Cory role in nation’s life was not accidental
LEST WE FORGET: Ang talagang nakakaiyak sa Cory Aquino phenomenon is that after all the outpouring of love and grief, we start to forget as we drift away from the magical moment. After a time, parang walang nangyari.
That is the tragedy of a people distracted by compelling needs — for food, stable jobs, secure shelter, good education, essential services, an honest and efficient bureaucracy, and officials who are true public servants.
So we try hard to prolong the spell. We keep talking about the message of Cory’s life and death, winnowing out as best we can the stray traces of despair, bitterness and vengeance.
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EULOGY: In that spirit, Postscript shares below the eulogy of lawyer Rodel E. Rodis delivered last Aug. 6 at a concelebrated memorial mass for Cory at St. Patrick’s church in San Francisco, California:
A GREAT DEAL has been written about Cory Aquino especially since her passing last week. The articles, by historians and political commentators, however, repeat a familiar line: when Cory rose to the presidency, she was largely unprepared and thus her heroism was “accidental.” But was it really? The writers may be well-meaning, but on this refrain, I disagree.
Cory’s heroism was not accidental, nor was it coincidental. It was providential. Think about it —
* A religious country needed a religious leader and Cory was it. A woman of deep religious faith and abiding moral convictions, Cory could have easily been a nun. After all, she was educated by nuns and even lived in convents around the country when she ran for the presidency.
* A matriarchal society needed a mother and Cory was it. She raised her five children while her husband was imprisoned in solitary confinement for years years and even before that, when he was constantly running for political office.
* A forgiving culture needed a person who could heal deep wounds and Cory was it. When everyone around her was angry, agitated, anxious, crying for blood — she was the calming presence with the poise, the purity of spirit, and purposeful resolve. Largely unknown until the passing of her husband, here was a woman who had undergone untold personal suffering (from the persecution of her family, separation from and the eventual death of her husband) and yet she never appeared bitter, mean-spirited, or vindictive.
* A society whose values had been warped by vulgar displays of extravagant wealth by a woman with thousands of shoes was looking for someone with grace, integrity and substance — and Cory was it.
THUS, when the people of the Philippines needed a leader in whom they could repose their collective faith and trust, the choice was clear. There was no one remotely close to fit the bill.
Was this an accident?
Cory obtained a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Vincent in New York with a major in French and a minor in mathematics. She was enrolled in law school at the Far Eastern University when she met Ninoy. Clearly, she was smart, educated about the issues and quick to the draw.
When she challenged Marcos for the presidency and he belittled her as “nothing but a common housewife with no experience,” she shot back that “Yes, that’s right, I have no experience in stealing, cheating or killing political opponents.”
When she came to the US as the People Power president of the Philippines in September 1986 and spoke before a joint session of the US Congress, then Speaker Tip O’Neill described her speech as the finest he had heard in his 34 years in Congress. Majority Leader Sen. Bob Dole told her she had hit a home run. Without batting an eye, she replied, “I hope the bases were loaded.”
WHEN President Aquino visited San Francisco in 1986 and spoke before 4,500 members of the Filipino community at the Moscone Center just a block from here, she asked for our community to help the Philippines not simply by investing in the motherland but in another more politically sophisticated way:
“You can help by becoming a strong political force in your adopted country and using that force to influence your adopted country’s attitudes towards your mother country. Follow the lead of the Jewish-Americans who, despite being a small minority, form an indispensable pillar of a strong and independent Israel…
“And so must you with respect to the Philippines. You must guard the image of the Filipino that the February Revolution burnished so brightly. You must guide those joining your ranks so that you enhance the image of Filipinos here. All impressions of you, American though you might be, will hark back to the Philippines.
“Strive for political power in this country. Unite. Learn from the new Philippines how people, acting together, have made the difference at home. You too can make a difference here, for your own betterment and that of generations to come.”
CORY also asked us to educate ourselves and our youth about our history and our provenance, our heroes and our pride:
“Be proud of your roots. Do not let your children or your grandchildren forget that they came from a land that produced Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini and, yes, Ninoy — men who could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best that this country or the world has produced.”
Not only men but many Filipino women too, like Cory Aquino, who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best that the Philippines or the world has produced.
Paalam at salamat, Cory. May the Filipino people whom you loved so much yet achieve your bases loaded grand slam hopes for us.