A Cory letter

This piece came out in the Business World on August 18, 2009, pages S1/4 to S1/5.

Dear Tita Cory:

Two events in August ensure I remember you from here on — your passing on August 1 and Ninoy’s assassination on August 21. They will come each year, and I will ask my soul each time: Who are you to me?

In the 1986 elections I dropped my business, joined Namfrel, and trained volunteers in District 2 of Quezon City just so your votes would be counted correctly.

After you became President in 1986, I put up a new business because I believed in you and trusted that your leadership would turn the country around.

In every coup attempt against your presidency I prayed for your survival, and, after every coup attempt, I wondered from where came your lady-like strength to subdue armed soldiers overwhelmed by hate, greed, and lust for power.

But the sun passing overhead from day to day turns all that is wonderful and beautiful into faded memories.

And so, in recent years when you asked GMA to resign, I said to myself, “Ano, nandiyan ka pa pala!” And when you marched with nuns to Fort Bonifacio to go between feuding soldiers and to pray for peace, I whispered, “Bahala ka!”

When people in government vilified you for your cha-cha position, I murmured, “Eh, kasi, nakiki-alam ka pa!” When you marched in the streets to support those who had the courage to fight government corruption, I whimpered, “Hay naku, martsa na naman!”

The hope and love of country which Ninoy and you had planted in me in the 1980s turned into cynicism, apathy, and frustration in the 2000s.

Why does it take death to appreciate the value of a loved one?

Why does it take only death to shake the soul and bring to clear focus what is invisible — truth, justice, and freedom?

Now I have turned a full circle. Once again, yellow is the ribbon color that marks my car and I am moved by emotions of love, hope, and gratitude!

But as the same sun passes me from day to day, I now wonder for how long.

Damdamin is a tricky thing. It ebbs and flows like the tide. Unless it is converted into goals, technology, and action, the flow of Damdamin loses its surge and another flow takes over.
Democracy is also a tricky thing. It is as ephemeral as the river flow.

Each water drop is unique, differing from the rest, reflecting freedom in perfection. And yet, though there may be beauty in each water drop, it carries no power.

Truly water drops are a source of power, but they must join others to form rivers, and rivers must be restrained to form a dam, and a dam constructed to provide power, irrigation, livelihood, and protection for people.

In the same way, democracy is a powerful force. But if it is not institutionalized and it fails to transform the lives of people, then what is democracy for?

Why, these are thoughts so well demonstrated by your life and love!

But how does one institutionalize democracy as a way of life?

The answer lies in the way you and Ninoy have lived your lives: first, self-transformation, then leaders-transformation, then people-transformation. One step at a time. With patient endurance.

This explains why people impatient with reforms misunderstood you and called you, “Walang alam!”

Inner transformation is the most difficult because it is the simplest of all like water drops.

Why indeed did I believe in you when you, a frail housewife, rallied our people in the funeral wake of Ninoy, united our people in the EDSA People Power, formed a revolutionary government, pushed for the approval of the 1987 Freedom Constitution?

Here is an answer given — moral ascendancy.

What made you endure the treachery among your people, the armed struggle from both the left whom you freed and from the right who rode on the crest of your popularity, as well as the vilification from the free but impatient press?

How did you succeed in not allowing to get into your head the adulation of the members of the US Congress as you held them spellbound with your address?

What qualities describe young and old people who faced tanks on their way to Aguinaldo at the risk of losing their lives?

Now, these constitute the spirit that brings about inner transformation, and it goes beyond the easy words “moral ascendancy.”

I have my answer — love, peace, joy, generosity, humility, kindness, faithfulness, patient endurance, and self control.

Now people would say, what simplification! No heavy and impressive words!
Like you, Tita Cory, just a plain housewife!

Yet this set of nine marks is nothing new, as they were written by the inspired St. Paul in Galatians 5:22 almost 2,000 years ago to distinguish the true Christian from the rest.
These features characterize your life’s highs and lows. They describe not just the quality of your being but more so the quality of your action.

You serve to me as the model for these nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, the marks by which the branch is known to abide truly by the vine.

And I know that, if I must do my share in building democracy as a family man, as a businessman, as a member of my community, I must now manifest these nine fruits of the Holy Spirit in my life as you did in your life. ‘

As you go, Ina ng Bayan, I bid you not Paalam but welcome to my life!

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