Former President Corazon “Tita Cory" Aquino passes away at 76

July 31, 2009 11:46 pm 

MANILA, Aug. 1 –- Democracy icon former President Corazon C. Aquino passed away Saturday at 3:18 a.m. at the Makati Medical Center in Makati City. She was 76 years old.

Tita Cory, as she was called by Filipinos, died 20 days before the 26th anniversary of the 1083 assassination of her husband, former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

She died of cardiac respiratory arrest, according to a text message from one of President Aquino's close relatives.

Her untimely demise was announced by her immediate family members, supporters and close friends, including former Press Undersecretary Lourdes "Deedee" Siytangco, niece Rina Concio-Quinto and businessman Gerry Chua of Eng Bee Tin Corporation.

The former President is survived by her five children: son Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III, who was elected to the Philippine Senate in 2007; and four daughters, Maria Elena A. Cruz, Aurora Corazon A. Abellada, Victoria Eliza A. Dee, and actress-television host Kristina Bernadette A. Yap.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has extended her deepest regrets and sympathies to the Aquino family.

She likewise declared a 10-day period of national mourning following the demise of the former president and democracy icon.

"The entire nation mourns for a great leader. We will have a 10-day mourning for former President Aquino," said President Arroyo in a statement from Washington, D.C., USA.

Mrs. Aquino had a bout with cancer in the colon and underwent medical treatment at the Makati Medical Center (MMC).

"We're so sad. We didn't know the exact time she died but we heard (it) from our cousins," Rina Concio-Quinto told the Philippines News Agency (PNA) in a text message.

María Corazón Cojuangco-Aquino was born María Corazón Sumulong Cojuangco on January 25, 1933. She was widely known as Cory Aquino and became the 11th President of the Philippines, serving from 1986 to 1992.

A faithful Roman Catholic, Mrs. Aquino was the first female President of the Philippines and also Asia's first female President.

She is a world-renowned advocate of democracy, peace, women empowerment, and religious piety.

She was an auxiliary member of the Legion of Mary (LoM), the largest apostolic organization of lay people in the Catholic Church, with over three million active members in almost every country of the world.

The LoM has been active in the United States and in the Philippines since 1931. It has been approved by the last six Popes, and was endorsed by the Second Vatican Council.

The main purpose of the Legion of Mary is to give glory to God through the sanctification of its members.

Until her senior years, Mrs. Aquino lived a private life of a citizen-housewife at No. 25 Times Street, Barangay West Triangle, Diliman, Quezon City. On several occasions, she would appear in public engagements expressing what she felt in the bureaucracy.

The Aquino residence was also a mute witness to history in August 1983 when people from all walks of life lined up two blocks to view the remains of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who was assassinated allegedly by a certain Rolando Galman.

On March 24, 2008, the Aquino family announced that the former President had been diagnosed with colon cancer.

Mrs. Aquino underwent chemotherapy, and in public remarks made on May 13, 2008, she announced that blood tests indicated she was responding positively to the medical treatment.

The relatively peaceful manner by which Mrs. Aquino assumed the presidency through the EDSA Revolution won her widespread international acclaim as an icon of democracy.

She was selected as Time Magazine's Woman of the Year in 1986. She was also nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize but lost to Elie Wiesel in 1986.

In September 1986, Mrs. Aquino delivered a speech before a joint session of the United States Congress which was applauded several times. Then U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill hailed Mrs. Aquino's speech as "the finest speech I've ever heard in my 34 years in Congress."

After her presidency, Mrs. Aquino retired to private life. When she rode away from the inauguration of her successor, she chose to go in a simple white Toyota Crown she had purchased (rather than the government-issued Mercedes Benz), to point out that she was once again an ordinary citizen.

The white Toyota Crown was later replaced by a white Carnival car which she took with during Sunday Mass at the Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish Church in Barangay West Triangle, Diliman, Quezon City.

Mrs. Aquino led the PinoyME Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists microfinance institutions through the provision of loans.

She also managed social welfare and scholarship assistance projects through the Benigno S. Aquino Foundation, and good governance advocacy through the EDSA People Power Commission, and the People Power Movement.

Mrs. Aquino was likewise a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.

The former President was skilled in painting and fond of giving her own paintings as gifts to her close friends and acquaintances, including world leaders, diplomats, and corporate executives.

The six-year administration of former President Aquino saw the enactment of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and several significant legal reforms, including a new agrarian reform law.

While her allies maintained a majority in both Houses of Congress, she faced considerable opposition from communist insurgency and right-wing soldiers who instituted several coup attempts against her administration.

Her administration also dealt with several major natural disasters that struck the Philippines, as well as a severe power crisis that hampered the growth of the Philippine economy.

It was also during her administration that the presence of United States military bases in the Philippines came to an end.

A self-proclaimed "plain housewife," Mrs. Aquino was the widow of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., a leading figure in the political opposition against the autocratic rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

After her husband was assassinated upon his return from self-exile in the United States on August 21, 1983, Mrs. Aquino, who had no prior political experience, became a focal point and unifying force of the opposition against Marcos.

She was drafted to run against Marcos in the 1986 snap presidential elections. After Marcos was proclaimed the winner despite widespread reports of electoral fraud, Mrs. Aquino was installed as President by the peaceful 1986 People Power Revolution.

Corazon Cojuangco was born in Tarlac, a member of one of the richest Chinese-mestizo families in the Philippines. She was born to Jose Cojuangco of Tarlac province and Demetria Sumulong of Antipolo, Rizal.

Her ancestry was one-eighth Tagalog in maternal side, one-eighth Kapampangan and one-fourth Spanish in her paternal side, and half-Chinese in both maternal and paternal sides.

She is the fourth among six siblings: Pedro, Josephine Reyes, Teresita Lopa, Jose Jr., and Maria Paz Teopaco. She was sent to St. Scholastica's College Manila and finished grade school as class valedictorian in 1943.

In 1946, she studied high school for one year in Assumption Convent Manila. Later, she was sent overseas to study in Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia (where Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco once studied), the Notre Dame Convent School in New York, and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, also in New York.

Cory worked as a volunteer in the 1948 United States presidential campaign of Republican Thomas Dewey against President Harry Truman. She studied liberal arts and graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts degree major in French Language and minor in Mathematics. She intended to become a math teacher and language interpreter.

Mrs. Aquino returned to the Philippines to study law at the Far Eastern University, owned by the family of the late Nicanor Reyes Sr., the father-in-law of her older sister Josephine.

She gave up her law studies when in 1954, she married Benigno Servillano "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., the son of a former Speaker of the National Assembly.

Mrs. Aquino initial had difficulty adjusting to provincial life when she and her husband moved to Concepcion, Tarlac in 1955, after her husband had been elected as the town's mayor at the age of 22.

The American-educated Aquino found herself bored in Concepcion, welcoming opportunities when she and her husband would have dinner inside the American military facility at nearby Clark Field.

A member of the Liberal Party, Aquino's husband rose to be governor of Tarlac, and was elected to the Philippine Senate in 1967.

During her husband's political career, Mrs. Aquino remained a housewife who helped raise the children and played hostess to her spouse's political allies who would frequent their Quezon City home.

She would decline to join her husband on stage during campaign rallies, preferring instead to stand at the back of the audience in order to listen to him. Nonetheless, she was consulted upon on political matters by her husband, who valued her judgment enormously.

Ninoy Aquino soon emerged as a leading critic of the administration of then President Ferdinand Marcos of the Nacionalista Party, and there was wide speculation that he would run in the 1973 presidential elections.

However, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, and abolished the 1935 Constitution, allowing him to remain in office. Mrs. Aquino's husband was among those arrested at the onset of martial law, later being sentenced to death.

During his incarceration, Ninoy Aquino drew strength from prayers, attending daily mass and saying three rosaries a day.

As a measure of sacrifice, she enjoined her children from attending parties, and herself stopped from going to the beauty salon or buying new clothes, until a priest advised her and her children to instead live a normal life as possible.

In 1978, despite her initial opposition, Mrs. Aquino's imprisoned husband decided to run in the 1978 Batasang Pambansa elections.

Mrs. Aquino campaigned in behalf of her imprisoned husband and for the first time in her life, delivered a political speech, though she willingly relinquished having to speak in public when it emerged that her then six-year-old daughter Kris was more than willing to speak on stage.

In 1980, upon the intervention of United States President Jimmy Carter, Marcos allowed Senator Aquino and his family leave for exile in the United States.

The family settled in Boston, and Mrs. Aquino had called the next three years as the happiest days of her married life.

Ninoy returned without his family to the Philippines on August 21, 1983, only to be assassinated at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, which was later renamed in his honor.

Mrs. Aquino returned to the Philippines a few days later and led her husband's funeral rites, where more than two million people were estimated to have participated, the biggest ever in Philippine history.

From 1986 to 1989, Mrs. Aquino was confronted with a series of attempts (23) and military interventions by some members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, aimed to overthrow the Aquino government.

Most of these attempts were instigated by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), a group of middle-ranking officers closely linked with then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.

Soldiers loyal to former President Marcos were likewise involved in some of these attempts. The first five of the attempts were either crushed before they were put in operation, or repelled with minimal or no violence.

The sixth attempt, staged on August 28, 1987, left 53 people dead and over 200 wounded, including Aquino's son, Noynoy. The seventh and final attempt, which occurred throughout the first week of January, 1989, ended with 99 dead (including 50 civilians) and 570 wounded.

The coup attempts would collectively impair the Aquino government, even though it survived, as it indicated political instability, an unruly military, and diminished the confidence of foreign investors in the Philippine economy.

The 1989 coup alone resulted in combined financial losses of between P800 million and P1 billion. (PNA)

V3/JCA

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