My President Too

4 Aug

Originally published in Herword.com, August 4, 2009

kitty in yellow copy3She didn’t start out as my president.

Perhaps I was an exception, but I was the politically ignorant child of Pisay (Philippine Science High School) of the eighties, proficient in maths and sciences but absolutely lacking in savvy in the real world around me. Head burrowed in books, living a comfortably middleclass existence, I was raised to believe that status quo was the way to go. I was blind and I didn’t even know it.

And then my husband came along. My husband, student council president, was the firebrand in our batch. When the school authorities suspended some of our batch mates for a melee inside school grounds (whereas the opposing team from another school who was also involved in the brawl received much lighter sentences), he rallied all of us to the cause. We stayed out of classes for a sit-down strike. We marched around school carrying banners with slogans calling for justice and equal treatment. This was but a preview of what he would be when we grew up—fiercely idealistic and morally uncompromising.

magtanong sa pangulo lowres

A (right foreground) with President Aquino in "Magtanong Sa Pangulo"

If my husband was politically mature for our age, I was the exact opposite. We were just 18 when EDSA called to us in an unlikely revolution, and while he heeded the call of his beliefs, rushing to the streets with the rest of them and risking his life for a cause, I stayed home and studied, waiting for announcements of when school would resume. And so, when Cory Aquino was swept into power in this historic, bloodless clamor for change, he always knew she was his president.

In 1989, straight out of college, he found work as a reporter for a business paper, the same paper he still works for today. As a rookie scribe, his assignments brought him to witness the inner workings of Congress and, shortly after, Malacañang, This was his last and most important coverage as a reporter, entering the Palace grounds on the second half of Mrs. Aquino’s term as president. (When Mrs. Aquino’s term ended, he was promoted to sub-editor/section editor.)

press corp officers lowres

A (second to the left) in Malacañang Press Corps Officers oathtaking

I was in medical school at that time. Occasionally, he would bring me to the press office in Kalayaan Hall where I met his friends and colleagues in the Malacañang Brat Pack. The night a major storm paralyzed most of the city with waist-deep floods in 1991, he and I sought shelter in Kalayaan Hall, where Mrs. Aquino sent all of us “storm refugees” pandesal and sardines to tide us over for the night. He brought me with him when the press corps was invited to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, acting as his photographer and alalay (assistant) in one. I was thrilled, of course, to meet the President in person and in less formal circumstances. She was a gracious host, sincere and warmhearted. Contrary to expectations of what public officials would be, she was interested in people and made an effort to find out who we were, even with the short time given to all of us. When she found out I was studying to be a doctor, she gave me a soft pat on the back. It wasn’t difficult at all to respect and like her.

tools fo a journalist lowrescopy

An old point-and-shoot film camera, a microcasette recorder, pen and paper-these were the tools of his trade then.

My husband loved being a journalist, even at a time when laptops were still not widely used and he had to send stories meticulously written in longhand. (His record number of stories in one day: 15!) And if he loved what he did, it was because he had such a deep respect for the subject he covered. Mrs. Aquino was his president, the one he stood for and with on the streets of EDSA, the one he bet his life on amid the tanks and soldiers of the powers-that-be, and, for better or worse, he stood firm in his beliefs that she was an extraordinary individual in an extraordinary time. And, indeed, she was.

At a period in history when honesty and virtue were in great demand in government, she supplied it with a life lived by example. For one who had already lost so much, for one who had been violently stripped of any semblance of normalcy and peace in life, and for one who had been thrust in the eye of the storm, she was an amazingly brave and selfless person. Years after she left the presidency, she lived a life of quiet dignity, albeit always cognizant of her role as social conscience to her people.

On Wednesday, August 5, 2009, we bury Corazon Aquino, wife, mother, president. To her people, however, she will always be more than the positions she once held. She was valor, integrity, and virtue personified. I weep with my husband as we mourn her passing. She was my president, too.

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One Response to “My President Too”

  1. Manggy August 4, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    Thank you for sharing yours and A’s story, Kittymama. I was born during Marcos’s regime, but Cory was the first president I’d ever known. I even vaguely remember campaigning for her… (though probably not EDSA- there was no way to tell it would be safe for me to be there at 4 years old…)

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