I CAME across an old clipping of a newspaper, a photo cut-out I can’t even remember from what newspaper. It has a short, one-line caption and an acknowledgement of the photographer, Val Handumon.
The picture stretches across a page, a picture of a crowd watching the funeral procession of the late actress Nida Blanca on its way to Loyola Memorial Park. It’s a picture mostly of women in a roadside crowd watching the funeral procession pass by. The crowd is held back from jumping into the street by policemen standing in a row, holding hands to control emotions.
In the photo, everybody’s looking out to the street to follow with sad eyes the flow of the procession. The crowd is not just curious but depressed, the sad women hold on to the arms of the policemen as though they were friends, or neighbors, or relatives.
In this photo is the nature of the Filipino when affected by a special someone’s death.
Today, many places in the country remember Cory Aquino on her first death anniversary for the sacrifices she made for her people—-a woman who left her life as a widow and mother to rise and lead her country on. Cory passed away of colon cancer on Aug. 1 last year. The Filipino remembers a loved one as a Filipino does.
Some days ago, and perhaps today, you’ll see yellow
ribbons tied around large trunks of trees, or in posts, and people’s arms. Of course, in some places, they’ve overdone the yellow thing, especially since after Noynoy Aquino ran and won in the presidential race. And now there are Cory yellow dolls, and you’d wish they left us alone with our unwavering memory of a heroine who didn’t have to fight with a sword.
Just before, during and immediately after the Edsa
revolution, I remember being very emotional about it—-my throat thickening, hurting, my eyes watering each time anything about the revolution was shown on television. If there was anyone else in the room watching TV with me, I’d turn around and move back to hide my tears.
It amazed me to watch Cory showing such strength for a woman as she spoke before the big crowd while the whole country listened. I told myself she was a woman but a strong one. I’d listen to her talk to the country without skipping a beat, without a single emotional rasp in her throat.
She seemed to know what to do with the poignant moment. Her eyes, though warm, were dry and set. There she stood like a strong man with a soft voice, a Filipino standing out among thousands of others.
(I can’t recall what picture I had of Doy Laurel, Cory’s vice president, may his soul rest in peace, even though, I knew that for his part, he was man enough to stay on the wings in such a strangely heroic chapter of our time.)
I was in Cebu, not in Manila, when Edsa happened. It was a good thing we had no brownouts since it seemed as though our life, hour by hour, was on the television screen. We only took a short time to sleep a bit in that week in February 1986. It was like being in the rally with my friends.
When there was news that Marcos finally left, I went around the house ringing a small bell, hoping the neighbors would do the same. It turned out to be wrong information and it would take a few more days for Marcos to finally leave the country.
But over the phone, I also kept up with news from friends in Manila, like from the fictionist Lina Espina Moore, who prepared sandwiches at her home as her contribution to the cause, and from other friends who went to Edsa in those exceptional days.
The ones who went out to the streets and gave flowers to the soldiers were Filipinos in the true sense, as if we could measure the width, height, depth of the Filipino soul by the number of stems, the rush of leaves, the springing of flowers in one cluster of friendship in one culture.
You haven’t been reminded lately, not in the face of the political hustle, that as a people, we are loyal, respectful of human life, we’re one. Not only during the anniversary of Cory’s death.