Deciphering Signs

by Juan L. Mercado

“For one  brief  shining moment / There was Camelot.” The  Broadway song lyric  came to  mind as kids  twirled  yellow ribbons  at  former president Corazon Aquino funeral.  . “Will  (she)  become  another of Asia’s political-widow  syndrome, as in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.” wondered  the Economist.

No, Columbia University’s  Shiela  Coronel  wrote in  Wall  Street  Journal  “Her ultimate political legacy will continue to be discussed… Even in death, it is likely Cory Aquino will remain the symbol of Filipinos’ hopes.””

Many  who slammed  Aquino, then and now,  tucked  tail  before the dictator. “Filipinos expected miracles to happen during her presidency,”  Sociologist Randy David  recalled “The poor expected  instant relief from… poverty. The middle classes expected a renewed and functioning government…overnight. After 21 years of oppression, Filipinos wanted freedom without the attendant responsibilities of citizenship.”

So, where do we go from here?

Don’t ask  President  Arroyo.  She found herself diminished  at private funeral rites for her towering predecessor.  She’s still  deciphering  what messages, if any,  did  those  waves of people  send  in  their  fervent  turnout for Cory.’

“The  world  embraced  Edsa 1 in 1986,” the President  cautioned at Libingan Ng Mga Bayani  on February 22. “The world  tolerated  Edsa 2 in 2001.  The world will not forgive an Edsa 3.  Instead, (it’d)   condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable.”

The  torrent  of gratitude and affection  for Cory was not  Edsa 3. Perhaps, an unplanned  but  nonetheless telling “referendum”,  Inquirer Columnist  Rina Jimenez  David  suggested.

People Power  is  not  just  about dispatching  dictators  It includes  securing reforms  peacefully. Mahatma  Ghandi’s 1930  march to the sea saw the oppressive  salt tax  scrubbed.  People  Power  can   celebrate a  life poured out for others  that “fragrance filled the whole house.”. 

“How lucky we were it  was a Cory who led the  first post Marcos government ( with ) near-absolute governmental power,” recalls  UP professor Raul Pangalangan. She prevailed  in  Philippine politics without being  deformed. “In  her we saw a glimpse  of our nobler selves and learned there are rare times, in our sad history, when the good guys finished first.”

The Palace, meanwhile, struck  a business-as-usual  posture  In  Pampanga,  the President  handed out P500 million for school repairs.  She  may bid for an elective post there, some say. If the constitution is keel-hauled  before 2010, why she could become  the Philippines’ Indira Gandhi.   .

From   the grave, Cory  may have slammed  that option shut. Aquino opposed tinkering with the Constitution – and possible extension of terms – before  2010. So do 63 percent or  Filipinos, surveys show.  “The  popular  sentiment is not to go against her wishes,” noted   Cavite Representative Elpidio  Barzaga

In  the  Lower House,  Arroyo’s sons  rode shotgun over House Resolution 1109.  That  would  have  three-fourths of  the House  propose changes to the Charter, without the Senate.  “Nobody wants to touch  it anymore,” Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor said.

The  human wave  in yellow identified with Cory’s legacy, Inquirer’s Amando Doronila wrote.. That  includes  regular and honest elections and  limits to  term of office, Read the crowds’ lips, Doronila  suggested: Tampering with the  rules  incurs the risk of people  hitting the streets again, as  in 1986.

Cory  provided the example for the transfer of power according to constitutional rules. Indeed,  mankind refuses to learn from any other school but example, Edmund Burke once said.

In the snap election, Aquino  hammered on a simple theme:  She’d  be the exact  opposite of  Ferdinand Marcos.  Even her plain  dresses, the Economist noted ,  contrasted with “the stylish Imelda, who was still stuffing the boudoirs of the presidential palace with frocks and furs and shoes, shoes, shoes”.

Like it or not, today’s  “presidentiables”  sense that Filipinos  take their measure against  standards Cory set.  Among them, do any feel  threatened  being  the “exact opposite of  Aquino?

“Why should we feel threatened?”, deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo scoffed.  The  massive  turn out  showed “people’s love for the nation.”  Can  motherhood  statements tamp down  fear?.

“Those who feel threatened by the legacies of  causes  (Cory) left  will try to minimize the meaning of her role in history,” Columnist Randy David  predicted. “In death, Cory will continue to be underestimated.”

Aquino  embodied “values that endure even after the sun burns out.”. “These  gave her  an enduring strength of character which Marcos, rebel colonels, and even at times the Filipino people underestimated”,  Coronel adds.. “

The paint on  Aquino’s  headstone is still wet. Already, politicians  bicker over what  those “recurrent, widespread and deep” aspirations boiling from the  streets mean.  An answer may be found in “Theology on Signs of the Times”, written by a young Jesuit in 1972.

“By  searching out the great desires of men, we find out what is the movement of God’s plan  made manifest to us,” wrote Fr. Catalino Arevalo  who  gave the homily at Cory’s funeral. “It is through the aspirations of man  that we come into living contact with the plan of  God… (He ) calls us, not only by instruction or command but by event, by what happens in history.”

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,” the Master from Galilee once said …”Hypocrites. Why can you not interpret signs of the times?”

( E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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