(Cory Aquino’s death has seen a flood of letters flow in. The writers range from hard nosed journalists, priests to book editor. They give intimate insights into this “simple housewife” who toppled a dictatorship and those turbulent yet exhilarating years – JLM)
Arnold Zeitlin served as Associated Press bureau chief in Manila until expelled by the Marcos regime. He is now a visiting journalism professor at Guandong University. He wrote:
“After hearing of Ninoy’s murder, I went to Cory’s Chestnut Hill house. I took my two daughters because I didn’t think I could handle visit alone. When I entered the house, Cory was coming down the stairs. “Oh, Arnold,” she said, “I never thought it’d come to this.”
The house was mad: reporters, TV cameras, including a Japanese crew. Cory beckoned me to sit beside her as reporters threw questions. One woman from Time asked a question that touched a Cory nerve. I don’t even remember what the question was now. “You don’t know Ninoy!” she shouted. I patted her arm. She calmed…
On her return from Ninoy’s burial, she appeared at a Cambridge Memorial arranged by Ben Brown of Harvard. Again, she asked me to sit by her. She was much more in control. A reporter addressed her mistakenly as “Mrs. Marcos…..”
There was an embarrassed pause. Cory broke it by saying sternly, “I don’t think Imelda would have liked that, too.” It was then that I wondered: Should I do an AP piece about Cory running against Marcos.
In January of her final year in office, I called on her in Malacanang. “167 days left, Arnold.” She was counting the days when she could leave office.
“She once told me: Her goal as president was to make sure that no other woman would ever have to go through what she went through when Ninoy was jailed after Marcos imposed martial law. That goal she achieved. May she rest in peace.”
From Ireland, Redemptorist priest Patrick Martin emailed: ”The memory I cherish is from the time of the snap election and the coming of Marcos to Cebu – the one who claimed 90% of the vote and love of the people. Cebu was like an armed camp — “to protect him from love of the people?”
“Cory came a week later. No army. No armalites. Just welcoming, hopeful, freely milling people at the Fuente. Osmena.
“On the morning Marcos left, news filtered out that this was so. I went down Jones Avenue and there was a slight air of uncertain hope. A few hours later, that changed to gloom as Marcos appeared on the Palace balcony – still here – still President!
“Later that evening he was gone. At the Fuente, there was exhilaration, hope, and joy was unforgettable. Cory brought this joy and sense of pride to the people – a truly wonderful gift.
“Who will bring it now? Ar dheis De go raibh a anam. “May her soul be a God’s right hand.”
From Washington, former Wall Street Journal reporter Eddie Lachica wrote: “I felt Cory’s passing as a personal loss. You probably felt the same way.
“Some of us did bring to the table the best our powers and circumstances allowed us. And Cory, in my view, did better than most. What makes me sadder is the little promise there is in the succeeding generation’s ability to improve on or at least preserve what has been accomplished so far.
“I’m the least qualified to say this because I was not around to help Cory during her beleaguered presidency or even to pay my respects when she lay dying of cancer. Reporting the Aquinos in their Boston exile and Cory’s People’s Power triumph was the most satisfying thing I ever did in my life.
“I made a selfish career choice of leaving the post-Marcos Philippine story for a more professionally rewarding Washington beat. I have not been able do anything for the Philippines since, and looking back I see what I have missed. I truly regret it.
‘I hope you continue to remind readers of the values of the good people of our generation so that those who served well. . PS—The Washington Post devoted nearly half a page to Cory’s death, a lengthy tribute by Bill Brannigin, a fellow-People’s Power scribe. But not a single line for Gloria’s tête-à-tête with Obama.”
Book Editor Carol Go wrote from Quezon City: “Twenty-three years ago, in response to a nighttime radio call by Jaime Cardinal Sin, I rushed to EDSA. With me were my co-lectors in our parish church then to participate in what is now known as People Power.
“Many of us were still in our pajamas! Little did we know then that we’d be making history. That event would also signal the toppling down of other dictatorial regimes around the world.
“I just want to say thank you. First, to God for keeping my family safe during those times; next, to Cory for being like Ninoy–undaunted in believing that the Filipino is worth dying for.
“ My 20-year-old son will be playing the violin, with the UST Symphony Orchestra, during Cory’s wake at the Manila Cathedral. I hope he realizes that the woman in the casket, together with millions of other ordinary citizens of the country, once bought for him the freedom he now enjoys. God bless the Philippines and the next generation of Filipinos. May He raise up for us a new leader like Cory Aquino.”
From Hong Kong, former CNN staffer Hope Ngo wrote: “When they took the remains of Cory to Manila cathedral, I felt tears welling up. I remembered, being university student– galvanized by that same lady in yellow, asking us : fight the dictatorship that gripped the country in terror.
“I remembered marching down Ayala avenue to chants of ‘Cory, Cory, Cory!’ and ‘walang babaril’ at the intersection where students had been gunned down. I remembered the covering creation of the constitution: — the same one which the current government is trying to mangle today.
Today, the promise of a new dawn had vanished. In its place are: cynicism, anger, desperation. When I saw myself turning my press pass to a policeman, asking to be exempt from weird, rules of coding , I realized : I gave up core principles or leave; I chose to leave.
The country is at a political impasse, with an improbable wanna-be forever leader at the helm. Is the timing of Mrs. Aquino’s death her final gift to the Filipino people? Instead of giving the gift to the world, it is time to give the gift to ourselves as a nation?