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4/19/2008 9:02:50 AM

Cory to the core


Demaree J. B. Raval
The trouble with praise, as Pearl S. Buck once observed, is that when it is bestowed during an unsuitable time and given tactlessly, it tends to wound the receiver’s heart as much as to throw blame or assign responsibility for a grievous fault. So I harbor this fear of being thought of as maladroit and insensitive in this column. Or worse, as being a benighted singer of praises, inasmuch as others have already done so before me, some out of a compulsory sense of journalistic noblesse oblige. For, verily, it is often the baneful duty of media to be able to say something compassionate when a person of consequence suffers a reversal of health. And for the past weeks, we have seen an outpouring of sympathetic pity and concern for former President Corazon Aquino, in such a volume and degree that invited compassion fatigue.

Cory — for that is how we have learned to call her in endearment and respect — does not need to be pitied or cried over for her present predicament. She is at peace with herself, sustained by that selfsame inner courage we all remember her for, which came shining through for all of us to behold on that infamous day in August 1983. It has taken her a lot of courage to shed off that familiar and secure role of inconspicuous “housewife,” in order to accept, albeit with reluctance at first, the duty of carrying on the mission of her slain husband to free us from the oppressive embrace of a dictatorship.

Today, 22 years after Edsa I — at a time when our nation once more is strangled by the repressive chokehold of a virtual dictatorship — Cory has not lost that courage to confront danger, misfortune and injustice. Whenever corruption, sleaze, vice and fraud rear their heads, Cory has not failed to use her moral suasion on a citizenry that, ironically enough, too soon forgot that vigilance is the price of existence in that brave new world that dawned on Feb. 25, 1986 along a lonely stretch of highway — the epiphany of saints, indeed! Whether while yet at the crest of national adulation or much later in her failing health, which she prudently hid from us for as long as possible, Cory has continued to affirm to herself and to the rest of us, that life with all its trials and tribulations is good; that everything is fraught with meaning even if, through some dark and devious machinations, others strive to conceal things beyond our understanding. And above all, that there is always tomorrow.

In a sense, Cory’s illness draws attention to the malignancy that afflicts us: that an uncontrolled evil and degeneracy has engulfed the social contract between the governors and the governed; and that nobody is willing to stamp out this social cancer anymore, as long as the greed is kept to a moderate degree. That it is cancer — the killer manifesting itself only when it is only in its advanced stage — that afflicts Cory is a wake-up call to the nation: that what ails us is the silence of those who should respond but do not, who choose to be cowed into a state of terrified — and terrifying — silence; and that the general malaise that afflicts us all is our indifference to those things which should trouble us, our refusal to take positive and forceful action against the excesses of our governors.

It remains for time and circumstance, and God’s bountiful mercy to grant how long Cory would be with us — to inspire us to dare to struggle, as we did then; to rouse us to win, as we must do now. Never mind if we are foiled or hoodwinked along the way by the machinations of Gloria Arroyo; as long as we are enthused by the courage of Cory, we, like her, shall not be reduced to a nation of moral cowards who allow themselves to be deceived and manipulated by the “luckiest bitch in the world.” Courage, after all, is going through one setback to the next without abandoning hope and enthusiasm.

We have been at this as a nation since January 2001, suffering in silence. We have not mustered enough courage to reprise what we did a generation ago. Now that Cory is at the forefront in the call for Arroyo’s resignation, we should lend our ears to that call. In her physical affliction, Cory remains undiminished before our eyes: a national heroine, an icon of courage, a beacon of hope, an anchor of deliverance. As Cory wages this one last fight of her life, let us allow her to save us from our nonchalant selves and rescue us again from a dictatorship.

It is time the skeptics see through the symbolism of that common appearance on stage of Cory and former President Joseph Estrada; she, in her signature yellow dress, never losing her fervor of hope for the Filipino; and he, swathed in his red jacket, keeping alive the fire in the belly of those who have less in life and are further abused and debased in law. Together, hope for the better and the will to fight can deliver us from the evil one.



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