Xiao Chua, St. Benilde Gym, La Salle Greenhills, 3 Agosto 2009
THE LADY IN YELLOW
An essay by Michael Charleston B. Chua, 16 years old
Published as mother headline in Mabuhay: Lingguhang Pilipino Mula Pa Noong 1980, 10-16 July 2009, 1, 5.
“This is my message for Mr. Marcos and his puppets:
Do not threaten Cory Aquino, because I am not alone!”
-Cory Aquino, January 1986
Night of August 30, 1998, I found myself around fascinating people at the lobby of the Cultural Center. I had just witnessed the presentation ceremonies of the 40th Ramón Magsaysay Awards. I just learned that the Nobel Prize of Asia has been awarded to names such as The Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Akira Kurosawa among others; great or small, I all look up to them, but no Magsaysay Awardee had inspired and affected me much, because she changed the course of the history of a country, which in turn, changed my destiny forever. She’s my kababayan too.
And then, I saw her, up at the staircase. She wasn’t wearing a yellow dress, like she usually does when I see her on TV. I tried to reach her to congratulate her for the prestigious prize she won. At last, she turned to me and I shook her hand. It was one of the finest moments of my life, for I touched history herself—Corazón C. Aquino.
Cory’s family, the Cojuangcos, was one of the most prominent families in our province, Tarlac. She was married to a handsome young man from a political family—Ninoy Aquino. Incidentally, the Champion of the Masses, then President Ramón Magsaysay, was one of the principal sponsors in their wedding.
Years after Magsaysay, a dictator emerged to the throne at Malacañang—Ferdinand E. Marcos. Senator Ninoy Aquino became his foremost opponent. Marcos had him imprisoned when he declared Martial Law. Cory became, in Ninoy’s words, his “sole support, source of comfort and wellspring of hope” when he was in prison for seven years and seven months. On her shoulder fell the pain of a wife of a political detainee. It was not only the Aquinos who suffered. All the Filipinos were denied their freedom of expression. Their right to be free was taken away from them and they lived in fear of the dictatorship, for anyone who dared to challenge it would be taken away to be tortured or worse, to be killed.
Cory and their children joined Ninoy for three happy years in Boston. But in spite of that, he decided to sacrifice. He returned to the Philippines to talk Marcos into dismantling his dictatorship. He was the only hope…
Upon arrival, Ninoy was shot dead!
With Ninoy’s death, the dictatorship thought that it was all over. It was their greatest mistake. With Ninoy’s death, a sleeping nation was awakened to the abuses of the regime. They mourned his death and throngs marched in his funeral. And they made his widow, Cory Aquino, their rallying symbol.
And so when Ninoy’s life ended, Cory’s fight began.
A million signed up for the little housewife to run for president against the strongman Marcos. She accepted the call—a fight between David and Goliath! Marcos questioned her qualifications by saying “She’s only a woman…What is she going to do when she becomes president?” To which Cory answered, “I admit that I have had no experience in cheating, stealing, lying or assassinating political opponents.”
The people supported her all the way in the elections, but Marcos cheated and had himself re-elected. “Tama na, sobra na, palitan na!” was what the people shouted during their protests. Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, and General Fidel Ramos broke away from the regime on February 22, 1986. Marcos ordered their arrest but it couldn’t be carried out! And why not? Because the camps where the defectors were in (which were situated along EDSA highway) became surrounded by two million people in the name of the housewife in yellow. By the sound of prayers and the shouts of “Coree! Coree!”, the people blocked the menacing tanks of the regime. That turnaround of events is now known in history as the “People Power Revolution.” Cory was then installed as president after four days of peaceful protest by the people and Marcos fled to Hawaii, never to return again!
Yes! Cory Aquino was the lightning rod of the first successful revolution without bloodshed. People Power was the contribution of the Filipinos to the world. We inspired the downfall of the Berlin Wall, the destruction of the Eastern Europe Communist Bloc, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, all carried out by the people without violence. Cory emerged as an international symbol of democracy.
RM Awards cited that when “she stepped down in favor of an elected successor…she had restored her country’s democratic institutions and its good name in the community of nations…. She governed with integrity and the devout intention to do always what was best for the country and its people.”
The citation added, “No Asian leader of our time can claim as much.”
Many considered her presidency as a failure for “little had changed with their lives.” And that the People Power was inutile.
I just turned two when People Power happened, and I was too young to remember. But I could never accept that Cory and the People Power were failures. I believe she was God’s simple instrument in pinning down a tyrant and in bringing back democracy for all of us. Because of that, she had changed the lives of millions of people, even of the next generation, and the world was inspired of that. In a more personal level, she made way for me not to experience the hardships of a cruel regime, and for me to freely express myself as a writer without suppression and censorship. That sole reason is enough for me to be inspired to protect and fight for this democracy even in my own simple ways.
Today, at 67, she is still active in safeguarding democracy from those who would attempt to take it. Because she has the credibility and morality, people still listen to her or seek her advice. I believe that as long as Cory is alive, and we will carry on her fight, and we would remain free!
She showed the world that if we would just unite as a people, we can accomplish the impossible. In her simplicity, she proved that even the simplest of us can accomplish great things.
Ninoy described her with the following words, “Looming from the battle, her courage will never fade.” With her courage, we were never the same again.
Cory paved the way in order for me to live free! She also made me feel proud to be a Filipino.
I love Cory Aquino!
-16 April 2000, Palm Sunday