband died, millions flock to the streets to cry and grieve and mourn the death of her who was the best President we ever had.

Even now, EDSA is alive with yellow confetti and laban signs and shouts of Cory! Cory! Even now, Cory is bringing people back to the streets for one last time. Even now, there is a resurgence of Pinoy pride and love for country in I AM NINOY shirts, Philippine Map polos, Rizal handbags, Three Stars and a Sun jackets, Manny Pacquiao blogposts, Ako Mismo dogtags, and Philippine flag stickers in cars. Even now, teachers tell the story of Ninoy and Cory to a young generation who never experienced, and thus, never really saw the importance of what it was to lose your freedom and gain it back. Even now, one of the best love stories ever told is coming to its rightful end as the Wife who was President is about to be interred beside her Husband who was Senator.

The legacy of the two Aquinos is giving back faith and hope and love for our country. It is reminding us that COURAGE, just like cowardice, is contagious, like a virus. And that their COURAGE has infected us and changed us forever. And this courage, like our faith, and our hope and our love reminds us that despite everything–despite our leaders, despite the cursed corruption of our government–the Filipino is still worthy of love, the Filipino is still worth living for, and yes, the Filipino is still worth dying for.

About Eric Santillan

AngPeregrino is Eric Santillan. He is a management consultant for two firms specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and risk management, cost control and culture management. He is also a writer for The Mindanao Current. At one time or another, he has taught, moderated college organizations, done organizational development work for BPOs, been a Jesuit, mentored people and given retreats.

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