Philippines Mourns Corazon Aquino, Dead at 76
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Philippines Mourns Corazon Aquino, Dead at 76

By OLIVER TEVES / AP WRITER Saturday, August 1, 2009


MANILA—Filipinos mourned former President Corazon Aquino by displaying yellow ribbons and holding Masses as the nation prepared to bid farewell to the beloved democracy icon who swept away a dictator and fought off seven coup attempts.

Aquino, 76, died early Saturday after a yearlong battle with colon cancer, which had spread to other organs and left her bedridden since late June, her son, Sen Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, said.

Filipinos former President Corazon Aquino
Each of Aquino’s five children went to their mother’s bedside where they “were told to say everything we wanted to say” before she was given morphine, which made her unresponsive, her only son said.

Aquino rose to power after the 1983 assassination of her husband, opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. The uprising she led in 1986 ended the repressive 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos and inspired nonviolent protests across the globe, including those that ended communist rule in Eastern Europe.

“She was headstrong and single-minded in one goal, and that was to remove all vestiges of an entrenched dictatorship,” Raul C Pangalangan, former dean of the College of Law at the University of the Philippines, said earlier this month. “We all owe her in a big way.”

But Aquino struggled in office to meet high public expectations. Her land redistribution program fell short of ending economic domination by the landed elite, including her own family. Her leadership, especially in social and economic reform, was often indecisive, leaving many of her closest allies disillusioned by the end of her term.

Still, the bespectacled, smiling woman in her trademark yellow dress remained beloved in the Philippines, where she was affectionately referred to as “Tita (Auntie) Cory.”

Aquino’s supporters had been holding daily prayers for her in churches for the past month.

As the news of Aquino’s death spread through a rainy and gloomy Manila, radio and TV stations broadcast documentaries and stories of her life, with music dating back to the “people power” revolt and a love song based on a poem written by her husband.

Catholic priests held requiem Masses, and ordinary people tied yellow ribbons on trees around their neighborhoods, on cars, lamp posts and house gates.

Others laid flowers and lit candles outside the Aquino family residence in Quezon, while some gathered to pray at a shrine on Manila’s EDSA highway, where hundreds of thousands of her supporters blocked Marcos’ tanks in 1986.

“The nation lost its moral guiding light but she will forever remain as the inspiration of this impoverished nation,” said Al Roy, one of Aquino’s godsons.

The Aquino family opted for a private instead of a state funeral.

“She has for all intents and purposes been a private citizen after stepping down, and to a degree we also want to spend as much time as possible as a family with her,” her son said.

Aquino’s body will lie in state at the De La Salle Catholic School in Manila from Saturday evening to Monday morning. It will be moved to Manila Cathedral before she will be buried beside her husband at the Manila Memorial Park on Wednesday, he said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is on an official visit to the United States, remembered Aquino as a “national treasure” who helped lead “a revolution to restore democracy and the rule of law to our nation at a time of great peril.”

The Philippines will observe 10 days of national mourning, she said. The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it would accord full military honors during the mourning period, including gun salutes and lowering flags to half-staff.

With teary eyes, former aides and friends recalled their moments with “Tita Cory” in radio and TV interviews. A former speechwriter, Rep Teodoro Locsin Jr., broke down, saying that her “purity, nobility never failed.”

Former top Cabinet aide Franklin Drilon said “President Cory was the most sincere person I have known in my life....

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