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Aug 03

The Long View: Nothing greater than the people themselves

The Long View
Nothing greater than the people themselves
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:41:00 08/03/2009

When news came of Cory Aquino’s passing, the date on which she died reminded me of what the other president who also died on the first day of August told his wife, to prepare her for the inevitable. “When I die,” Manuel L. Quezon told his wife, “remember that I will belong to the country.” And so it was that his widow in her lifetime acceded to the pomp of a state funeral twice, in Arlington in 1944 and Manila in 1946; and to the selection of his ultimate resting place, though he was finally laid to rest there only in 1979, after a third state funeral.

By these means the rituals of a president’s passing became established precedents followed upon the death of nearly all our subsequent presidents: the proclamation of national mourning, the formation of a committee, the flags lowered to half staff, the lying-in-state in institutions associated with the former president, such as Congress, culminating in the final, somber return to the presidential palace to be placed upon a catafalque for the vigil in the Ceremonial Hall; and the final procession, with muffled drums, massed bands, soldiers marching in slow, measured cadences, the flag-draped coffin on a gun carriage, the pall bearers, the riderless horse with stirrups reversed, the procession and solemn interment at high noon, volleys fired in a final salute, the mournful playing of taps.

But for Cory Aquino, there will be no state funeral, which has caused either puzzlement or even opposition in some quarters. Aren’t the honors of state bestowed not just as a mark of final respect for a person, a former head of state, but in recognition of the intrinsic importance of the office itself? Doesn’t she belong to the country as much as her bereaved family?

One has to distinguish between the official courtesies, acts of commemoration and recognition that are the Republic’s to bestow, and those that may be offered but which may be accepted, declined, or modified in accordance with the sensibilities and wishes of a former president’s family.

For in truth, there is a fundamentally practical aspect to a state funeral, and that is, that it is the state that takes on the burden of defraying the costs involved. The first question a former president’s family must make, is whether they believe it is appropriate to accept the state’s offer to bear those costs.

Even if the decision is yes, the actual details, while undertaken in reference to the past, would always be in accordance with the wishes of the former president’s family. The obsequies can be as elaborate, or as simple, as either provided for by the late president personally or as expressed by his or her spouse and children. The lying-in-state in the Palace, the riderless horse, all these are expected, but never required; their appropriateness in every individual case involves as much what the nation itself expects by way of final commemoration as it does dusty old precedents.

There are things, however, that are done in accordance with the dignity of the position once held by a former president, and which do not require either the consent of, or consultation with, the family of the departed. The proclamation of a period of mourning, for example, is one. Its duration is fixed by law, and carries with it the national flag being lowered to half staff for the duration – for it is in this manner that a nation marks the passing of lives and of epochs in our history.

So, too, does that noble tradition of the Armed Forces – to mark the passing of a former commander in chief, with volleys to mark sunrise and sunset, with the every-half-hour firing of a solitary artillery piece in between – punctiliously mark the ascension and passing of its commanders; thus is esprit de corps sustained; and in this manner all reminded that all ranks belong to an institution subordinate to civilian leadership.

The cannons boomed out in salute in the camps in which Ninoy had once been imprisoned; it was, to my mind, an act of atonement for the imprisonment of her husband; for by commemorating her, our soldiers paid tribute to all that she stood for – Ninoy, his core values, his insisting on a higher power than that of the same guns that had once silenced our laws and tried to silence him.

Her husband was buried in a manner that required courage of every Filipino who participated in the wake and the funeral. She will be buried in sentimental but joyful commemoration of the redemption that sacrifice achieved. In 1983, Filipinos took it upon themselves, in the face of official hostility and indifference, to lower the flags to mourn Ninoy; in 2009 the flags came down by virtue of a law passed by a Congress Cory had restored.

The state, then, was not thwarted; an honor guard, rendering arrival and departure honors, and holding vigil, are testimony to the nation’s official regard. But as Cory Aquino lived, so she remains in death: having accepted only the barest minimum in terms of the honors of state, because she only held the position to accomplish the transition back to democracy, and doing so with a scrupulous regard not to burden the public purse with fuss over her person.

For Cory, the presidency had always been a means to an end, not a means in itself; so it is truly fitting she will be laid to rest with nothing more than what she’d started out with, as a widow: a nation by her side, united in grief, and in a manner that ultimately manifests the power of the people and not of whoever happens to comprise today’s officialdom.

So she will be laid to rest, with nothing beyond what her husband received from family and public: their small tokens of sympathy and commemoration; their time, and prayers – all of which are not the state’s, but only the public’s, to bestow. We must never forget where Cory had been so many times before – alone, despised, shunned and actively thwarted by officialdom and its lackeys, then and now. It was only the public that, then and now, kept faith with Cory as she had kept faith with Ninoy.

17 comments

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  1. DonVito B. Valle

    Long live this commoner’s wife whose humble spirit has set us, her adopted children, aflame with patriotic zeal!

  2. Carl

    Published in the NY Times on August 1, 2009 as some kind of obituary:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/opinion/02opclassic_aquino.html

  3. taxj

    The Filipinos love Cory, and they showed it with much fervor. They love the country too, no doubt about it. When will they show it? How?

  4. beatrixpg

    manolo, the song played during the procession to the altar was “Air” on the G String by JS Bach

  5. Mike H

    Too bad that the Aquino children (were so fixated on the person GMA) that they denied the country to a CoryAquino a state funeral.

  6. Mike H

    Kris/Noynoy did not see that it was the President of the Republic of the Philippines that offered a state funeral for a former President of the Republic of the Philippines.

  7. supremo

    The flag is not even at half-mast?

  8. PhilwoSpEditor

    Supremo, where has the flag not been at half mast??? if Malacanang, the hypocrites…

    Cory was… imperfect, but nonetheless a mother to many of us. Without her courage, perhaps, I would not be able to lift my pen, because of fear. Thus, I owe my writing to her.

    Farewell… [I believe that it was the right thing to refuse a state funeral, under a government who has been blinded of the people, a people Cory loved.]

  9. pilipino

    “Funeral ng Masa” is always better than State Funeral.

  10. Marcial

    Mahirap, mayaman, bata, matanda, negosyante, ordinaryong manggagawa, halos lahat ng uri ng mamamayang Pilipino ay nagbibigay respeto sa yumaong Pangulong Cory Aquino pero nasaan ang mga artista? Hindi ba nila kayang makihalobilo sa mga ordinaryong mamamayang Pilipino? May sarili ba silang daigdig? Hindi ba sila Pilipino? Nasaan ang mga artitstang ito? Hindi ba nila kayang pumila na kasama ang mga mahihirap na amoy basura? Ang mga mamamayang Pilipino ay nagtitiyagang maulanan, maarawan, maghintay ng ilang oras sa pila maipadama lang nila ang pakikiramay sa Pangulong Cory Aquino na isinakrispisyo ang sarili para sa kalayaan na ating tinatamasa ngayon at kasama silang mga nasa Show Business ang nakikinabang ngayon sa kalayaang ito pero nasaan sila bakit hindi namin sila makita sa lansangan para makisama sa nagkakaisang mamamayang Pilipino. Kung si Ayala ay bumaba sa kanyang marangyang opisina sa makati at nakisalamuha sa mga ordinaryong manggagawa bakit hindi magawa ng mga artista, nasaan sila? Nagtatanong lang po?

  11. Tomastabak

    taxj re:They love the country too, no doubt about it. When will they show it? How? Ans: Now. How? For starters, amend Article XVII Sec.2 of the 1987 Constitution to read: Any amendment to, or revision of the Constitution… This way the People’s Initiative would be on par with the two modes of doing Cha-Cha namely: a Constituent Assembly or a Constitutional Convention. In honor of President Aquino’s passing let’s do our constitution right.

  12. Norman Sison

    So well put, Manolo.

  13. Lilit Reyes

    WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?

    To the children of the 21st century
    who are wondering why this yellow fever is all around you now:

    There will be more colors to choose from.
    I wonder what color will symbolize the battles you still have to wage.

    Ours was a color to dethrone an overstaying dictator.
    But we never finished the fight.
    The age-old problems which our parents fought for,
    remained in our generation, and will continue into your older years.

    The fundamentals are sadly, still there.
    The roots of all inequality, and the effects of
    a republican form of rule, flawed or evolving,
    borrowed from other charters, or cured for
    a transitory period of time, are yours to analyze,
    and revise. according to what this nation needs,
    or what you think is feasible in your time.

    Look back, to as far as our pre-colonial history,
    and trace the evolution of our problems.
    It will provide more clues, more than seeing
    a revival of yellow ribbons all around you.

    Look ahead, and get out of the smaller picture.
    After seeing what this nation went through,
    look at our country’s role in the wider world.

    Blame not, but do more,
    to make your history.

    But don’t forget to seek for justice.
    We forgive too easily and forget.
    And the errant ones remain free.

    Look around, and see all the poverty around you.
    You will notice there’s something wrong, and why the Gap remains the same,
    ever since Spain ruled us, ever since Presidents came and went.

    Fear not, if another self-serving leader tries to steal away
    your liberties. It may take fast, or slow, for you to unite,
    and stand as one, but like us, we waited, and we did
    fight.

    This is not about the death of a leader.
    This is actually a reminder of how you’ll live in the future.
    This is about you. This is not just another festival
    of what we used to be, but a refresher on what we all should be,
    and where we should be going from here.

    We thought we were on our way to a better place.
    We are sorry we didn’t fight as much and became complacent after 1986.

    Weep not for a leader, but for the whole nation.
    And yes, keep praying, for we have seen how faith can move mountains.

    And get inspiration not just from Cory Aquino, but also from others
    who fought, even died, to keep this nation free.

    There’s no more foreign invader to fight.
    There’s no more despot to unseat, for now.

    We have to fight for ourselves now.
    We have to think of others who fight everyday
    to survive, and have three meals a day.

    Look inside, then when you find your core,
    start the fight.

    And yes, have an icon, for people to understand,
    see, and spread, like our yellow ribbon.

    It may not be a ribbon, it may not be yellow.
    But for sure, it will be something meaningful to
    your ideals and your dreams.

    May God bless this nation now, and its children’s tomorrow.

  14. Carl

    Nice one, Lilit Reyes! We really have to fight for ourselves, not be so personality oriented.

  15. baycas

    gloria facing Tita Cory’s remains, a good photo-op:

    The epitome of INTEGRITY is lying in state…

    While the opposite is INTEGRALLY in a state of lying!

  16. taxj

    Lilit Reyes: Weep not for a leader, but for the whole nation.

    – Yes. I weep not for Cory. She fought our battles for us even when she doesn’t have to. She will get her just rewards. She is probably in a much better place now than where she had ever been to.

    I weep for the whole nation. We were nowhere to be found when she called upon Gloria to resign. We did not do our job then, and we will not do it now. Instead, we will look for one who will take her place, and we will find none.

    I weep for the whole nation. We are losers, and we deserve to be so.

  17. SoP

    “#taxj on Tue, 4th Aug 2009 9:58 pm

    Lilit Reyes: Weep not for a leader, but for the whole nation.

    – Yes. I weep not for Cory…I weep for the whole nation…I weep for the whole nation.”

    So is this literal or figurative weeping? Don’t bother answering. It’s a rhetorical question invoked to highlight your wussiness.

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