President Corazon C. Aquino was born on January 25, 1933 in Paniqui, Tarlac. She would have been 88 last Monday.
I am devoting this week’s blog remembering her from a personal point of view.
Remembering and celebrating her has become a regularly recurring event for a small group of members of her Cabinet and Malacañang Staff, with whom she developed friendships and close personal rapport during her Presidency. “Tita Cory,” as she is endearingly referred to, is their common denominator, keeping them in touch with one another. Every now and then, these folks get together to renew and revisit; and have fun with recalling, sharing and retelling unforgettable or nearly forgotten moments. They exchange memories and relive their experiences while serving the government during “tita Cory’s” watch.
I happened to be in Manila, just about the onset Covid-19, when Ping de Jesus (DPWH Secretary) took his turn as host. Dinner was at Alba’s at the Capitol Commons of the Ortigas Center in Pasig City, February 12, 2020. Present that evening, with their spouses were Toto Estuar, Cesar Sarino, Sonny Dominguez, Adolf Azcuna along with Maria Montelibano and Deedee Siytangco. Ballsy Aquino Cruz and Pinky Abellanosa (Tita Cory’s daughters) were also there.
Each one was asked to share his/her memorable moment. There was always quite a lode to mine and share. When my turn came, what I shared was the usual curiosity from folks who come to know that I had served directly under the President. How was she to work for? Once I was asked how best and briefly to characterize the persona and the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino.
I have always had a simple answer: the absence of malice, both as a person and as President. That is at best and as succinctly a very apt and respectful description of ‘Tita Cory.’
During my stint in Malacañang, I had the opportunity to ask her what she considered to be an all-encompassing important virtue she was looking for and required from among us, members of her Cabinet as well as among those in the bureaucracy tasked with carrying out her administration’s mandate. And, in fact, a common trait among friends and acquaintances. Her answer: sincerity.
When she gave me that answer, immediately my thoughts were of what her assassinated husband, Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. (Ninoy), had said during his exile in the US. Let me paraphrase it, eliminating to whom the remark was originally addressed: “If you are sincere, nothing is impossible….. but if you are insincere nothing is possible."
Political rhetoric, one might quip, but I can personally attest that sincerity, with President Corazon C. Aquino, was indeed innate and a daily mantra. For good measure, let me add “prayerfulness,” because she always sought spiritual guidance through prayer.
Cory Aquino, the human and humane that she was, may have had errors of judgement as President, as perfection is not of this planet, but she was completely free from pretense, deceit and hypocrisy. Kind, thoughtful and generous, as well. I am certain that as we again observe her birthday, many others would have their favorite memories of ‘Tita Cory.’ Here is mine.
A very important highlight of my life, and allow me to call it a blessing as well, was having served government under her public mandate; and earlier, having been a friend since 1967.
That was when Ninoy introduced me to his wife at their residence in #25 Times St., Q.C. It was the run up to Ninoy’s candidacy for the Senate. As a child growing up, I was wisely taught to always show respect and defer to the ‘mother’ of the house I was visiting or frequented. I did spend time, purposely chatting and exchanging pleasantries with Cory during visits, while most others sought only the “padre de familia’s” attention.
After having helped assemble the 1967 national campaign organization, I repaired to the Visayas as my assigned area, tying up looser ends and staying away from home for many weeks, holed up in Cebu City. It was to prepare for Ninoy's grand first salvo in Cebu, to which he was to be joined by his wife. It may have been Cory Aquino’s first visit to Cebu City, a political one at that! Among the activities was a big dinner with youth leaders hosted by the Cebu City Jaycees. By then, I had been out on the campaign road, away from home for quite a stretch. Evidently, Cory was aware of this.
On the morning of Cory's arrival at Lahug Airport (still the principal airport of Cebu then), Ninoy was with the reception crowd assembled to meet his wife. Ninoy had arrived in Cebu a day earlier. Down the aircraft stairs came Cory, accompanied by brother-in-law Butz Aquino. (Butz and I belonged to the Capitol QC Jaycees.)
As soon as Cory had alighted, she reached out to me and said: “Buddy, we have a surprise for you!” At that precise moment, she turned around and looked up towards the aircraft door, apparently a prearranged signal. From the aircraft door emerged my wife, Tessie Samson-Gomez, in the company of her cousin Popsy Mendez-Aquino, Butz' wife.
What a surprise and such thoughtfulness! In the midst of a political campaign, ‘family’ has not escaped Cory Aquino’s concerns. I took her gesture not only as an expression of gratitude for helping out in the campaign but also as recognition that the campaign exacted inconveniences such as being away from home!
Click here other articles of Buddy Gomez:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.