MANILA - The Filipino nation paid tribute to former President Corazon Aquino on Wednesday with one priest describing the ex-president as "the only true queen the Filipino people had."
In his homily at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, pointed out three attributes that made Aquino a great leader: her selflessness, her faith, and her courage.
He said Aquino put love of country above self and family, which endeared her to the nation. He pointed out that Aquino was a woman of prayer who always turned to God whenever she faced trial or hardship. Finally, he said Aquino possessed courage and abiding loyalty.
"It was a strength that others could lean on. It was always there, it never wavered. It was never broken," Arevalo said.
"Perhaps, a little less elegantly, a seminarian told me last Monday, she was only the true queen our people had ever had. She was queen because we knew she truly held our hearts and in the gentleness and greatness of her own."
He said the greatest tribute given to Aquino were the thousands of Filipinos who lined up for hours, braving the elements, just to show their love for the mother of the nation.
"They wanted to tell you even for a brief moment, how much they love you. Now you belong with the immortals, but these words are for the mortals with bruised hearts who have lost the mother of the people," Fr. Arevalo said.
In search for Mrs. Aquino's greatness, and reasons why she deserved to be called a queen, Fr. Arevalo said he sought the help of women "sources," three daughters of the late president: Maria Elena "Ballsy" Aquino Cruz, Maria Aurora "Pinky" Aquino Abellada and Victoria Elisa Aquino Dy.
The priest said Ballsy told him her mother's greatness lay in her selflessness "seen above all in her love of country, above self, yes, even above family."
He said Mrs. Aquino's selflessness was still very obvious when she learned that she had colon cancer. He said the former president went to the Green Meadows Chapel to offer "her suffering to God and then for our people."
Arevalo said the late president told a grandson that her priority was always "God and our country, people and then family."
Another other daughter of the late president, Pinky, told him that her mother's greatness was in her faith in God and in the Filipino people, while another daughter said it was her courage and abiding loyalty.
Arevalo added another trait of the former president that brought her to greatness--"purity of her spirit and heart."
Before finally saying goodbye to the former president, the priest expressed his hope that the patriotism and unity that resulted in the death of Mrs. Aquino would continue so that her sacrifices would not go to waste.
"What will come after this mass this morning?" Fr. Arevalo asked.
Outside the Manila Cathedral, thousands of people endlessly came to hear the funeral Mass for Mrs. Aquino. Thousands have also started preparing for the funeral procession from the cathedral to the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque.
The funeral Mass for Aquino started at exactly 9 a.m. with Balanga Auxiliary Bishop Socrates Villegas, a close friend of the Aquinos, as the main celebrant.
Among those seen attending the Mass were Vice-President Noli de Castro, East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta, former presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
Mrs. Aquino's body was scheduled to be carried out of the Manila Cathedral at 11 a.m.
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