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Forgive Me, Tita Cory August 15, 2009

Posted by Maddog in Politics and Law, Religion and Social Issues.
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Cory in 1986

This article of mine appeared in Celebrity Sun.Star on August 9, 2009 (http://specials.sunstar.com.ph/entertainment/?p=952). I think it also appeared in the print edition of Sun Star Cebu on August 8, 2009

One February day 1986, somewhere on EDSA, I wondered if I would really be ready to die for my country; for freedom and democracy. Could I really? Well, it was too late to turn back. The soldiers were coming for Camp Crame.

I heard June Keithley’s voice on Radyo Bandido announcing that Marcos loyalist forces were moving in. There was more than a hint of alarm and dread in her words. This was it, I thought. The soldiers were moving in.

I felt real, mortal fear. What would I do if I were in the path of an armored car or staring at the muzzle of an assault rifle? Would I take a stand or run?

Then I heard the National Anthem over the speakers. A familiar tune to which in the past I had often onlly grudgingly gave respect. But today I realized what it stood for. I stopped at the center island of EDSA, raised my heart to God and shed tears. I guess many others were doing the same. I had never sung the Lupang Hinirang with as much fervor as I did that morning, choking with emotion and close to shaking in fear. Though we were all afraid, we took heart in that suddenly stirring martial tune. If some of us were going to die, we would at least die on our feet, standing up for our beliefs. I was a proud to be a Filipino.

And so I chose to stand with the millions of ordinary Filipinos, praying that People Power would not turn into a bloody massacre. But if it came to that, I hoped, and doubted too, that I would be ready to give up my life for my country, my people.

No rivers of blood flowed that day. The helicopters that landed at Camp Crame had joined Ramos and Enrile. The soldiers were stopped far from where I had stood with a group near the Camp Aguinaldo corner of Corinthian Gardens. Later we heard that the loyalist forces had pulled back and Ramos had the initiative. Soon after Cory took her oath of office at Club Pilipino, Marcos left the country peacefully. Our merciful God gave us the miracle of People Power.

Now, 23 years later, having survived without EDSA without actually coming close to being harmed, I wonder if I ever truly lived for them.

A Dream Betrayed

Cory goes home

Cory goes home

I never met Cory. The closest I came to her was when I was part of a security line during a campaign speech she made at the UP Diliman campus. But when Cory became President, we were filled with hope. We had done what everyone thought was impossible: unseat an entrenched and ruthless dictatorship through prayer and peaceful protest. Could we really change? Could we really dismantle the unjust and immoral structures that enslaved and tormented our people? We dared to dream that it was possible.

Six years later, we had another President, and seated through a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. Cory was no longer in Malacanang, but she continued to inspire us with her humility and dedication to the rule of law and the democratic process.

The politicians around her during her term, and those who took over in the following administrations, however, were far from inspiring. Trapos and leftist radicals scrambled for whatever power they could get. Businessmen began to lose their idealism as they were faced with an increasingly corrupt bureaucracy. Then the Marcoses returned and even managed to get themselves elected to office! Economic prosperity remained elusive and poverty continued to claim even more victims. The fiasco that was the Estrada administration was cut short by EDSA II, but Erap was replaced by our current President: an economist who became, in the eyes of many, just as corrupt and far more capable of bending the rules and staying in power.

I dared to dream of a better Philippines in 1986. That dream still lives, but it is faded, inspiring less than firm commitment. Worse, it has been battered by the treachery of my own compromises, set aside when convenience called for it, and pushed aside by the harsh realities of making a living in bad times.

But now, with Cory’s passing, I am once again confronted, and convicted, by my own betrayal. And once again the humble lady in yellow has sparked new life into the almost-forgotten dream. But I am now a 47-year-old diabetic still struggling to keep my head above the water. As Cory leaves us, I must come to terms with what I have done with her legacy.

I know I failed to give my best, and for that I owe Tita Cory, my heroine of Philippine democracy, an apology. Here it is.

Dear Tita Cory,

I am sorry for not doing all I could to make this country better, the “impossible dream” Ninoy died for and for which you so selflessly worked.

I am sorry that I had a hand in electing the corrupt and shameless administration governing our country. They help themselves to public coffers, lining their pockets with money that could have bought rice for poor children. They rob us blind. And I looked the other way too long.

I am sorry that we have heartless politicians, beholden to foreign interests, who are willing to desecrate our Constitution by pushing bills which fund abortifacient contraceptives and methods that murder the unborn. I did not speak out enough against them.

I am sorry that I have not always acted with charity and justice. I have taken advantage of those weaker than myself, putting my interests above theirs, grinding them into the dirt of their own powerlessness.

I am sorry that I have ignored the suffering of those who live in crushing poverty, forced to eat garbage, cower in the pouring rain, sleep in hovels like animals, and whose cries are not heard. I could have spoken for them much more loudly and consistently. I did not.

You did not fail the people. We failed you. From your place with the Lord, please pray that He will have mercy on us and heal our land.

Without Cory, I suddenly feel as if a firm moral anchor has been lost. I am worried for the future of our benighted nation.

Goodbye Tita Cory.

I miss you already.

Flags fly at half-mast

Flags fly at half-mast

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