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Maria Corazon "Cory" Sumulong Cojuangco Aquino (January 25, 1933 – August 1, 2009) was the 11th President of the Philippines and the first woman to hold such office. Aquino was also the first elected female head of state in Asia. Aquino is best remembered for leading the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, which toppled the authoritarian regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy in the Philippines. Cory, as she is affectionately known, is considered and revered by many Filipinos as the Philippines' Icon of Democracy. She has been hailed by TIME Magazine as the 'Saint of Democracy,' due to her well-known spiritual life and strong adherence to non-violence and democracy.

A self-proclaimed "plain housewife", Aquino was married to Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., the popular opposition leader and staunchest critic of then President Ferdinand Marcos, who was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon returning to the Philippines after his exile from the United Statesmarker.

After her husband's assassination, the widowed Aquino became the unwilling and reluctant leader of the opposition against the authoritarian rule of the Marcos regime. She united the fragmented opposition and strengthened its moral crusade against the abuses and excesses of President Marcos' martial rule. In late 1985, when President Marcos called for a snap election, Cory Aquino was called upon by the people to challenge his regime. Reluctant at first, Aquino thrust herself into the political arena after one million signatures urging her to run for president were presented to her.

Despite having no prior political experience, except being her husband Ninoy's wife, Aquino proved to be a charismatic leader, inspiring orator and skilled campaigner. She ran for president with former senator Salvador Laurel as her vice-presidential running mate. When the Marcos allies-dominated Batasang Pambansa proclaimed Ferdinand Marcos as the winner in the 1986 Snap Presidential Elections, Cory called for massive civil disobedience protests against him, declaring herself as having been cheated and as the real winner in the elections. Filipinos enthusiastically heeded her call and rallied behind her. These series of events eventually led to the ouster of Marcos from power and the installation of Aquino as president of the Philippines in February 1986, an event which is now known as the historic 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Now in power, Aquino oversaw the restoration of democracy in the Philippines and the promulgation of a new constitution, which limited the powers of the presidency and established a bicameral legislature. Her administration gave strong emphasis and concern for civil liberties and human rights, peace talks and dialogues with communist insurgents and Muslim secessionists. Aquino's economic policies, meanwhile, centered on bringing back economic health and confidence and focused on creating a market-oriented and socially-responsible economy. Despite these achievements, Aquino's presidency was not smooth-sailing as she had to face series of nine coup attempts against her administration and destructive natural calamities and disasters, which she was able to weather and survive until the end of her term in 1992.

After her term expired in 1992, Aquino returned to private life although she remained active in the public eye, constantly voicing her views and opinions on the pressing political issues in the country. In 2008, Aquino was diagnosed with colon cancer and after a one-year battle with the disease, she died on August 1, 2009.

Early life and education

Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco was born to Jose Cojuangco of Tarlac, a wealthy Chinese Filipino and Demetria Sumulong of Antipolomarker, Rizalmarker, an ethnic Filipina who belongs to a politically influential clan. She was the sixth of eight children in what was considered to be second of the richest Chinese-Mestizo families in the Philippines, in Tarlacmarker. Her siblings are: Ceferino, Pedro, Josephine Reyes, Tere Lopa, Carmen, Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, Jr. and Maria Paz Teopaco.

She went to St. Scholastica's College in Manilamarker where she finished grade school as class valedictorian in 1943. In 1946, she enrolled for a year in high school at the Assumption Convent in Manila but eventually went to the United Statesmarker and finished high school at the Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in French, minor in Mathematics from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New Yorkmarker. During her stay in the United States, she worked as a volunteer in the 1948 United States presidential campaign of Republican Thomas Dewey against Democratic US President Harry Truman.

Married life

After her graduation from college in the United States, the young Cory returned to the Philippines to study law at the Far Eastern University for one year. She interrupted her law studies when she tied the knot with the then rising political star Benigno Aquino, Jr., more popularly known as Ninoy, the son of the late Speaker Benigno Q. Aquino, Sr.. The couple produced five offsprings, four girls and one boy, namely: Maria Elena (Ballsy), Aurora Corazon(Pinky), Benigno Simeon III (NoyNoy), Victoria Eliza (Viel) and Kristina Bernadette (Kris).

Aquino had initial difficulty adjusting to provincial life when she and Ninoy moved to Concepcion, Tarlacmarker in 1955, after the latter was elected the town's mayor at the age of 22. The American-educated Aquino found herself bored in Concepcion, and welcomed the opportunity to have dinner with her husband inside the American military facility at nearby Clark Fieldmarker.

A member of the Liberal Party, Aquino's husband Ninoy rose to become the youngest governor in the country and eventually became the youngest senator ever elected in the Senate of the Philippines in 1967. During her husband's political career, Aquino remained a housewife who helped raise their children and played hostess to her spouse's political allies who would frequent their Quezon City home. She would decline to join her husband on stage during campaign rallies, preferring instead to stand at the back of the audience and listen to him. Nonetheless, she was consulted upon on political matters by her husband, who valued her judgments enormously.

An eloquent speaker and brilliant politician, Ninoy Aquino soon emerged as a leading critic of the government of President Ferdinand Marcos. He was then touted as a strong candidate for president to succeed Marcos in the 1973 elections. However, Marcos, being barred by the Constitution to seek a third term, declared martial law on September 21, 1972, and later abolished the existing 1935 Constitution, thereby allowing him to remain in office. As a consequence, Aquino's husband was among those to be first arrested at the onset of martial law, later being sentenced to death. During his incarceration, Ninoy sought strength from prayer, attending daily mass and saying three rosaries a day and drew inspiration from his wife, Cory. As a measure of sacrifice and solidarity with her husband and all other political prisoners, she enjoined her children from attending parties and she also stopped going to the beauty salon or buying new clothes until a priest advised her and her children to instead live as normal lives as possible.

In 1978, despite her initial opposition, Ninoy decided to run in the 1978 Batasang Pambansa elections. A reluctant speaker, Cory campaigned in behalf of her husband and for the first time in her life, delivered a political speech,, though later on she refrained from giving campaign speeches when it became clearer that her six-year old daughter Kris was more willing than her to speak on stage to the public.

In 1980, upon the intervention of US President Jimmy Carter, Marcos allowed Senator Aquino and his family to leave for exile in the United States, where he sought medical treatment. The family settled in Bostonmarker, and Aquino would later call the next three years as the happiest days of her marriage and family life. On August 21, 1983, however, Ninoy ended his stay in the United States and returned without his family to the Philippines, only to be assassinated on a staircase leading to the tarmac of the Manila International Airportmarker, which was later renamed in his honor. Corazon Aquino returned to the Philippines a few days later and led her husband's funeral procession, in which more than two million people joined the procession, the biggest ever in Philippine and world history.

1986 Presidential campaign

Following her husband's assassination in 1983, Aquino became active and visible in various demonstrations and protests held against the Marcos regime. She began to assume the mantle of leadership left by her husband Ninoy and started to become the symbolic figurehead of the anti-Marcos political opposition. In the last week of November 1985, Marcos surprised the nation by announcing on American television that he will hold a snap presidential election in February 1986, in order to dispel and remove doubts against his regime's legitimacy and authority.

Ninoy's childhood best friend and former senator Salvador "Doy" Laurel was the initial favorite to become the opposition's standard-bearer in the upcoming election against Marcos. However, many doubted Laurel's chances of winning, the most prominent among them was the late media mogul Don Joaquin "Chino" Roces. Roces personally believed that it was only Ninoy's widow, Cory, who could unite the people and defeat Marcos. As a result, he launched the Cory Aquino for President Movement and initiated a drive to gather one million signatures in order to urge Cory to challenge the dictator.

Reluctant at first, Aquino was eventually prevailed upon to heed the people's clamor, after one million signatures urging her to run for president were presented to her. Despite this, the erstwhile favorite opposite candidate, Laurel, did not immediately gave way to her best friend's widow. Laurel was only convinced to slide down as Cory's running-mate upon the urging of the influential Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin. As a compromise, Aquino agreed to run under Laurel's machinery, the United Nationalist Democratic Organizations (UNIDO), then the country's largest opposition party. With that, the Aquino-Laurel tandem was formally launched to challenge Marcos and finally put an end to his twenty-year martial rule.

In the subsequent political developments and events, Marcos charged that Aquino was being supported by communists and agreed to share power with them once elected into power. A political novice, Aquino categorically denied Marcos' charge and even stated that she would not appoint a single communist to her cabinet. Running on the offensive, the ailing Marcos also accused Aquino of playing "political football" with the United States with respect to the continued United States military presence in the Philippines at Clark Air Basemarker and Subic Naval Basemarker. Further, the male strongman derided Aquino's womanhood, by saying that she was "just a woman" whose place was in the bedroom. In response to her opponent's sexist remark, Cory simply remarked that "may the better woman win in this election." Marcos also attacked Aquino's inexperience and warned the country that it would be a disaster if a woman like her with no previous political experience would be elected president; to which Aquino cleverly responded and sarcastically admitted that she had "no experience in cheating, lying to the public, stealing government money, and killing political opponents."

The snap election called by Marcos which was held on February 7, 1986 was marred by massive electoral fraud, violence, intimidation, coercion and disenfranchisement of voters. Election Day proved to be bloody as one of Aquino's staunchest allies Antique Governor Evelio Javier was brutally murdered, allegedly by one of Marcos' supporters in his province. Further, during the counting and tallying of votes conducted by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), 30 poll computer technicians walked out to dispute and contest the alleged election-rigging done in favor of Marcos. Despite this, the Batasang Pamabansa, which was dominated by allies of the ruling party, declared President Marcos as the winner in the recently concluded snap presidential election on February 15, 1986. In protest to the declaration of the Philippine parliament, Aquino called for a rally dubbed "Tagumpay ng Bayan" (People's Victory Rally) the following day, during which she claimed that she was the real winner in the snap election and urged Filipinos to boycott the products and services by companies controlled or owned by Marcos cronies. The rally held at the historic Rizal Park in Luneta, Manila drew a mammoth-sized crowd, which sent a strong signal that Filipinos were already growing tired of Marcos' two decade-rule. Further,the dubious election results drew sharp reactions from both local quarters and foreign countries. The Philippine's Catholic bishop issued a statement strongly criticizing the conduct of the election which was characterized by violence and fraud. The United States Senate, on the other hand, condemned the election. Furthermore, Aquino rejected a power-sharing agreement proposed by the American diplomat Philip Habib, who had been sent as an emissary by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to help defuse the tension.

Installation as President

After weeks of tension following the disputed outcome of the snap election, disgruntled and reformist military officers, led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel V. Ramos, surprised the entire nation and the whole world when they announced their defection from President Marcos and their strong belief that Aquino was the real winner in the presidential election on February 22, 1986. Upon the urging and encouragement of the activist Archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin, millions of Filipinos trooped to Camp Aguinaldo along Epifanio De los Santos Avenue (EDSA), where Enrile and Ramos have been holding operations, to give their moral support and prayers for the reformist soldiers. At that time, Aquino was meditating on a Carmelite convent in Cebumarker. Upon learning of the defection, Aquino called on Filipinos to rally behind Minister Enrile and General Ramos. Later on, Aquino flew back to Manila in order to prepare to assume the presidency upon the ouster of Marcos. Finally, to the amazement and admiration of the entire world, after twenty years of martial rule, Ferdinand Marcos was driven out from power and Corazon Aquino was formally and peacefully sworn in as the new president of a freed and liberated Philippines on February 25, 1986, a historic event which is now known and remembered as the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.


The triumph of the peaceful People Power Revolution and the ascension of Corazon Aquino into power signaled the end of authoritarian rule in the Philippines and the dawning of a new era for Filipinos. The relatively-peaceful manner by which Aquino came into power drew international acclaim and admiration not only for her but for the Filipino people, as well.

During the first months of Aquino's presidency, the country experienced radical changes and sweeping democratic reforms. One of Aquino's first and boldest moves was the creation of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which was tasked to go after the Marcos ill-gotten wealth. Aquino, being a revolutionary president by virtue of people power, abolished the 1973 "Marcos Constituion" and dissolved the Marcos allies-dominated Batasang Pambansa, despite the advice of her vice-president and only prime minister Salvador Laurel. She also immediately created a Constitutional Commission, which she directed for the drafting of a new constitution for the nation.

On the over-all, the Aquino administration made important gains in the aspects of bringing back democracy, restoring investor confidence in the economy and enacting legal and constitutional reforms. Despite these achievements, her presidency faced several threats from both right-wing military elements and extreme left-wing communist rebels. Further, her administration dealt with numerous problems such as major natural disasters which struck the country and severe power shortages which took a toll on doing business in the Philippines. It was also during her tenure that the United States finally ended its military bases and presence in the country.

Constitutional and political reforms

Immediately after assuming the presidency, President Aquino issued Proclamation No. 3, which established a revolutionary government. She abolished the 1973 Constitution that was in force during martial law, and instead promulgated the provisional 1986 Freedom Constitution, pending the ratification of a new Constitution by the people. This allowed Aquino to exercise both executive and legislative powers until the ratification of the new Philippine Constitution and the establishment of a new Congress in 1987. As such, Aquino promulgated two landmark legal codes, namely, the Family Code of 1987, which reformed the civil law on family relations, and the Administrative Code of 1987, which reorganized the structure of the executive branch of government. Another landmark law that was enacted during her tenure was the 1991 Local Government Code, which devolved national government powers to local government units (LGUs). The new Code also enhanced the power of LGUs to enact local taxation measures and assured them of a share in the national revenue.

Likewise, Aquino closed down the Marcos-dominated Batasang Pambansa to prevent the new Marcos loyalist opposition from undermining her democratic reforms and reorganized the membership of the Supreme Court to restore its independence. In May 1986, the reorganized Supreme Court declared the Aquino government as “not merely a de facto government but in fact and law a de jure government”, whose legitimacy had been affirmed by the community of nations. This Supreme Court decision significantly affirmed the status of Aquino as the new, legitimate and rightful leader of the Philippines.

To fast-track the restoration of a full constitutional government and the writing of a new charter, President Aquino appointed 48 members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (Con-Com), led by retired activist Supreme Court Associate Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma. The Con-Com completed its final draft in October 1986 On February 2, 1987, the new Constitution of the Philippines, which put strong emphasis on civil liberties, human rights and social justice, was overwhelmingly approved by the Filipino people. The ratification of the new Constitution was followed by the election of senators and congress that same year and the holding of local elections in 1988.

Socio-Economic Programs and Policies

Economic Management

When Aquino became president, she inherited an economy that was bankrupt and debt-ridden as a result of twenty years of misrule and mismanagement under the Marcos regime. As president, Aquino focused her attention and energy to revitalize and rejuvenate the sagging economy.

One of her boldest moves was to dismantle the various monopolies that were perpetrated by Marcos during his stay in power. She also moved quickly to tackle the issue of the US$26 billion foreign debt incurred by her predecessor. Instead of repudiating it, Aquino chose to honor all the debts that were incurred previously under different administrations. Her decision proved to be unpopular but Aquino defended it, saying that it was the most practical move and choice to make as it was crucial for the country at that time to regain the confidence of investors and the international community in the Philippine economy. Since 1986, a portion of the national budget has been used to pay off the country's outstanding debts in order to regain good international credit ratings and attract the attention of future markets.

Further, the Aquino administration also sought to bring back fiscal discipline in order as it aimed to trim down the government's budget deficit that ballooned during Marcos' term through privatization of bad government assets and deregulation of many vital industries. It was also during Aquino's time that vital economic laws such as the Built-Operate-Transfer Law, Foreign Investments Act and the Consumer Protection and Welfare Act were enacted.

Furthermore, the economy posted a positive growth of 3.4% during her first year in office. On the overall, the economy under Aquino had an average growth of 3.8% from 1986 to 1992.

Agrarian reform

President Corazon Aquino addresses base workers at a rally at Remy Field concerning jobs for Filipino workers after the Americans withdraw from the U.S. facilities.

Upon her ascension into power, President Aquino envisioned agrarian and land reform as the centerpiece of her administration's social legislative agenda. However, her family background and social class as a privileged and landed daughter of a wealthy and landed clan became a lightning rod of criticisms against her land reform agenda. In February 22, 1987, three weeks after the resounding ratification of the 1987 Constitution, agrarian workers and farmers marched to the historic Mendiola Street near Malacanang Palacemarker to demand genuine land reform from Aquino's administration. However, the supposedly peaceful farmers' march turned bloody and violent when Marine forces fired at farmers who tried to go beyond the designated demarcation line set by the police. As a result, 12 farmers were killed and 19 were injured in this incident now known as the Mendiola Massacre. This tragic incident led some prominent members of the Aquino Cabinet like the nationalist and progressive senator Jose W. Diokno to quit from their government posts. Though Aquino did not have any personal and official involvement with the drastic actions taken by some police elements, her administration has been faulted since then for failing to solve land disputes in the country.

In response to calls for agrarian reform, President Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order 229 on July 22, 1987, which outlined the her land reform program, which included sugar lands. In 1988, with the backing of Aquino, the new Congress of the Philippines passed Republic Act No. 6657, more popularly known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law." The law paved the way for the redistribution of agricultural lands to tenant-farmers from landowners, who were paid in exchange by the government through just compensation but were also allowed to retain not more than five hectares of land. However, corporate landowners were also allowed under the law to “voluntarily divest a proportion of their capital stock, equity or participation in favor of their workers or other qualified beneficiaries”, in lieu of turning over their land to the government for redistribution. Despite the flaws in the law, the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 1989, declaring that the implementation of the comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP), provided by the said law) was “a revolutionary kind of expropriation.”

Despite the implementation of CARP, Aquino was not spared from the controversies that eventually centered on Hacienda Luisita, a 6,453-hectare estate located in the Province of Tarlacmarker, which she inherited from her family. She was scored for allowing Hacienda Luisita, which was now owned by the Tarlac Development Corporation, to opt for stock distribution, instead of land redistribution. As such, ownership of agricultural portions of the hacienda were transferred to the corporation, which in turn, gave its shares of stocks to farmers.

The arrangement remained in force until 2006, when the Department of Agrarian Reform revoked the stock distribution scheme adopted in Hacienda Luisita, and ordered instead the redistribution of a large portion of the property to the tenant-farmers. The Department stepped into the controversy when in 2004, violence erupted over the retrenchment of workers in the Hacienda, eventually leaving seven people dead.

Natural disasters and calamities

During her last two years in office, President Aquino's administration faced series of natural disasters and calamities. Among these were the 1990 Luzon earthquake, which left around 1,600 people dead and the 1991 volcanic eruption of what was then thought to be a dormant Mount Pinatubomarker, which was the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century, killing around 300 people and causing widespread long-term devastation of agricultural lands in Central Luzon. The worst loss of life occurred when Tropical Storm Thelma (also known as Typhoon Uring) caused massive flooding in Ormoc Citymarker in November 1991, leaving around 6,000 dead in what was considered to be the deadliest typhoon in Philippine history. It was also during Aquino's term that the MV Doña Paz sank, which is the World's worst peace-time maritime disaster of the 20th century. The disaster occurred in December 1987 which killed more than 1,700 people

Further, during Aquino's presidency, electric blackouts became sporadic and common which somehow hampered economic transactions and business operations in the country. It was only during the time of her successor, Fidel Ramos, that the government was able to solve the severe power outages that were common during her tenure.

Influence in 1992 presidential campaign

As the end of her presidency drew near, close advisers and friends told Aquino that since she was not inaugurated under the 1987 Constitution, she was still eligible to seek the presidency again in the upcoming 1992 elections, the first presidential elections under normal and peaceful circumstances since 1965. President Aquino strongly declined the requests for her to seek reelection and wanted to set an example to both citizens and politicians that the presidency is not a lifetime position.

Initially, she named Ramon V. Mitra, a friend of her husband Ninoy and then Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives, as her candidate for the presidential race in 1992. However, she later on backtracked and instead threw her support behind the candidacy of her defense secretary and EDSA Revolution hero, General Fidel V. Ramos, who constantly stood by and defended her government from the various coup attempts and rebellions that were launched against her. Her sudden change of mind and withdrawal of support from Mitra drew criticisms not only from her supporters in the liberal and social democratic sectors but from the Roman Catholic Church, as well, which questioned her anointing of Ramos since the latter was a Protestant. Nevertheless, Aquino's candidate eventually won the 1992 elections, albeit by a margin of 23.58 percent of the total votes only, and was sworn in as the 12th President of the Philippines on June 30, 1992.

Post-presidency and continued political activism

Mrs. Aquino speaking before the 2003 Ninoy Aquino Award ceremony at the U.S.
Embassy in Manila.

Activities and Drives

Political Causes

On June 30, 1992, President Aquino formally and peacefully handed over power to her anointed candidate and democratically-elected General Fidel V. Ramos, after six years of hard-fought democratic transition and restoration. On her way to the inauguration of President-elect Ramos, Aquino chose to ride on a simple white Toyota Crown she had purchased, rather than the lavish government-issued Mercedes Benz, to make the point that she was now again an ordinary citizen.

Though Aquino retired to private life, following the end of her term, she remained active in the Philippine political scene, constantly voicing opposition and dissent to government actions and policies, which she deemed as threats to the liberal traditions and democratic foundations of the country.

In 1997, Aquino, together with the influential Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, led a huge rally which succeeded in thwarting then President Fidel Ramos' attempt to extend his term by amending the 1987 Constitution's restriction on presidential term limits. In 1998, Aquino endorsed the candidacy of former police general and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim for president. Lim, however, lost to then Vice-President Joseph Estrada, who won by a landslide. The following year, Aquino again with Cardinal Sin successfully opposed President Estrada's plan of amending the Constitution, which he said was intended to lift provisions that 'restrict' economic activities and investments; he denied that it was another ploy for him to extend his stay in office. In 2000, Aquino joined the mounting calls for Estrada to resign from office, amid strong allegations of bribery chargers and gambling kickbacks and series of corruption scandals, which eventually led to his impeachment in December of that year. In January 2001, during the EDSA Revolution of 2001 which ousted Estrada, Aquino enthusiastically supported the ascendancy of another woman, then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, into power.

In 2005, after series of revelations and exposes alleged and implicated President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in rigging the 2004 presidential elections, Aquino called on her erstwhile ally to make the 'supreme sacrifice' of resigning in order to prevent bloodshed, violence and further political deterioration. As such, Aquino was once again in the streets leading massive demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Arroyo.

In the 2007 senatorial elections, Aquino actively campaigned for the senatorial bid of her only son, Noynoy Aquino, who ran and won under the triumphant opposition banner.

In December 2008, Aquino publicly expressed some regrets for her participation in the EDSA Revolution of 2001, which installed Arroyo into power. She apologized in jest to former President Joseph Estrada for the role she played in his ouster in 2001.

In June 2009, two months before her death, Aquino issued a public statement which strongly denounced and condemned the Arroyo administration's plan of amending the 1987 Constitution, calling such attempt as a "shameless abuse of power."

International Engagements

Shortly after leaving the presidency, Aquino traveled abroad, giving speeches and lectures on issues of democracy, development, human rights and women empowerment. In 1997, Aquino attended the wake and funeral of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom she met during the latter's visit in Manila in 1989. In early 2000s, Aquino joined various global leaders and democratic icons in urging the government of Myanmarmarker to release Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi from detention. In 2005, Aquino joined the international community in mourning the death of Pope John Paul II.

Chartiable and Social Initiatives

Aside from being visible in various political gatherings and demonstrations, Aquino was heavily involved in several charitable activities and socio-economic initiatives. From 1992 until her death, Aquino was chairperson of the Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation which she set up in her husband's honor right after his brutal assassination in 1983. Further, she supported other causes such as the Gawad Kalinga social housing project for the poor and homeless. In 2007, Aquino helped establish the PinoyME Foundation, a non-profit organization which aims to provide microfinancing programs and projects for the poor. Aquino was also a lifelong member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international organization of former and current female heads of state and government which seeks to mobilize high-profile women world leaders to make collective action on issues critical to the leadership, empowerment and development of women.


After her presidency, Aquino became interested in painting. As such, she became a skilled painter and was fond of giving her own paintings as gifts to her close friends and acquaintances, including world leaders, diplomats, and corporate executives.

Bout with Cancer and Death

On March 24, 2008, the Aquino family announced to the shock of the entire nation that the Philippine Icon of Democracy has been diagnosed with colon cancer. While she was earlier informed by her doctors that she had only three months to live, Aquino pursued medical treatment and chemotherapy. As a result, series of healing masses for the devout Catholic former president were held throughout the country. In a public statement made on May 13, 2008 during a healing mass for her, Aquino said that her blood tests indicated that she was responding well to the medical treatment being administered to her. However, Aquino's hair fall and loss of appetite became very apparent and rapid.

By July 2009, Aquino's health was reported to be in a very serious condition and was confined to the Makati Medical Center due to loss of appetite and chronic baldness. Later on, it was announced that Aquino and her family had decided to cease chemotherapy and other medical interventions for her.

On August 1, 2009, after one and a half year battle with colon cancer, the 76 year-old Aquino died at the Makati Medical Center at around 3:18 a.m. due to complications of cardiorespiratory arrest.

Wake, Requiem Mass and Burial

Upon learning of Aquino's death, incumbent President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was then in a state visit to the United States, announced a 10-day mourning period for the former President and issued Administrative Order No. 269 to lay down the necessary details needed in giving Aquino a state funeral. The Aquino children, however, declined the government offer of holding a state funeral for their mother.

Hours after her death on August 1, Aquino's body lay in state for public viewing at the La Salle Greenhillsmarker campus in Mandaluyong Citymarker. On August 3, 2009, Aquino's remains were transferred from La Salle Greenhills to the Manila Cathedralmarker in Intramuros, during which hundreds of thousands of Filipinos lined up the streets to witness and escort their former leader's funeral cortege. On its way to Manila Cathedral, Aquino's funeral cortege passed by Ayala Avenue, Makati Citymarker and stopped in front of her husband Ninoy Aquino's statue, amidst throngs of thousands of Filipinos who gathered there and emotionally sang the 1986 EDSA Revolution anthem "Bayan Ko." Aquino's remains were solemnly brought inside the Manila Cathedral around mid-afternoon that day. Following her death, all Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the country held requiem masses for the eternal repose of Aquino's soul.

On August 4, in a historic and conciliatory gesture, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Imee Marcos, children of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, paid their last respects to the woman who brought down their father from power more than twenty years ago. The Marcos siblings were received by Aquino's children, Maria Elena, Aurora Corazon and Victoria Eliza. The following day, during mid-dawn, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who cut short her trip in the United States, briefly paid her last respects to President Aquino, who was once her closest ally.

On August 5, a final requiem mass, presided by high-ranking Filipino Catholic Church officials such as Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Bishop Socrates B. Villegas, was offered for the eternal repose of Aquino's soul. After the mass, Aquino's youngest daughter, Kris, delivered an emotional and heartbreaking speech which moved the entire nation into tears and mourning. Thereafter, Aquino's Philippine flag-draped coffin was solemnly brought out from the Manila Cathedral and escorted to the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque Citymarker, where she was to be interred beside her husband Ninoy's resting place. Aquino's funeral procession took more than eight hours before it reached its final destination, as hundreds of thousands of Filipinos lined up the streets where her cortege would pass by to pay their last respects to their beloved former leader.

A Philippine flag at half-mast beside the Martial Law Memorial Wall at the Bonifacio Shrine.
All Philippine flags were at half-mast during the 10-day mourning period.


Aquino's death on August 1, 2009 struck not just the entire Philippines but the whole world, as well. Both local and international leaders conveyed their messages of grief over Aquino's passing and expression of admiration for the woman who brought down tyranny and authoritarian rule in her country.

Local reaction

Various politicians across all the political spectrum expressed their grief and praises for the former Philippine leader. President Arroyo, once an ally of Aquino, remembered the sacrifices she made for the country and called her a "national treasure." Former President Estrada, on the one hand, said that the country had lost its mother and guiding voice with her sudden death. He also described Aquino as the "Philippines' most loved woman." Though once bitter political foes, Aquino and Estrada reconciled and joined hands together in opposing President Arroyo. On the other hand, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was once Aquino's defense minister and later on her fiercest critic, asked the public to pray for her eternal repose. Meanwhile, former Aquino interior minister and Senate Minority floor leader Senator Aquilino Pimentel,Jr. revealed that he had "mixed feelings" about Aquino's passing and said that the country "shall be forever indebted to Cory for rallying the nation behind the campaign to topple dictatorial rule and restore democracy."

Further, ordinary Filipinos throughout the country wore either yellow shirts or held masses for Aquino as their way of paying tribute to the woman who once led them in a revolution that changed the course of their country's history. Yellow Ribbons, which were once used during Aquino's battle with Marcos, were tied along major national roads and streets as a sign of solidarity and support for the now deceased Aquino and her grieving family. In popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Filipinos posted yellow ribbons in their accounts as a tribute to the former Philippine leader.

Following her death, Filipino Catholics called on the Church to have Aquino canonized and declared as a saint. During her lifetime, Aquino has been known and praised for her strong spirituality and sincere devotion to the Catholic faith.

Days after her funeral, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced that it supported calls to put the former President on the 500-Peso banknote alongside her husband, Ninoy Aquino.

International reaction

Across the globe, messages of sympathies and solidarity with the Filipino people were sent by various heads of state and international leader. Pope Benedict XVI, through his letter sent to Archbishop Rosales, recalled Aquino's "courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people, her firm rejection of violence and intolerance" and called her a woman of courage and faith. On the one hand, US President Barack Obama, through White Housemarker Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, said that "her courage, determination, and moral leadership are an inspiration to us all and exemplify the best in the Filipino nation." On the other hand, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed sadness over the passing of Aquino, whom she sent a note card of well wishes and good health when she was still in the hospital last July 2009. Clinton said that Aquino was "admired by the world for her extraordinary courage" in leading the fight against dictatorship. Meanwhile, South Africa President Jacob Zuma called Aquino "a great leader who set a shining example of peaceful transition to democracy in her country."

Further, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irelandmarker, through the British Ambassador in Manila, sent a message to the Filipino people which read: “I am saddened to hear of the death of Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino the former President of the Republic of the Philippines.”She also added, “I send my sincere condolences to her family and to the people of the Philippines. Signed, Elizabeth R.”

Furthermore, Russianmarker President Dmitry Medvedev, in a telegram to President Arroyo, said that “the name of Corazon Aquino is associated with a period of profound reforms and the democratic transformation of Filipino society.” Medvedev also lauded Aquino's sympathy to Russian people and her contribution to the improvement of Russian-Filipino relations.

Moreover, global democratic icons such as Timor-Lestemarker President Jose Ramos-Horta and Wan Azizah, wife of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, came to the Philippines not just to express their sympathies but to attend their friend Aquino's death and funeral, as well.



After leaving the presidency, Aquino received several awards and citations. In 1994, Aquino was cited as one of 100 Women Who Shaped World History in a reference book written by Gail Meyer Rolka and published by Bluewood Books in San Francisco, California. In 1996, she received the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding from the Fulbright Association, joining past recipients such as Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela. In August 1999, Aquino was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th century. The same magazine cited her in November 2006 as one of 65 great Asian Heroes, along with Mahatma Gandhi, Deng Xiaoping, Aung San Suu Kyi, Lee Kuan Yew, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In January 2008, the Europe-based A Different View selected Aquino as one of the 15 Champions of World Democracy, alongside Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Wałęsa, and Václav Havel.

In 2002, Aquino became the first woman named to the Board of Governors of the Board of the Asian Institute of Management, a leading graduate business school and think tank in the Asia Pacific region. She served on the Board until 2006.

In popular culture

Aquino was portrayed by Laurice Guillen in the 1988 HBO miniseries A Dangerous Life.

Aquino was a main character in Boy Noriega's 1987 stage comedy Bongbong at Kris (Bongbong and Kris), about an imagined romantic coupling between the youngest son of Ferdinand Marcos and the youngest daughter of the Aquinos.

In the movie Alfredo Lim: Batas ng Maynila (Alfredo Lim: Law of Manila) Aquino was portrayed by Luz Valdez.

She was portrayed by Tess Villarama in the movie Ilaban Mo, Bayan Ko: The Obet Pagdanganan Story (My Fight, My Country) in 1997.

She was also portrayed by Geraldine Malacaman in the 1998 musical play Lean.

In the defunct comedy gag show Ispup, Madz Nicolas played a parodized version of Aquino who often reminisces about life with Ninoy.

In 2004, Aquino was portrayed by Irma Adlawan in the miniseries Sa 'Yo Lamang (Only Yours).

In 2008, a musical play about Aquino starring Isay Alvarez as Aquino, was staged at the Meralco Theater. Entitled Cory, the Musical, it was written and directed by Nestor Torre and featured a libretto of 19 original songs composed by Lourdes Pimentel, wife of Senator Aquilino Pimentel.

Awards and achievements

Honorary doctorates



External links

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