Biggest crowd since EDSA 2
MANILA - It was like August 1983 and February 1986 all over again.
People from all walks of life wore yellow and flashed the "Laban" sign while lining the streets from La Salle Greenhills to Ayala Avenue to Intramuros. On Ayala Avenue, employees showered confetti outside office windows to a crowd of more than 25,000 people.
This crowd, however, did not turn out for another bloodless revolt but to pay tribute to a fallen leader, former President Corazon Aquino.
Initial police estimates said close to 122,000 Filipinos turned out for Aquino's procession on Monday, which is one of the biggest in Philippine history.
Aquino, the country's first woman president, moved closer to her final resting place on Monday as her body was brought to Manila Cathedral in Intramuros after staying for several days in La Salle Green Hills.
Former Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, who was on board one of the vehicles in Aquino's convoy, said people came out in droves to pay respect to Aquino who died last Saturday.
"The streets are lined with people, Everywhere we go, we see people, some flashing the Laban sign with tears in their eyes. The most important message is that people are with her, that hindi siya nag-iisa. Some made handpainted signs, one of which read: "Thank you for democracy." It's so overwhelming," she said in an ANC interview.
Franklin Drilon, Aquino's former labor chief, said he had never seen a crowd like the one he saw in Makati in recent years. "The people are so enthusiastic. It's all yellow colors all over the place...It's really something to see. Nakakakilabot, ika nga," he said.
He said one image that would stay with him was how people inside the Makati Stock Exchange started raining yellow confetti all over the convoy.
The convoy stopped for five minutes beside the Benigno Aquino monument on Ayala Avenue where Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, a close friend of the former president, delivered a short eulogy. He also led the crowd in singing "Bayan Ko" with many people raising their fingers for the famous "L" sign.
Some of the mourners outside the La Salle Green Hills gymnasium and on Ayala Avenue wept openly as they recounted how the country's first woman president restored democracy after years of martial rule.
In Congress a joint resolution was filed to declare January 25, the date of birth of former President Corazon Aquino, as “Cory Aquino Day.”
It was, as Aquino's youngest daughter Kris predicted, the nation giving honor to her mother.
Tears of joy
Kris said she could not stop her tears as her mother's body was slowly moved from La Salle Green Hills to the truck that would bring her to Intramuros.
"Every step you take brings her closer to Manila Memorial. I try not to cry but each journey, iyak-talaga ako ng iyak," she said.
She said, however, that she also shed tears of joy as she saw the thousands who expressed their love for her mother.
"We're in the middle of Makati near the stock exchange. I am looking out the window now and I see women crying. I really appreciate the love. This is just so beautiful for us. Our hearts feel so wonderful dahil pinaparamdam [nila] na mahal na mahal ang mom...the people are so appreciative of what she did for our country. It brings back so may memories of my Dad and i just want to say thank you very, very much," she said.
Kris said her nephews went outside the La Salle Green Hills gym early Monday to shake hands with people who lined up until 3 a.m. just to get a glimpse of the former president. "My sister Pinky stayed until 2 a.m. saying thank you to everybody because that's what out mom taught us, to express our gratitude to everyone," she said.
She said even their former security detail from the Presidential Security Group visited the wake at Greenhills. "They're all in active service and we thanked them for coming," she said.
Senior Superintendent Carlos de Sagun, Mandaluyong City police chief, said an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 were at the La Salle Greenhills area on Monday to see Aquino's transfer to the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros.
Makati police said another 25,000 to 30,000 congregated at Ayala Avenue while 5,000 stayed in Buendia.
Superintendent Rommel Miranda, spokesman of the National Capital Region Police Office said thousands also showed up on Quirino Avenue (1,500), Osmeña Avenue (5,000), Roxas Boulevard (10,000), Luneta (5,000), Manila Cathedral (20,000) and EDSA (5,000).
The turnout, however, is lower than the 300,000 crowd at the so-called EDSA Dos revolt that toppled President Joseph Estrada in 2001. It is also lower than the estimated two million strong crowd that turned out for the funeral procession of Aquino's husband, Ninoy, in 1983.
'The best in all of us'
Several of Aquino's supporters paid tribute to the late president in their own little ways. Teresita Ang-See, founding chairman of Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran, broke into tears as she recounted how Aquino supported their group which is composed of Chinese-Filipinos.
She said their group will light incense and bow three times before offering white flowers at Aquino's coffin, a gesture which they also did at the wake of the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.
Former Ambassador to the Vatican Henrietta de Villa said she spoke briefly to Aquino last month and even reminded her to pray for next year's election. She described the former president as a "genuine soul" who inspired her to form the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.
"She empowered and enabled us to do all these," she said.
Chito Gascon, a known Cory supporter, shed tears as he joined the crowd in Makati. "I was very much overwhelmed. Talagang nakakatuwa na ang mga tao nakaka-alala sa mga sakrispisyo ni Cory," he said.
Another Cory supporter, Cristy Bradshaw, added: "There's no president that can replace her. She's my president."
Tarlac Bishop Florentino Sinese earlier celebrated Mass at the De La Salle Greenhills Gym before Aquino's procession left.
In his homily, Sinese said Filipinos see in Cory "the best in each and everyone of us."
"The more we praise her, the more we reveal that we, too, desire to be like her. May these stories continue to be told and better still may these stories unfold forever," he said.
Sinese said critics of the former president often criticized her for always resorting to prayer in everything. "Prayer cannot be a last recourse but instead the first recourse in everything," he said.
"Certainly, Cory Aquino was not perfect but her imperfections were never an excuse not to govern and rule wisely. As we pay tribute to our beloved former president, may we not only heap praises on a dead person but instead let her lfe and virtues challenge us to strive to do even better. We all dream to have a better country. She did her share. We also must do our own share," he said.
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