I wasn’t an ardent fan of Cory at the beginning, I was an ardent critic. I came from the ranks of the red rather than the yellow, and looked at the world from the prism of that color. It got so that in one program Kris Aquino invited me to (I don’t know if she remembers this), she took me to task for it. It was an Independence Day show, and during one break, Kris turned to me and said: “Why are you so mean to my mom?”
I was, to put it mildly, taken aback. It’s not easy finding a clever answer to an accusation like that put with breathtaking candor. I just flashed what I thought would be a disarming smile. I don’t know if it disarmed.
What can I say? Maybe I’m just naturally mean. Or maybe I just say what I mean and mean what I say.
Years later, when the world had turned, and not for the better, I got an unexpected phone call. Cory was at the other end, which awed me. She said she was calling just to express her appreciation for something I had written about her. I do not now recall what it was. What I recall was mumbling something about not being the best person to say those things in light of what I had been saying before. She said that wasn’t true: I was the best person to say those things because of what I had been saying before.
I appreciated the appreciation.
Still years later, I would have cause to appreciate yet one more thing. That was February this year when, from out of the blue, Cory visited at the wake of my mother. I did not bother to ask, “Why are you so kind to my mom?” I knew by then it was her nature to be so.
She stayed for about an hour, and did much of the talking. Boy, could she talk! I didn’t know that before. But I’ve always been a good listener. She talked, I listened. What we talked about is best left for another time. But afterward, I thought: What strange directions life takes. What strange forks, detours, and crossings life takes.
I’ve seen activists who began by serving the people, or exhorting the world to, end up serving only themselves. And I’ve seen students who thought only of saving their families end up saving the world, or trying to. I’ve seen the best and the brightest turn only into the worst and greediest. And I’ve seen someone who was walang alam, or who was made out to be so, teach the world a thing or two about honor and courage and grace.
Maybe it’s not so strange that people who start out being enemies on grounds of principle end up being friends on those same grounds. And people who start out being friends without principle end up being enemies on that same ground.
I wondered, like someone who had come back to where he started and saw the place for the first time: Maybe colors are there to unite us more than separate us. Maybe red is just the blood that pulses in the veins in love and war. Maybe yellow is just the pages of a letter from a loved one that magically bring him back to life. Maybe blue is just the sky, however cloudy, when looked at through the bars of a prison cell. Maybe green is just fields promising plenitude. Maybe black is just the tangle of our fate, the twists and turns of our life, as we grope our way forward. Maybe white is just the grace to push on, amid the darkness.
I wondered with the wisdom of innocence and the naivete of age: Maybe we’re divided only into good people and bad people. How people are so, or become so, I’ll leave others to divine. Maybe they are just born that way, maybe like scorpions they sting because it is in their nature to sting. Or maybe they are made that way, as much by the circumstances that mold their character as their character that molds their circumstances. But bad people are there; we know that only too well. Just as well, good people are there too; we know that even more so.
We know the latter because we had someone walk with us who was so. Someone who was so disinterested in power she accepted it gravely as a matter of duty and gave it up gracefully as a matter of trust, for which she remains an awesome force even in death. Someone who, while she lived, showered not very small kindnesses on others in their hour of need or bereavement, having known bereavement herself and the comfort of empathy as much as the empathy of comfort, for which she continues to live with us even in death. Someone who proved once before as Joan of Arc and who will prove once again like El Cid the terrifying and wondrously prophetic vision of her faith: The exalted shall be humbled and the humble exalted.
In life and in death, Cory has been—pardon my French—one damn good person.
Good persons of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your bane.
Two more very good and touching eulogies were those by Teddy Locsin and Mel Mamaril.
From Teddy Boy Locsin, Cory Aquino’s former speech writer:
Because she doubted my capacity for self-reformation, she made it effortless for me by being herself. I did not notice that I was doing right by serving a woman who never did wrong. I am not sure how to take this moral self-discovery. It is so unlike myself. But if it will bring me before her again, I am happy.
More on Jessica Zafra’s blog.
To me, the most touching eulogy was that of Cory’s close-in security of 23 years, Mel Mamaril. After his eulogy, he gave the flag-draped coffin of “Ma’am Cory” a salute for the last time.
Inspector Mel Mamaril, Aquino’s security detail, recalled one afternoon, in 1998, shortly after she had become Citizen Cory, “we arrived at her home after coming from her painting lessons in Forbes Park, Makati.” When they arrived, there was no food for the household help and Cory prepared the food and served them herself.
“She takes care of people around her no matter how big or small. She didn’t treat us like employees but she treated us like a mother who took care of her children.”
Even when she was very sick, Cory “was always very concerned about us,” he said. (Business Mirror)
“Nahihirapan na nga sa kanyang sakit, kami pa rin ang iniisip.”