Monday, August 03, 2009

A Yellow Weekend

All through the weekend, the home TV showed almost nothing but Cory Aquino: live coverage would shift to retrospectives to interviews. Strangely enough, I didn't get tired of it at all. It seemed like 1986 all over again, a time when we actually felt good about ourselves, when we felt guided by a moral compass, when optimism and not cynicism ruled the day.

Of all the reruns, none touched me more than her address before the US Congress and the February 2006 Viewpoint special that featured Cory, Kris, and Noynoy.

The US Congress address, showing a much younger Cory Aquino, best sums up the challenges that the country faced as we came out of the darkness of the Marcos years. Given the perspective of time -- this Cory was not that much older than I am now -- I finally realize what a tremendous burden Cory had to bear.

It also shows us how far we've fallen from the ideal. Ninoy Aquino's treatment under the Marcos, sadly, finds too many echoes in our country today. Torture and summary executions are far too common, politicians are mired in corruption, and we quibble over the letter of the law far more than its spirit. Perhaps we've improved economically, but at the great expense of our moral direction.

Which is why I feel doubly sad. First, we've lost a great woman; and second, in the twenty years that have passed, we have not lived up to what she represented.

What's worse, we've all become blinded by what political power can achieve. Does anyone remember 2006, when we were up in arms about the Garci scandal? When Cory finally spoke out, what did we do? Did we flock to her side as the "icon of democracy?" Did we take up the rosary as she did? Or did we laugh her off, saying that the time of her political clout had passed? How did that go again: "People power was a spent force?"

Politics never was Cory's strength. No, she drew from reserves much stronger and much more potent than that.

Of all the praise accorded to Cory, none came to everyone's lips more often than the fact that "she did not cling to power." Only the most obstinately blind and deaf would fail to see that this praise of Cory also serves as a rebuke to GMA. In many ways, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo comes across as a pretender to Cory Aquino -- a woman swept to power in a popular revolt, only, it turns out, a coup that she and her husband engineered with the collusion of military generals. People Power Two was only a cover; ginamit lang pala tayo.

The timing of Cory's passing could not have been more perfect because it gives us the chance to draw comparisons between the two women. Just last Monday, we had GMA on the podium of the Philippine congress; instead of cementing her legacy with a firm goodbye, she used the occasion to throw veiled brickbats at her critics. Contrast this with Cory's quiet and dignified delivery before the US congress. Cory restored democracy; GMA tells us to be thankful she did not declare martial law. Years from now, we will still review Cory's address when we need to draw inspiration; who will remember GMA's meeting with what's-his-face?

Next to Cory, GMA falls short. Very short indeed.

The 2006 Viewpoint interview shows a much older Cory Aquino -- older, yes, but still smiling, still dignified, and despite all that she's gone through in her life, very much at peace with herself and with the world. She shows us how we should all hope to go: quietly, with dignity, and with much love.

It's what all of us should aim for.


  1. We get two Filipino TV channels on satellite so we were able to watch some of the programs on Cory (not otherwise seen on US TV). At one point we saw a Filipino reporter interviewing Hillary Clinton regarding her death. Although Clinton had only glowing words for her, it came across to me as phony and disingenuous. I'd say that GMA isn't the only politician who falls short.

  2. But the short joke doesn't carry as far with Hillary.

  3. Hillary isn't really tall....she just appears that way because she's stepping on so many folks.