Mrs Corazon Aquino, once President of the Philippines passed away before dawn of Saturday morning. In the family we always referred to her quite formally, calling her Mrs Aquino and never "Tita Cory". It was as if she was our next door neighbour, a gracious lady.
Mrs Aquino has passed on from being democracy's icon to democracy's legend.
The martial law baby that I am, my and countless others of my generation's political awakening paralled her catapult into politics. There are four images of Mrs Aquino that will be burned into my mind. The first one is her standing by her husband Senator Ninoy Aquino, when the death sentence was read by a military tribunal. The second is during her victory rally after the Marcoses have flown the coop to Hawaii. The third is when during the "God save the Queen" plot against her. She said "this queen need not be saved!" And the fourth is during Fidel V Ramos' inauguration when she left the grandstand for the last time as President.
The images reveal a steely and kind disposition. Perhaps this is what people will remember her for aside from her religiosity while public, is in reality very private. This was her wellspring of strength and determination. Mrs Aquino was by history's will, thrust into national leadership. In 1986, Mrs and "Titas" like her were never expected to be Presidents of the republic. That's why her "inexperience" was the Marcos camp's campaign weapon of mass destruction. But that strategy backfired for Mrs Aquino said she can balance her household budget and that she had no experience of stealing money.
We don't know what Mrs Aquino felt when she took the Presidential oath in Club Filipino. But it must be that the magnitude of responsibility fell on her like a mountain. We at least once in our lives will be brought to something similar (but it is unlikely we are to assume the responsibility of the presidency). Mrs Aquino showed as very well how to cope. Pray and be confident! Shirking from duty is not a choice, whatever our station in life is. We just have to do it and if done well we have served our country.
We may debate her presidency. Was she a good one? Historians will figure that out. However the tasks at hand when she took the oath were immense and she did have her shortcomings. But history I believe will be kind. She is a great president not because she cemented her power in a revolutionary government, built a gazillion flyovers and highways, but only for the reason that she brought a certain degree of decency and honesty in our national life.
That is the basis of greatness wherever we are. If a president loses that, then she has lost it all!
Well done Mrs Aquino. May the martyrs welcome you to the new Jerusalem, which we here in the Philippines are trying to build.