POSTSCRIPT / August 2, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Cory’s kids must now share her with all of us

SHE’S OURS, TOO: The children of Cory Aquino will have to learn to live with the fact that they now have to share their mom with the rest of us Filipinos – also with the rest of the world where freedom and selflessness are valued.

Having transcended the self by dedicating her life to serving others, Cory is now part of all of us.

As it was with her martyred husband Ninoy, Cory is fondly remembered, maybe even revered, by those whose lives they had touched.

She preached the gospel of selflessness from the hearth. In her last days when she was still able to speak from her sickbed, the guiding message he imparted to her children was clear and simple: help one another.

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DI NAG-IISA: Cory lived the Christian admonition “As I have loved you, so must you also love one another.” It is a message meant for each one of us, for us who have started to go our separate selfish ways.

Indeed, we are our brothers’ keepers in the seamless oneness of humanity. Caught in a society wracked by greed and selfishness, we find not only relevance but also urgency in Cory’s message of boundless love and service.

Before the darkness overtakes us, we have to be told again and again that we are never alone, that there is always someone who cares and helps along.

This may sound like an echo. It is. The same message of hope was flashed to a grieving nation after the public execution of Ninoy that anguished August of 1983 — “Hindi ka nagiisa.”

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CORY MEETINGS: How lucky are those, I sometimes think, who have had some moments in the company of Cory Aquino. I was not as fortunate as my association was mostly with Ninoy, whom I first covered in the Senate for the Manila Times of pre-martial rule days.

There were only a few significant times that I had met with Cory.

One was in summer of 1982 when I sought out their family in exile in Boston to talk with Ninoy and had my first close-up encounter with his low-key wife.

Another was in August 1987 when common friend Bren Guiao arranged a one-on-one with Cory in Malacanang. I was then editor-in-chief of the Philippine Daily Inquirer which Cory felt was not giving her the supportive coverage she thought she deserved.

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BOSTON EXILE: In 1982, as Asst. Managing Editor of the Benedicto-owned Daily Express, I was with the media coverage of the US visit of President Ferdinand Marcos during the Reagan administration.

In Washington, DC, I broke away from the pack, took a cab to the airport and flew to Boston. Upon arrival, I called a surprised Ninoy and told him I wanted to see him. He came to fetch me in a small car he was driving (without wearing his seatbelt, which deserves another story).

We were brimming with questions for each other. His were mostly on the political situation back home, which I answered as best as I could. I sensed he was anxious for a chance to talk with Marcos, his Upsilonian brod.

In our wide-ranging conversation in their residence, he told me among other things what the US government had been doing for him and the exit options it was planning for the Marcos regime. The FBI, he said, was securing them round the clock.

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WHO’S DANDING?: In Boston, for the first time I tasted Cory’s famous adobo. Although she was the gracious hostess, she did not join the conversation of us boys. Now and then she would go to Ninoy with a message or hand him a note, but she did not sit down with us.

One detail puzzled me: Whenever the phone rang, Cory would take it, then came over to the table and told Ninoy what it was. Many times, it was a “Danding” calling and telling them of details of Marcos’ changing itinerary.

I never asked who “Danding” was, although my guess then was that it was Danding Cojuangco, her first cousin. That was odd since I could not imagine Danding, who was like a blood brother to Marcos, passing on information to Ninoy.

Obviously we needed more time, and Ninoy asked me to stay for the night. The next day he took me to some meetings, one of which I found notable since it was with some Chinese from Taiwan led by former Ambassador Han Li-wu. I gathered the rabidly pro-democracy Chinese were ready to assist any armed attempt to overthrow Marcos.

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IN CAMELOT: We talked like we were making up for lost time. In exile, Ninoy was writing me confidential notes (hand-carried by a nervous Bren Guiao) to which I responded.

In these secret correspondences, he was mostly asking for information and my analyses of certain issues. I remember that crucial final question in 1983 of whether or not he should come home in light of the reported deterioration of the health of Marcos.

I learned later that he sometimes read my missives to a small group of opposition-minded individuals he was meeting.

… But this column is about Cory and I’m running out of space. Among my impressions were, (1) she would rather stay away from politics, (2) she had a tough core that not just anyone or anything could break, and (3) the brood of super-busy Ninoy finally found one another again in Boston, where they spent probably their happiest moments as a family.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 2, 2009)

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