I feel for TV host and actress Kris Aquino, daughter of Cory, who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. “She is in pain already, so please pray for her so that it could be lessened,” Kris said of her mother on television. Those who at one time or another tended to a cancer-stricken relative know what the feeling is. One accepts the inevitable and just hope that the passing won’t be painful.
When national icons are brought to a situation like the one Cory is in, the outpouring of sympathy and grief is a deluge. The nation is with this family, who on August 21, 1986 lost its pillar, Benigno “Nonoy” Aquino Jr. At one time in Cory’s latest ordeal, she reportedly talked about being with Ninoy again. When the ordeal ends, perhaps that thought can be a consolation to this family.
The younger generations may actually be surprised at the national expression of concern for the Aquinos. But then, Martial Law and the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising have even dimmed in the memories of many of those who went through those dark days of our history. That is being compounded by the realities in a society controlled in all aspects by people with economic and therefore political power.
One can recall, for example, the heroism of the Carmelites nun and the Cebuanos who hid Cory when the Edsa uprising broke out in February 1986. But it is difficult now to conjure the worries and fear those who were there at that time felt, a product of the years of abuse foisted on the people by the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. A recollection of a nightmare is different from experiencing it.
That’s why I get frustrated when even militant groups who bore the brunt of the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship would sacrifice historical authenticity to advance present-day struggles. The Arroyo government is worse than the Marcos regime? No doubt the current president is among the worst, post-Marcos, in some aspects. But nothing can compare with the greed and abuse of Marcos and his minions.
Former senator John Osmena is raving and ranting about the supposed P20 billion that Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia claimed is Capitol’s asset, saying that the said amount could have eased the suffering of her constituents had these been spent for projects. Imagine then the billions of dollars Marcos and his cronies stole from government coffers and what it could have done to this country.
In the ’60s, the Philippines went from being one of the countries most devastated by World War II to one of Asia’s better economies. After Martial Law was declared in September 1972 and Marcos was ousted more than a decade letter, the country has become the “sick man of Asia.” One doesn’t need be the best analytical mind to note at what post war period this country got socked economically.
But later generations weren’t able to experience these things or view them up close and are thus vulnerable to the historical revisionism of those who wield economic and political power in this country. There’s no bigger anomaly than Imelda Marcos celebrate her 80th birthday with extravagance, or former Martial Law torturers becoming top government officials instead of being punished.
To understand the nation’s concern for Cory is to recall not just her contributions to the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship but also the milieu within which she was thrust to make those contributions. One cannot separate the reading of historical narratives with experiencing what happened, if only vicariously. And as we pray for Cory, we should pray for our country, too.
(I wrote this for my July 22, 2009 Candid Thoughts column in Sun.Star Cebu)