Farewell, Pres. Cory

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — YESTERDAY was a sad rainy day.

Filipinos woke to the news that their revered “Tita Cory” — former president Corazon Aquino had passed away after a battle with colon cancer.

Her son, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino announced her demise. ”Our mother peacefully passed away at 3:18 am, August 1, 2009 of cardio-respiratory arrest,” he said in a statement outside the Makati Medical Center, where his mother had been hospitalized.”She would have wanted us to thank each and everyone of you for all the prayers and the continuous love and support,” he said.”It was her wish for all of us to pray for one another and for the country,” Noynoy said.

Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin, a close family friend and Mrs. Aquino’s former press secretary, openly wept on television. ”The purity, the nobility, never failed. She never asked for anything, in return,” Locsin said. He said more than anything else, Aquino removed the “center of corruption in government, because she would not be corrupt.” Aquino’s five children have opted to bury their mother in a private ceremony next week, and said they have not talked with any representatives from Arroyo’s office.Her body is now at the De La Salle University, Greenhills, San Juan for public viewing. She will be laid to rest beside her husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino at a private cemetery on Wednesday next week. Friends and political opponents offered their condolences to the family, while the influential Roman Catholic Church held special requiem masses.

In Makati, huge posters of Aquino were displayed while mourners placed lighted candles at the monument of her husband. After news of Mrs. Aquino’s death broke, grieving neighbors and other sympathizers offered prayers, lit candles and left flowers in front of the former President’s house in Times Street, Quezon City yesterday morning. Motorists honked their vehicles as they passed Mrs. Aquino’s home to show their grief over her death. The historical EDSA Shrine where Aquino was tossed to power in 1986 was filled with devotees who offered prayers for the former president. Malacañang and the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ national and general headquarters flew the national flag at half-mast as the nation mourned the death of Mrs. Aquino.

PNP spokesman, Senior Superintendent Leonardo A. Espina said the flag at Camp Crame was flown at half-mast early morning yesterday. The different PNP regional and provincial police offices have also done the same.

Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim said he also ordered the flag at the Manila City Hall and at the Manila Police District headquarters flown at half-mast.

The AFP also said it will offer the traditional “volley of (cannon) fire” to honor the late president. Eight successive cannon shots were fired at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo and other major AFP camps and installations nationwide to honor Mrs. Aquino.

In a statement, AFP spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr. said “the AFP condoles with the family of Mrs. Aquino and the entire nation. We will provide full military honors befitting a former president of the republic and commander in chief,” he said.

Until March last year, when she withdrew from public life after being diagnosed with colon cancer, she had been active in street protests denouncing corruption in the government. She had also repeatedly demanded that Arroyo, a former protege whose nine-year presidency has been marred by scandals, step down.

A humble moral crusader, Mrs. Aquino once famously rejected an offer of a presidential limousine to travel to the inauguration of her successor, Fidel Ramos.Mrs. Aquino later joined the Church in rallying the public in a military-backed peaceful revolt that ousted former president Joseph Estrada, who was later convicted of plunder. He was pardoned by President Macapagal-Arroyo. Prior to her death, Mrs. Aquino has reconciled with Estrada and allowed him to visit her bedside last week.”She was a woman of both strength and graciousness,” an emotional Estrada said Saturday. “Today, our country has lost a mother.”