At the risk of sounding insensitive, I thought the procession from the Manila Cathedral to the Manila Memorial Park felt like some sort of spectator sport. A race, even.
While I expected that the final transfer of the body of former president Cory Aquino would take long – a return of sorts to 1983, when her husband, Ninoy Aquino, was laid to rest – I was somehow hoping that she get to her final destination quicker. I figured it would finally put her to rest, after a life spent on the spotlight, more so in the days before and after her death. But, I figured, it’s not going to happen, not when hundreds of thousands of grateful Filipinos flock to pay their last respects to the woman who’s made what we are as a country possible.
And indeed, it happened. As I type this, the convoy has finally entered the Sucat exit, and the final stretch of the journey. Police estimate that at least 300,000 people have come to watch this, watching by the sidelines, flashing the Laban! sign, throwing the prerequisite yellow confetti, chanting Cory’s name along the way. Many times did the convoy find the need to slow down and give everyone a chance to not just look.
To be honest, I can’t really tell. I was born in 1989, almost three years after the first EDSA revolution drove Ferdinand Marcos out of office. As part of the generation that merely benefited from all that she’s done, perhaps the sacrifices were lost on me. But I knew it anyway, from the stories on television to the yearly retrospectives, and I knew what she did. Never mind that she wasn’t the best president, with all the problems her administration faced. That’s moot anyway. She did what mattered – she brought us back democracy.
And she continued to fight for it after she stepped down from office in 1992. Still a vocal proponent of change during her successors’ administrations, she was an instrumental part of the second EDSA revolution that drove Joseph Estrada out of office – a decision that she seemingly apologized for, when she called for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation. She continued showing up even when colon cancer struck her – and didn’t stop until her condition got worse. I surely would’ve missed something along the way.
I figured, now she’s finally had the chance to rest, the least she deserves is a peaceful passage to the other side.
But you can’t stop people from expressing how grateful and thankful they are. It’s just, well, I don’t know – immense sadness on her death, mixed with immense joy on her life. It wasunited and genuine, something I initially found off-putting – it felt a little odd on my part. I thought something like this should be personal, because what Cory did touched everyone in a distinct way, surely, but we have organizations and groups and all these sectors doing a concerted effort, from streamers to those ribbons scattered everywhere. It felt a bit fake, but what do I know?
I was, perhaps, getting cynical of institutions. The events of the past years have been full of that – mistrust of authorities after so many scandals and controversies, of rigged elections and incessant corruption, of not giving a damn and not giving another damn. Suddenly a concerted movement for something is treated with a grain of salt, with doubt over their intentions, with anxiety whether it’ll just make things worse rather than improve it.
Suddenly, we’re all united again. It’s always what Cory did: unite people, rally them for a cause, make them feel it’s worth it, because she believed it was worth it. Everything was worth it. The crowds gathered in 1986; the crowds gathered in 2001; the crowds gather today, waiting under the intermittent weather, expressing their gratitude in one way or another. It amazes me seeing such a wave of grief and gratitude, from the tributes when she died on Saturday, to the crowds that gathered at La Salle Greenhills and the Manila Cathedral, to the people that watched the procession, both last Monday and today. I guess I forgot what being united really means.
Most of my generation’s tweets over the past few days wondered whether we’ll have anybody like Cory Aquino – someone that will unite the Filipinos towards a common cause, make them fight for it with all they have – more than Manny Pacquiao can, or any other Filipino who brings pride to our country for that matter. Maybe not anymore. We have changed, for better or for worse. The best is perhaps for us to do it ourselves, not wait for someone to stand up and lead. The Filipinos as leaders – now that’s a good idea.
As part of that generation, all I can do is thank you, Cory, for doing what you had to do. My freedom to argue and choose what I want is all down to you, or else I’d probably be quiet and powerless like how it was for most of us before. If we revert after tonight, it would be a shame.
Hopefully, we can all say “hindi ka nag-iisa” with conviction soon.
Photo courtesy of Jhaphet Flordeliza.
Entry filed under: On The News.