Cory Through A’s Eyes

6 Aug

I had the privilege of covering President Aquino for the better part of the second half of her term, so the Cory I saw was a far more mature, far more seasoned, far more decisive, and certainly, far more sensitive chief executive than that who was swept into power on the strength of history’s most peaceful — and most profound — strike against dictatorship.

It was no surprise, therefore, that the end of Mrs. Aquino’s administration coincided with the country’s political and economic development. Repeated attempts to usurp her authority did help stunt initial efforts to progress, but, in my view, her confident gait and resolve to chuck concessions among supporters with varied interests in favor of a clearer vision directly spurred growth.

In this regard, I was fortunate to see Mrs. Aquino at her diplomatic best. The 1992 ASEAN Summit was certainly her most significant foreign trip as head of state, not counting her rousing visit to the United States at the start of her dispensation. She was still the darling of democracy when she made her way to Singapore, a role not lost on her as she shared insights with heads of neighboring nations, but she was also extremely effective in championing the Philippines’ causes at a time when protectionism was becoming passé and barriers to a truly free world trade environment were being torn down.

Ironically, Mrs. Aquino was not one to rub elbows with members of the media to seek support for her objectives. In fact, she was highly distrustful of scribes, borne, perhaps, of her negative experiences with critical quarters of the Fourth Estate. Thus, her “dialogues” with the Palace press corps were limited to twice-monthly “press conferences” and once-a-week taped programs that were heavily regulated and restrictive in nature. My fellow reporters and I were otherwise collectively stuck with sending her a maximum of three questions per day, in writing, and with receiving her replies — two sentences per query at best — also in writing.

The irony was that Mrs. Aquino could be very charming in person. I deem myself lucky to have witnessed her much lighter profile. When she invited the “Brat Pack” (as the Malacañang mediamen were then called) to spend a day at Hacienda Luisita, for instance, she played the perfect host, regaling us with off-the-cuff, off-the-record stories that showed her soft side. She was equally open when she treated us to lunch at her Times Street residence, beaming with pride as she talked not about her pressure-packed working days, but of good times with her son and daughters, and, most happily, with her grandchildren.

So, yes, I remember Mrs. Aquino with much fondness. She didn’t make my job easy, but she was always more than just a news subject to me. I believed in what she stood for when I marched for her, and wound up with countless bylines when I covered her, but my most treasured memories are those of her as a family woman with deep moral values, and who understood that every move she made had to be for God’s greater glory. Thus, she was, to me, the epitome of a leader. She was by no means perfect, but her word was gold, and she certainly did her utmost with the best of intentions. She will be missed.

This was originally published in BusinessWorld, August 4, 2009.

cory with anthony lowres

A with President Cory

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