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Sunday, August 2, 2009

After Cory by Patricia Evangelista

Sa pagkamatay ni Cory marami ang nagbibigay ng kanilang mga pahayag at pasasalamat. Marami rin ang nagbigay ng kanilang mga papuri at parangal. Mayroon din namang nagpapahayag ng kanilang personal na opinyon.

Sa patuloy nating pakikiisa sa paggunita sa buhay at kamatayan ni Tita Cory narito ang isang artikulo mula kay Patricia Evangelista, "After Cory"

I was born in 1985, a slim few months before the revolution that flooded Edsa with tanks and flowers. Edsa was not my revolution. People Power is a series of grainy black-and-white photographs my grandfather pasted to an old album, a heading chalked into the blackboard in third grade history class, the yellowing reels shown in television specials. Enrile, M16 on his hip, crossing to Camp Crame protected by a horde of civilians. Ramos, carefully calm and unarmed, waiting for the bombs to fall with a cigar at the corner of his mouth. Aquino, pale and resolute, as she is sworn President of the Republic of the Philippines. I curled up in libraries with tribute after tribute, built my thesis around their narratives. At the center was the lady in yellow, all shy smiles and big glasses. I knew what sort of country I lived in, and it is perhaps why I spent hours building altars to my saints, clutching at a memory—not even mine—of one bright day when the whole world watched the Filipino stand in triumph. And I remember that other day, two years ago, when I went down from a bus at the Cojuanco and Aquino owned Hacienda Luisita, to see for myself if the saint in my imagination had the same clay feet as the men and women who ran my government.

I know how many men died during the massacre in 2005, know how the Aquino government failed to give their farmers their due, and I know how much can be laid at the feet of a dead President and her family. I had thought it would be difficult to write this today, knowing what I know of Hacienda Luisita, looking over old interviews with Federico Laza, the father who saw his son shot before his eyes. I stood at the side of a dusty white avenue in Tarlac with him, across from the Las Haciendas de Luisita Golf Course while a handful of Japanese tourists swung their clubs. The air was dry and arid, and inside Balete, one of several military detachments stood surrounded by piles of sandbags, fenced with thin bamboo poles, hedged with twisted wire threaded with crimson blossoms of bougainvillea. Until now, Federico Laza asks for justice, and until now, the Aquinos rule Hacienda Luisita.

I write this a few hours after news of her passing, not as a tribute to a saint, but as a celebration of a hero. I’ll tell you who Corazon Aquino is, not the saint, but the woman who ran a national campaign in 1986 for the presidency against a dictator. It was her candidacy that brought together a splintered opposition, and whose inspiration had thousands across the nation stuffing their precious salaries into makeshift donation cans. This is a woman, brought up to be a good wife and mother, who watched her Ninoy as he suffered in prison, who took her children halfway around the world to start a new life with a persecuted husband, who saw him in his white suit leave for the Philippines knowing he could die. This is the woman who came home to Times Street to see her husband’s face broken by bullets, the same white suit spattered with caked blood, who held the hands of her crying children, who armed herself, a reluctant fighter, to finish her husband’s last battle. This is what a hero is—the man, or woman, who is confronted by the choice to do right, and who chooses it, not because of convenience, or power, or vengeance, but because it is right. People did not fill the streets of Edsa with bodies willing to die simply because they hated Marcos. They did because they believed in a woman who stepped forward when she was called, whose very ordinariness made her choice so much more.

It is raining, and Cory Aquino is dead.

I write this to celebrate a hero. Saints are touched by the hand of God, faultless in their divinity, but they belong behind glass cases, painted eyes lit by Christmas lights, of little use in a country where every man is a sinner because he lives. Heroes make themselves. They extraordinariness is not in their perfection, but in their struggle.

In Jordan, twenty-year-old Filipina OFW Jenelyn Bacaltos recovers from stomach stab wounds and slit wrists. Jenelyn left her Carigara, Leyte home for a two-year work contract. Her employers starved her during the three weeks she was under their employ. Hers is the second suicide attempt of a Filipina OFW in the span of a month.

In Manila, a young woman named Melissa Roxas continues to deny her affiliation to the New People’s Army. Partylist Representive Jovito Palparan, known in human rights circles as the Butcher of Southern Luzon, has spent the last week attempting to prove Roxas’ ties to communist circles after she testified that the military had been behind her May 19 abduction and torture. It is one of the many times the military has attempted to justify abduction and torture with communist affiliation. In spite of their claims, they have yet to file rebellion charges against Jonas Burgos, Melissa Roxas, Raymond Manalo, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.

In the United States, the American president lavishes praise on a glowing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her support for American human rights policies, especially with respect to the Philippines’ condemnation of abuses in Burma. “American human rights” apparently do not include Filipinos.

This is the state of the nation, twenty-two years after the People Power Revolution. There is much more that has to be done, and the war can no longer be fought with a song and a prayer. But that’s for tomorrow, and for my generation.

This is what I remember now, from many years ago. The two parallel lines in yellow chalk, on the blackboard right next to the fractions. Edsa, Mrs. Chua said, this is Edsa. I did not know what Edsa was at eight, so understand that my first conception of Epifanio de los Santo Avenue was not of a road, but of a battleground. Surrounded by tanks, crowded with soldiers, crammed with millions of brave fighters, led by a woman both crusader and mother. And it was that woman, bright-smiled, soft-eyed Cory Aquino, who stayed in my mind’s eye at the ringing of the morning bell when the national anthem crackled through the school loudspeaker. Land of the morning, pearl of the east, cradle of the brave. The brave wore yellow in my imagination, yellow dresses and big glasses and had slim white hands. She loomed over my dreams long after Rainbow Brite ran out of magic stars, long after Prince Charming fell off his charger and Arthur stopped being the once and future king. It had all the flavor of magic—the ruthless enemy, the fate of the nation, the bold hero, the brave heroine, and most importantly, the necessary end: good triumphing over evil. And because it was real, it was possible.

Cory Aquino may be gone, but because she lived, I can write this today and believe that even if the dragons are still everywhere, the last dragonslayer is not dead.

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