I was then a new journalist when I first saw Corazon Aquino in person. It was 2003, twelve years since she had stepped down from the presidency. She spoke about her decision not to engage involved in partisan politics by endorsing a candidate in the 2004 elections. Instead, she spoke about something more important and more lasting –empowering Filipinos through her advocacy on micro-finance. She looked at this advocacy as part of her legacy. Although no one knew when she would join Our Lord in heaven, she said she wanted to work on legacy projects because she would be later on called to what she called the “departure lounge”.
Cory had gone to the departure lounge, and now, she has left us.
That story did not really make it to the news, but it was one of the very few times I was starstruck with a personality I covered. How could I not be starstruck? It was during the time of Cory when I first became aware of politics, the problems of the country, and the challenges of a restored democracy? It was during this time when the seeds of journalism (and now, citizen journalism) were planted in my mind.
Truth be told, I did not always agree with her politics. And more people would even say that her administration was filled with false hopes and unfulfilled promises. Perhaps there were too many expectations of her presidency.
But certainly, her work and legacy will not be overlooked. Presidents can always brag about specific accomplishments: economic progress, infrastructure, peace and order. So what is Cory’s greatest accomplishment?
Obviously, it is the democracy we have and enjoy today. Cory’s biggest legacy is its restoration in 1986, the revival of vital democratic institutions, the peaceful transition of power, people empowerment through democracy, a free press, the 1987 constitution, and her unwavering stand against corruption.
Unfortunately, those in power would overlook the need to strengthen our democracy and its related institutions. Instead, many of those in power are weakening it with their acts.
As we grieve and mourn the passing of a worldwide icon and symbol of democracy, Cory is now able to accomplish one more thing — a unifying call to truly empower this country by working to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, to fight corruption. We are all now called to live the spirit of EDSA and pass it on to generations to come. The call now is for all of us to live the true spirit of people power.
Cory may be gone, but she will continue to live in our hearts. She and her legacy will continue to live as long as democracy thrives in this country. May we live up to the challenge of keeping her legacy alive.
And to President Cory Aquino, the whole nation is behind you. Hindi ka nag-iisa. Maraming salamat at paalam.