Saturday, August 08, 2009
HOW DOES ONE SAY “THANK YOU”?
I am going and you can’t stop me!” I was 18 years old then. I stood in front of my Dad defiantly and repeated that I was going to EDSA with or without him. With that, I marched out of the house, with only one 5-peso bill tucked between the pages of a pocketbook I was reading at that time, a bottle of tap water, a towel and my school ID, just in case …
My mind was in turmoil, trying to figure out how I could get to Ortigas Avenue from Quezon City. I was halfway out of the gate when Daddy ran out after me and told me to wait for him. His concern for his headstrong daughter overcame whatever trepidation he may have had about going to EDSA on that day.
With public transport practically non-existent, we walked from our home all the way to Muñoz Market and hitched a ride to Cubao. Again we walked to Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame.
And glad that he went, Daddy was! Those days in EDSA proved to be the most triumphant days we’ve ever had. We survived on shared food and slept on the ground. We joined fellow Filipinos as we chanted the name of Cory until our voices became hoarse. We scampered for cover whenever helicopter gunships would come into view or when word about nearby loyalist troops would reach us. But stayed we did. In our minds at that time, if worse came to worst, we would stand our ground.
We were in EDSA when the first of those gunships landed in Camp Crame. Oh! The jubilation as we witnessed one land after another and we realized that they have come to “our” side. We shouted with joy and Daddy danced in the street! We laughed and hugged each other and together, we all prayed. Laban signs flashed all over.
We were in EDSA when news of the Marcoses’ flight reached the people. We were in EDSA when Corazon C. Aquino was sworn in as President of the Philippines.
Those were the heady days of EDSA, when after years of darkness, we finally saw the sun again.I have never been more proud of being a Filipino than in those days when we amazed the world … timid Filipinos finally rising up to topple a dictatorship in a way never before seen in history. I have never loved our country as much as I loved the Philippines then. All that love, that hope and optimism, all that pride of our accomplishment as a people, I directed them all to President Cory. How I loved and respected her. I hanged on to her every word, scanned the papers for the latest news about her, and had my heart almost bursting with pride each time she went abroad .. that little, bespectacled housewife in yellow, receiving the world’s accolade, standing shoulder to shoulder with its greatest leaders.
But reality soon caught up with us Filipinos. The President started getting criticized by people who expected too much, too soon. But I stayed by her side, my faith unwavering. I believed in her and knew that what the people had expected from her was too much for anybody to ever achieve. Twenty years of looting could not be undone in one or two years.
In the years that followed however, as President Cory faded from the national center stage, I became guilty of forgetting her. I became cynical again, weary of politics and blasphemous of anything nationalistic. To me, she eventually became simply the ever-supportive mother of Kris Aquino. I’d see her in the news occasionally, espousing one cause or another, and the most thought I’d spare her had been, “she’s too old to be doing that” or “she is better off staying home”.
News of her illness barely moved me as well. My reaction had been more of personal concern over the indiscriminate reach of cancer.
Then one day, as I was driving towards my daughter’s school, I caught a glimpse of a newspaper headline. It blared: “Cory fighting for her life!” I choked as if my entire heart just went up my throat and tears started falling. I could barely see the road. My beloved President Cory was dying! Everything that I ever felt for her came rushing back. I was beside myself with grief.
And now she is gone, that lone ray of hope that guided us Filipinos out of the darkness. She is gone, that shining example of how every Filipino, every person, every woman, every mother, and every leader should be. Bundled all together in her small frame was the purest form of integrity and humility, selfless service, strength of conviction, and indestructible faith in God. Now that she is gone, who else will show us how we should be?
And how do we say “Thank You” to President Cory for the person that she was? How do we say “Thank You” for giving herself so selflessly to us? How do we say “Thank You” for that hope that she inspired, for that fierce pride that she made us feel, for that intense love of country that she gave us?
How do we say thank you to a beloved? How do we say goodbye?