Behind the massive outpouring of mourners for Cory Aquino and the reliving of People Power is the fervent desire among Filipinos to have “that good feeling again.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — For the sheer volume of mourners who went out of their way to pay their last respects to Cory; for her funeral march replete with historical déjà vu from Ninoy to Edsa; for the popular prayerful gatherings beginning from the time she was at her deathbed up to her wake and funeral, which had also thrown current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in a comparatively worse light; and for the future challenge of “keeping the spirit of People Power alive” as many mourners wished to do, Cory Aquino’s funeral appears destined to be talked about for a very long time.
The day Cory was buried had been declared a non-working holiday. Yellow ribbons adorned vehicles, gates, windows and trees. Radios and trains played songs associated with her, Ninoy and Edsa, songs such as “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree,” “Magkaisa (Unite),” “Handog ng Pilipino (Filipinos’ Offering)” and “Bayan Ko,” the song that likens the Philippine nation to a caged bird desiring freedom. The latter was performed to great acclaim by Lea Salonga at the funeral mass for Cory.
“Cory reawakened the spirit of Edsa People Power,” said her former Cabinet members. Indeed, it was raining confetti once again. Filipinos went out on the streets with what they could afford as send-off for Cory. They wielded makeshift streamers and placards from used sackcloth or cardboard, glistening tarpaulins, balloons, pigeons, even Cory-Doy stickers from the ‘80s. “Volunteerism is back,” observed Twitterers and texters among marching mourners.
In varied versions, reports repeated: “We Pinoys remembered how it had been from 1983 to 1986, when we united to oust an overstaying brutal, corrupt and isolated dictator. We are proud of having done that. It was a period when we stood proud of being Filipinos.”
For giving a chance to relive all that, on top of having symbolized the struggle for democracy in the first Filipino People Power, Cory was, once again, profusely thanked.
Arroyo Conspicuously Absent, Criticized
At the Manila Cathedral thousands attended the early morning funeral Mass for Cory. These included her immediate relatives, friends, supporters, Church people, politicians, students, members of progressive organizations, participants of past People Power uprisings and their families and many spontaneous mourners plus ambulant vendors and small entrepreneurs. Showbiz celebrities and singers also arrived and caused some star-struck cheering in between chanting.
Despite intermittent rain, Cory mourners formed an umbrella-covered human chain outside of the cathedral. This human chain extended from Manila Cathedral to the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque where she would be buried beside martyred husband Ninoy Aquino.
Her cortege passed by streets lined by thick human chains chanting “Cory, Cory, Cory!” Some later joined the funeral procession on foot, on bike or motorcycle.
The trip that should have taken just an hour or two lasted almost eight hours. By then, the National Capital Region police, proving yet again that it has difficulty counting huge crowds, estimated that the mourners numbered only 300,000. Radio commentators cackled in disbelief.
Most of the 2010 presidential aspirants attended the Mass at the Manila Cathedral. Former presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada were also there, as were the scions of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Conspicuously absent was President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who got flak from Kris Aquino for having pulled out the presidential security guards detailed with Cory while she lay dying in the hospital. An activist remarked that Arroyo has met her match: another presidential brat, but kinder, more popular and bankable.
Even if Arroyo had sneered during her ninth State of the Nation Address that she didn’t care for popularity, she was forced to apologize and excuse the pullout as a mere “recall.” She also had to visit Cory’s wake at 3 a.m., “like a thief in the night,” commented a radio reporter from DWIZ. Arroyo left the wake after staying for just seven minutes.