Death and funeral of Corazon Aquino
Aquino's flag-draped casket borne on a flatbed truck during the funeral procession. This was intentionally modelled after the funeral of her husband, Benigno, a quarter century before.
|Date||August 1–5, 2009|
|Participants||People of the Philippines|
|Outcome||National day of mourning and funeral procession
Candidacy of Sen. Benigno Aquino III for the presidential election.
The death of Corazón Cojuangco-Aquino, eleventh President of the Philippines, occurred on August 1, 2009 at the Makati Medical Center in Makati. Aquino died of cardiorespiratory arrest after being in hospital from June 2009, and was first diagnosed with colorectal cancer in March 2008.
The Aquino family declined an invitation by government to grant the former President a state funeral. Her funeral was held on August 5, 2009, and her body was buried at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque. She is the first woman and the second President and layman after Carlos P. García to have their wake at the Manila Cathedral.
Ako’y nagpápasalamat sa inyong lahat at lalong-lalo na sa Panginoóng Diyos na ginawâ Niya akong isang Pilipino. Talagang karangalan ko iyon na maging katulad niyo at maraming salamat sa lahat ng tulong na ibinigay ninyo sa akin.
—Cory Aquino, September 3, 2008
In December 2007, Aquino experienced periodic fluctuations of blood pressure, difficulty in breathing, hair loss, loss of appetite and a remarkable drop in weight. Some days after, her physician informed the Aquino family that she had colorectal cancer, and by mid-March 2008, she confided the nature of her disease to a close friend, Rev Catalino Arévalo.
On March 24, 2008, her youngest daughter, television presenter and actress Kris Aquino, disclosed that her mother was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. In a televised announcement, she said that her mother began to experience cancer symptoms before 2008, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough and loss of appetite. Her only brother, then-senator Benigno Aquino III, was at her side as she made the announcement. Kris also said that the March 19 result of her mother's biopsy revealed the disease was primarily due to adenocarcinoma, where the cancer started on colon glands. Her spokesperson, Deedee Sytangco, said that her colon cancer was at stage four prior to discovery. While she had initially been informed by physicians that she had only three months to live, Mme. Aquino pursued chemotherapy.
Citizens were shocked because some days before, Aquino had made a public appearance at protests against the Arroyo government. She was known before her confinement to be an avid supporter of NBN-ZTE scandal primary witness Rodolfo Lozada, Jr., and actively attended Masses and rallies for him. This included the "Mass for Truth and Accountability" novena that she helped organise, the first of which began on February 25–exactly 22 years after her accession as President at the height of the People Power Revolution. On March 23, 2008, during the sixth "Mass for Truth and Accountability" and the day before Kris' announcement, she was seen attending Easter Sunday Mass in Saint Joseph's College, Quezon City, where she thanked Lozada for "his courage and sacrifices for the campaign of truth."
On March 25 at approximately 18:00 PHT, Aquino was brought to Makati Medical Center, where she was prepared for chemotherapy. Her son, Benigno, said that his mother would undergo such unspecified set of procedures before taking chemotheraphy. Some sources at the hospital said that the former President would undergo colectomy, cardiopulmonary clearance and blood transfusion as prerequisites for the treatment.
Aquino had made some progress in April and her appetite returned. In public remarks made on May 13, 2008, Aquino herself announced that blood tests indicated that she was responding positively to the medical treatment.
By July 2009, however, she was reported to be in a very serious condition and kept in hospital due to loss of appetite and chronic baldness. It was announced that Aquino and her family had decided to discontinue the chemotherapy sessions and other medical intervention.
Her son, Senator (now President) Benigno Aquino III, announced her death to the media at 05:00. The Aquino family was then reported to have declined the government's invitation for a state funeral.
Wake and Funeral
Aquino's casket was initially lay in state at the St. Benilde Gymnasium of La Salle Green Hills in Mandaluyong, before it was transferred to Manila Cathedral on August 3. A crowd estimated at 120,000 witnessed the transfer of her remains from La Salle Green Hills to the Manila Cathedral. Most mourners were concentrated at the Benigno Aquino, Jr. memorial along Ayala Avenue, Makati, where the funeral procession paused briefly while the crowds sang "Bayan Ko. The Church in the Philippines permitted Aquino to lie in state at the Cathedral, making her the first woman and only the second layman after former President Carlos P. García to be given the honour, which is often reserved for a deceased Archbishop of Manila.
In a surprising gesture of civility, Bongbong and Imee (the children of the Aquinos' bitter political rival, former President Ferdinand Marcos) paid their last respects at the Cathedral on August 4. President Arroyo cut short her visit to the United States, and attended the wake in the early hours of Wednesday, August 5, where she spoke with Benigno III for about seven minutes. The Requiem Mass and interment were scheduled for later that day, which was declared as a special, non-working holiday by President Arroyo.
President of Timor-Leste José Ramos Horta was at the funeral and paid his last respects to Aquino. Also attending the wake was Aquino's friend, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of former Malaysian Deputy Minister and oppositionist Anwar Ibrahim, who wore a yellow tudung for the occasion.
All Roman Catholic dioceses held their own Requiem Masses for Aquino, which replaced the initial "healing masses" intended for her recovery. Meanwhile, the government declared a week of national mourning for her death. As much as 7,000 mourners waited in line at the Manila Cathedral on August 4.
Requiem Mass and funeral
The Requiem Mass for Aquino was held on August 5, and was officiated by then-Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, along with more than a dozen other bishops and priests.
José Mari Chan sang the poem Ninoy wrote for Cory, "I Have Fallen In Love," as Aquino's casket was borne up the nave of the Cathedral. Other songs and hymns performed in tribute were "Sa 'Yo Lamang" (For You Alone) by Piolo Pascual; "The Lord's Prayer" by Erik Santos; "The Impossible Dream" by Jed Madela; and "Pangako" (Promise) by Ogie Alcasid. Martin Nievera and Regine Velasquez performed a duet of "The Prayer", while Sarah Geronimo sang the People Power Revolution anthem "Magkaisa" ("Unite"); "Your Heart Today" by Filipina singer Maria Teresa Abellare Llamedo Cruzata aka Dulce; "Hindi Kita Malilimutan" ("I Will Never Forget You") by Zsa Zsa Padilla; and "Bayan Ko" ("My Country") by Lea Salonga. The artists later joined the Apo Hiking Society in singing another song from the 1986 People Power Revolution, "Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo" ("Filipinos' Offering to the World"). The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra played some background music.
Aquino's flag-draped casket was laid at the steps of Manila Cathedral and given departure honours, after which a brass band performed the Lupang Hinirang. The casket was mounted onto a flatbed track similar to the one used for her husband's funeral a quarter century before, similarly decked in white and yellow flowers arranged in an eight-rayed sunburst evocative of the national flag. An honour guard of four servicemen from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marines, stood vigil as the casket truck-hearse made its way through the rains and throngs of mourners.
The funeral procession from the Cathedral to the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque lasted for almost eight hours, with black- and yellow-clad mourners lining the route and flashing the Laban sign ("fight"; holding the thumb and forefinger at right angles like an "L"). When the cortege reached the cemetery, Aquino was given full military honors, with a two-star general acting as military host and eight, one-star generals as pallbearers carrying the coffin. The crowd that lined the funeral route (passing through the cities of Manila, Makati, Pasay, and Parañaque) was estimated to be between 300,000 to 400,000 people. Before interring Aquino, Presidential guards placed her coffin near the mausoleum where her husband Ninoy is interred.
Attendance at the burial were originally restricted to Aquino's family and close friends, but the crowd broke through the security barriers after the last of the convoy's 13 buses entered the cemetery. Though the crowd was inside the premises, they nonetheless maintained a respectful distance from the burial site.
Bishop Socrates Villegas and Rev Catalino Arevalo, SJ, gave the final blessing, and as per the Aquino family's request, the casket was opened one last time. The glass cover was removed, and after Bishop Villegas, Fr. Arevalo, and Aquino's children sprinkled it with holy water, members of Aquino's family gave a final kiss to the deceased leader. The casket was sealed, after which the flag was removed, given a final military salute, and folded before being presented to Senator Aquino. The military pallbearers ushered the casket into the tomb before her family, supporters, and allies placed yellow flowers inside. As the tomb was being sealed, the congregation sang Bayan Ko and several other hymns.
Aquino's grave marker is identical to that of her husband: a simple marble plaque with her name, nickname, and the dates of birth and death inscribed in black.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was on a state visit in Washington, D.C. when she was informed about the President Aquino's death, called Aquino a "national treasure". She ended her trip ahead of schedule and returned to Manila to visit Aquino's wake. Arroyo announced a 10-day mourning period for the former President, and issued Administrative Order No. 269 to "official acts and observances” to help in the funeral of the former President.
Former President Estrada said that they lost a "mother" and a "guiding voice of the people." Estrada also described Aquino as "Philippines' most loved woman". Aquino supported Estrada's removal from office in 2001, but the two supported each other to oppose amendments in the constitution since last year. The Senate has also expressed its grieving with Aquino's death; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who along with Fidel Ramos launched the People Power Revolution, asked the public to pray for her. Minority leader Aquilino Pimentel, who previously served as interior and local government secretary during her administration, had "mixed feelings" with Aquino's passing, saying "We shall be forever indebted to Cory for rallying the nation behind the campaign to topple dictatorial rule and restore democracy."
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev in a telegram to President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stated, “The name of Corazon Aquino is associated with a period of profound reforms and the democratic transformation of Filipino society.” Medvedev also noted that Corazon Aquino showed great interest and sympathy to Russia and prioritised the development of Russian-Filipino relations. International figures expressed their grief, with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noting that Aquino was "admired by the world for her extraordinary courage". White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that "Her courage, determination, and moral leadership serve as an inspiration to us all and exemplify the best in the Filipino nation." Other ambassadors also sent their messages of condolence following her death. Pope Benedict XVI recalled Aquino as a "courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people, her firm rejection of violence and intolerance," according to Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. President of South Africa Jacob Zuma called Aquino "a great leader who set a shining example of peaceful transition to democracy in her country." Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom said, "I am saddened to hear of the death of Corazon 'Cory' Aquino the former President of the Republic of the Philippines."
Diplomats from South Africa, Brazil, Turkey, United Kingdom, Iran, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Sweden, Thailand, Iraq, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, Mexico, France, and Pakistan, among others, and the representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) attended the wake of the Former President.
- Brazil – Brazilian Ambassador Alcides G.R. Prates offered his country’s condolences to Aquino family and the Filipino people.
- Canada – Canadian Ambassador Robert Desjardins said Aquino has been recognized internationally for her contributions to human rights and political freedoms, values that Canada strongly shares with the Philippines, adding that she will be sincerely missed by the international community, and people everywhere, including the 300,000 Canadians of Filipino origin.
The government and the people of Canada would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the Filipino people. President Aquino will be remembered as a leader who ushered in a new era of freedom in the Philippines, and inspired millions around the world. She was an international icon of democracy, a global model of people power, and a passionate advocate of good governance.
- Chile – Chile’s Ambassador to the Philippines Ovid Harasich was also at the wake and hailed Aquino for her important role in bringing democracy back in the country. He said the people of Chile were saddened by Aquino’s demise.
- China – The Embassy of the People's Republic of China has issued the following statement:
We are deeply saddened on hearing the news that former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino passed away early this morning. The Philippines lost an inspiring statesman while China, in sharp grief, bereaved of a sincere friend. President Aquino made great efforts in developing China-Philippine friendly relations. Her vision would be remembered and her contribution would be long cherished by China and the Chinese people. May she rest in peace.
- Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao also recalled his meeting with Cory in 1988, when the Liu was serving as a junior diplomat under China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She was the first head of state that I met in my lifetime and I was very impressed with her grace and courage in developing bilateral relations between our countries. I am very grateful for what she did.
- East Timor – East Timor President José Ramos-Horta, a long-time friend of Aquino, broke protocol when he came to Manila to attend the funeral. Diplomats looked down on the gesture for heads of state given the fact that it was not a state funeral. Ramos-Horta braved a downpour and arrived on Wednesday morning in time for the funeral mass at Manila Cathedral. However, he had to proceed to Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque ahead of the mourners because he could not sit for long hours due to the wound he sustained from an attempt on his life in East Timor in 2008.
I’m always impressed by leaders who showed compassion and humility. To me, there is no greater quality in a leader than being compassionate and being humble because only through compassion and humility that one can bridge the divide, build bridges of dialogue between communities and between warring sections... No amount of intellect or academic record can replace compassion and humility that was Cory Aquino... Cory Aquino, through her compassion and humility, inspired me.
- European Union – Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines led the European Union in expressing grief over the death of Aquino.
Throughout her presidential term, and notwithstanding a number of severe challenges, she never flinched in her determination to ensure that the Philippines would not veer from its democratic path.
- Finland – Finnish Ambassador Heikki Hannikainen said that Cory’s leadership led to a new era of hope and promise to Filipinos.
- Hong Kong – A representative of the territory’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang went to the Philippine Consulate to write in the book of condolences.
- Indonesia – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Philippines' nearest neighbour Indonesia said in a statement he was saddened by the news and offered his heartfelt condolences.
- Japan – Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso hailed Aquino's contribution to friendly ties between the two countries:
We would like to sincerely renew our deep respect for her achievement.
- Malaysia – The wife of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Wan Azizah, arrived in Manila on the Sunday of the funeral to pay tribute to former Philippine president Corazon Aquino:
Now that she is gone, I feel grief and the loss not only for the Filipinos but for myself.
The Malaysian people have a special reason to view her as an iconic figure. Their striving for a return of their country to the dispensation entrusted to it by its founding Constitution mirrors hers and Ninoy’s successful struggle to return the Filipino nation to the promise of Jose Rizal’s legacy.
The name of Corazon Aquino is associated with a period of profound reforms and the democratic transformation of Filipino society.
- Singapore – Singapore, in a statement from the Foreign Ministry, lauded her as "a remarkable woman" who worked tirelessly for the betterment of the Philippines.
- South Korea – Former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung recounted to the Philippine Embassy how the 1986 People Power Revolution that catapulted Aquino to power inspired similar democratic movements worldwide, including his country’s own venture into democracy in 1987 following massive rallies.
- Switzerland – Swiss Ambassador Peter Sutter said that Mrs. Aquino conquered the hearts of the Swiss people when she visited Switzerland in June 1988.
As champion of democracy, she will remain an inspiration to us all.
- Thailand – Thailand has sent condolences on the death of former president Aquino who died Saturday after a yearlong battle with colon cancer. In his message to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government and the people of Thailand have learned with “deep sadness and join the Republic of the Philippines in mourning of the demise of Her Excellency Corazon Aquino."
Her Excellency Aquino’s contributions to the development of the country and tireless devotion to peace, stability and democracy for the people of the Republic of the Philippines are well recognised throughout the world and will always be remembered and cherished by all of us with admiration and respect.
- United Kingdom – The British Government has extended its condolences to the family of the late President through Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis.
- Former Foreign Office Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, who worked closely with Mrs Aquino during her election campaign added:
I received the news of Corazon Aquino's death with great sadness. As an advisor in her campaign against President Marcos, the privilege of working with Cory and watching her was one of my life's greatest lessons in courage, leadership, the art of politics and humanity. The way she and all her family made such friends of me as an outsider is something I have always treasured.
- British Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Beckingham also said:
I had the honour and pleasure of meeting former President Aquino on several occasions, when we were able to discuss her visits to London and her interests in members of the Filipino community in Britain, especially those serving in the Church. Those discussions left me with an overwhelming sense of her grace, charisma and compassion. The Philippines has lost a wonderful leader who is widely admired in Britain for her courage and inspiration.
- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II also mourns Cory's death and said:
I am saddened to hear of the death of Corazon 'Cory' Aquino the former President of the Republic of the Philippines. I send my sincere condolences to her family and to the people of the Philippines.
She was the beacon of democracy for this country and for the world. She was very much committed to helping those who are disadvantaged and her legacy remains. We're very sad for her family's loss but what she represents is an inspiration to the world.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon voiced his deep sadness over the passing of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino. Ban paid tribute to the former president for her "exceptional courage and pivotal role in the restoration and consolidation of democracy in the Philippines," which she governed from 1986 to 1992.
Mrs. Aquino will be remembered as a beacon of democracy not only in the Philippines but also around the world.
- United States – According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama was deeply saddened by the death of President Aquino.
Ms. Aquino played a crucial role in Philippines history, moving the country to democratic rule through her non-violent "People Power" movement over twenty years ago. Her courage, determination, and moral leadership are an inspiration to us all and exemplify the best in the Filipino nation. On behalf of the American people, the President extends his deepest condolences to the Aquino family and the nation of the Philippines".
On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I would like to express our most heartfelt condolences to the Aquino family and to the people of the Philippines on the death of former President Corazon Aquino.
- Vatican City – According to the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict XVI recalled Corazon Aquino's "courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people." He remembered her "as a woman of deep and unwavering faith".
- On the day of Aquino's funeral, Friendster created a special profile page that will allow users to become a fan of the former president.
- On the week of Aquino's death, she became a trending topic on the social networking site Twitter. People also got to put yellow ribbons in their pictures to symbolize Aquino.
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