On Aug. 1 this month, former President of the Philippines Corazon Aquino passed away at the age of 76. Since then, Filipinos all over the world, many of which call her “Tita Cory” or Aunt Cory, have been mourning her death — and celebrating her life.
Aquino has the distinction of being the first female president in all of Asia, not only of the Philippines. She rose to her political heights from unexpected beginnings.
A self-described “plain housewife,” Aquino came from a wealthy family and had the advantage of an education in the United States.
She studied at Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia, the Notre Dame Convent School, and the College of Mount Saint Vincent. She graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts in French Language and a minor in Mathematics.
She met her husband, Benigno Aquino, Jr., a political heavyweight in his own right, and spent the next part of her life bringing up her children and supporting him in his career. All of this was during the autocratic presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino’s husband opposed Marcos’ rule and was assassinated. After that, Aquino stepped into the spotlight and ran for presidency in snap elections. After some controversy, she emerged as the new president and Marcos was exiled. She was president from 1986 to 1992.
Aquino’s presidency saw the restoration of democratic institutions in the Philippines, a new constitution, which limited the powers of the presidency, and renewed emphasis on civil liberties. Her presidency was also plagued with coup attempts from members of the Philippines’ military.
There are some who would question how successful Aquino was in realizing her goals during her presidency because she treaded too lightly on some issues due to her wariness of instilling too much power in the presidency. Others would say that she was handed over a nation during turbulent times and did the best that she could. Others would say that just being the way she was — an earnest and unashamedly motherly president — is the reason so many Filipinos, Filipino Americans, and Asians are currently mourning her death.
Strength comes from different types of people in different forms. Aquino is an example of someone who went against her type and carved out a new definition of what is strong.
She taught Filipinos that there is strength in being a woman, in being a mother, and most important, in being empathetic and caring not only for those who have influence, but also for the disadvantaged. She elevated the Philippines into the international arena and showed the world that her country was capable of democracy.
There is much to be learned from her. ♦