- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

MANILA | Thousands of Filipinos lined up in monsoon rains Saturday to pay their last respects to former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, putting aside deep divisions to honor the icon who ousted a dictator and sustained democracy against great odds.

Mrs. Aquino’s death early Saturday at age 76 led Filipinos from all walks of life to reflect on the legacy of the accidental opposition leader - whose rise to prominence began only after the 1983 assassination of her politician husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

“Unity is a rare thing in our country. We have it now, and adding to the feelings of grief is the wistful realization that it took the passing of Cory to reunite a divided nation,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer said in its Sunday editorial.

The “people power” uprising that Mrs. Aquino led in 1986 brought down the repressive 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos and served as an inspiration to nonviolent resistance across the globe, including those that ended communist rule in Eastern Europe.

“Cory Aquino was beloved by her nation and admired by the world for her extraordinary courage after the assassination of her husband, and later, during her service as president,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

Hours after Mrs. Aquino’s death from colon cancer at a Manila hospital, yellow ribbons - her favorite color - sprang up on trees, cars and lampposts.

As rain drenched Manila’s streets, a convoy took Mrs. Aquino’s casket to De La Salle, a Catholic school where thousands lined up for a public viewing.

Her body will lie in state until Monday morning and then be moved to the Manila Cathedral until her funeral Wednesday. She will be buried beside her husband at Manila Memorial Park.

As the motorcade drove to the school, people stopped on the streets to wave or raise their fingers in an “L” sign for “laban” or “fight” in Filipino, a slogan of Mrs. Aquino’s campaign against Mr. Marcos. One priest knelt on the street.

“We were shedding tears in the car,” said Mrs. Aquino’s eldest grandson, Jiggy Cruz. “Maybe my[grandmother] was the miracle. Even in death she was able to unite our people.”

Mrs. Aquino struggled in office to meet high public expectations. Her land-redistribution program fell short of ending economic domination by the landed elite, including her own family. Her leadership, especially on social and economic reform, was often indecisive, leaving many of her closest allies disillusioned by the end of her six-year term in 1992.

Her presidency was punctuated by seven coup attempts - most staged by the same clique of officers who had risen up against Marcos and felt they had been denied their fair share of power.

Still, the bespectacled, smiling woman in the yellow dress remained beloved in the Philippines, where she was affectionately referred to as “Auntie Cory.”

Mrs. Aquino’s unlikely rise began in 1983 after her husband was fatally shot at Manila’s international airport moments after soldiers escorted him from his plane on arrival from exile in the United States to challenge Mr. Marcos, his longtime adversary, who had declared martial law in 1972. Investigations concluded that one of his military escorts was the assassin.

The killing enraged many Filipinos and unleashed a broad-based opposition movement that thrust Mrs. Aquino into the role of national leader.

“I don’t know anything about the presidency,” she declared in 1985, a year before she agreed to run against Mr. Marcos. The longtime president claimed victory in the election - widely seen as fraudulent - leading a group of military officers to mutiny against him on Feb. 22, 1986, precipitating his toppling three days later. On Feb. 25, Mrs. Aquino was sworn in as the Philippines’ first female leader, and Mr. Marcos flew to exile in Hawaii, where he died three years later.

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