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Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Graceful Exit

The first president I ever voted for was Cory Aquino.

I grew up during martial law. Ferdinand Marcos was the first president I ever knew. My parents believed in him; they said he was a brilliant president. So I believed them. But I was too young to vote when Ninoy Aquino ran against him for the presidency. As the years progressed and the stories against Marcos grew, my parents slowly and quietly changed their minds about the strongman. Their turning point was on 21 August 1983, when Ninoy was gunned down in cold blood.

I was of legal age to vote when Marcos declared snap elections to be held in February 1986. The very first candidate I voted for in my entire life lost in the highly controversial elections, which saw several members of the Comelec walking out of the counting process in protest. I supported Cory in her call for a boycott of companies headed by Marcos cronies; imagine, we were ready to give up drinking San Miguel beer and Coke! But then EDSA happened.

From the start Cory proclaimed she was woefully unprepared to be the president of a country saddled with billions of dollars in debt, poverty, rising insurgency problems, and a political system twisted to accommodate a dictatorship. But still she sacrificed six years of her life to lead the country in turning it around. I had fond feelings for Cory, but I was wary of her capabilities. The tasks were daunting; her husband himself famously said that he pitied the one who would follow after Marcos.

I wasn’t too fond of certain decisions she made during her stint as president. The coup attempts didn’t help her or the country either. Her heart was in the right place, but at times it looked and felt like she was the one in the wrong place.

To her credit she remained steadfast in her beliefs and in her priorities—fixing the basic institutions of democracy. The interim constitution that she fashioned was to ensure that the Philippines would never experience another Marcos. And when her 6-year term was up, despite cries from people asking her to continue on, she kept her word. By handing over the country to Fidel Ramos in a peaceful transition of power, she made a graceful exit from the presidency.

Through the years she remained a voice of calm, decency and reason. But she reserved her comments to mostly the bigger issues, and allowed each president after her to lead on their own. She became the default moral conscience of Philippine politics, despite many politicians blatantly contradicting her, ordinary citizens disagreeing with her, and a youngest daughter that continued to exemplify all that Cory wasn’t.

And she remains the icon of People Power—of peaceful, non-violent protest—all over the world.

If I were to assess her contribution to the country, I’d be hard-pressed to say she was a good president, or even an efficient one. (For me, it’s still Fidel Ramos—not the best, not the cleanest, but Steady Eddie actually made me believe things were really going to get better.) But Cory was the necessary president. Given the six years after Marcos left, only someone who was not of a presidentiable character could have stepped into Malacañang. Otherwise he/she would have been mired in politics; only a Cory could rise above politics.

Only time will tell if her efforts at a transition to a real and working democracy were the right ones; right now even questions of “Is it really democracy that the Philippines needs?” are still being asked. But no one can dispute the amount of effort she has put in and personal sacrifice she has endured through the years out of her love for our country. She has definitely deserved her rest.

When the yellow ribbons started appearing in Twitter and all over the metro, I refused to join the bandwagon. Some just wanted to show support, but others were praying for her recovery. What for? Why pray for a miracle when clearly she was at peace (albeit in pain) with her fate? At last she was going to be reunited with her beloved Ninoy and her Creator; why ask her back? What more could we ask of her? Haven’t we already asked enough?

On 01 August 2009, she made her one last, most graceful exit. Bravo, Cory Aquino.

* * * * *

PLUS: Putting Cory Aquino’s legacy in perspective: Eric Gamalinda’s blog entry.


rudeboy said...

That was beautiful, Joel.

Thank you.

Ming Meows said...

ang dami palang nangyari noon...

John Halcyon von Rothschild said...

that was a very moving tribute. :)

E said...

sabi nga ni ate v "perfect"

nice one mcvie