Former Philippine President Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco-Aquino died peacefully in her sleep in the wee hours of the first day of August. Her daughters describe her face as “almost smiling” and as if in deep slumber, a forever slumber in serenity.
Bouquet of red, white and yellow flowers from ordinary Filipino people has been piling up at the slightly opened gate of her private residence at Times Street in Quezon City since Saturday. Only her family driver is there to receive and stack them along the fence.
The words “thank you”, “goodbye”, “farewell” and “we love you” were written on the notes that came along with the flowers.
Described as a symbol of simplicity and sincerity, her driver of 46 years, Teody Lansangan, said he is grateful to the former President who helped him send all of his four children to college. “I also stopped smoking because of her prodding,” Lansangan described how her boss influenced his life.
“She treated me like a family member,” the teary-eyed driver said.
General Ramon Montano who served as the chief of the defunct Philippine Constabulary disclosed how he was surprised of the magnanimity and “coolness” of the former President in times of crisis. Remembering the most cherished moment with her, he said he was surprised to have found the president cooking in the Malacanang kitchen while tear gases were being thrown at the Palace gates during one of the eight coup attempts during her presidency.
“Her simplicity and strength of character are worth emulating,” the general said.
“She is the most sincere person I have known in my life,” her former Cabinet Secretary and Senator Franklin Drilon spoke of her. She was very careful of spending the country’s money and makes sure she spends her own personal money, earned from Hacienda Luisita, for dinners or personal pictures that can pass off as state expenses.
She was not lavish and even wears again her old dresses asking her personal advisers “What is wrong with wearing an old dress again?”
Everybody –from the ordinary folks in the street up to high government officials-has been mourning for the demise of the “beacon of democracy” and the first Filipino woman president due to a long battle with colon cancer at 76.
Philippine flags in government offices were lowered at half mast while a staccato of 21-gun salutes were fired on air at the military camps in honor of their former commander-in-chief. An eight cannon ball volley of fire, never heard by residents who live close by, was first fired at Camp Aguinaldo along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, the seat of the Philippine national defense. It is being fired every 30 minutes thereafter until her funeral on Wednesday, declared a non-working holiday by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Her cortege as she is being brought by honor guards atop a six-wheeler truck off to Manila Cathedral, met by grief stricken ordinary citizens who showered her banner-draped coffin with yellow confetti, equals that of her husband Ninoy Aquino’s funeral- also in August 25 years ago. People describe her as a person with a “pure heart.”
Trully, there is serenity in sincerity. Adieu, Madame President.