Cory Aquino remembered for her strong faith

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  • August 6, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Corazon “Cory” Aquino’s courage in standing up to a feared dictator, says Toronto-based journalist Hermie Garcia, is what many Filipino Canadians admired about the late Philippines president. Mrs. Aquino, 76, died Aug. 1 after a year-long battle with colon cancer.

Garcia, the founding editor of Toronto’s The Philippine Reporter , said Mrs. Aquino’s death saddens many Filipinos in Toronto.

After her husband and government opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was assassinated in 1983, several Filipino leaders, including Manila’s archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin, supported Mrs. Aquino’s run for the presidency against feared dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for more than 20 years. His presidency was marred by graft and corruption. While hesitant to enter politics, she became the unassuming leader of the peaceful democratic movement which came to be known as the “People Power” revolution in 1986.

Catholic nuns kneeling before tanks with rosaries in hand, along with millions of Filipinos protesting in the streets, became iconic images of People Power, a movement which has been credited with inspiring grassroots revolutions that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall three years later.

“It was very courageous of her to oppose a very strongly entrenched dictator at the time,” Garcia said. “She risked her life the way her husband risked his life.”

Garcia added that Mrs. Aquino’s faith was also intertwined with her politics. During her presidency, he noted she supported the Catholic Church’s stance against artificial birth control.

From Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sadness upon hearing of Mrs. Aquino’s death and praised her commitment to freedom and justice for Filipinos. The Pope, in a telegram to Cardinal Guadenacio Rosales of Manila, recalled Mrs. Aquino as “a woman of deep and unwavering faith” who took on a crucial political role.

Pope Benedict praised her “courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people, her firm rejection of violence and intolerance, and her contribution to the rebuilding of a just and cohesive political order in her beloved homeland.”

As president, Mrs. Aquino won praise for establishing free elections and instituting a wide range of democratic reforms and institutions in the Philippines. But her term in office was also weighed down by problems, including repeated coup attempts, government scandals and natural disasters.

Her deep Catholic faith was evident in her frequent references to God in her speeches, and she often carried a rosary in her hands.

On Aug. 5, tens of thousands of people waved yellow ribbons, carried yellow balloons and showered confetti on Mrs. Aquino’s flag-draped casket in Manila’s rain-soaked streets after the funeral Mass at Manila Cathedral.

Meanwhile, an Aug. 5 Mass was celebrated in Thornhill, Ont.’s Sugar Bush Heritage Park.

Toronto Youth for Christ member Benjamin Tan, 29, said Mrs. Aquino is an inspiration for the way she practised her faith. Quoting her husband, who once said, “The Filipino is worth dying for,” Tan added that Mrs. Aquino’s example also shows how “Filipinos are worth living for.”

(With files from Catholic News Service.)

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