BRAVING monsoon rains, tens of thousands of Filipinos, including Thomasians, paid their last respects to former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino by lining up to view her remains and attend necrological services in her honor.

UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. concelebrated a Mass at the Manila Cathedral that was presided by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal on August 4.

The death of Aquino last August 1 shocked the whole nation who had been ardently praying for her recovery from colon cancer. She had been confined at the Makati Medical Center since June 24.

In his homily, Vidal described Aquino as “courageous and faithful who transformed fear to an outstanding weapon of bravery.”

The Mass was graced by prominent personalities and attended by thousands of people, including a UST contingent led by the Central Student Council.

The UST Symphony Orchestra and Coro Tomasino provided the liturgical music. Mass goers waved the “Laban” sign as the choir sang “Bayan Ko,” the anthem of the pro-democracy movement that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Gift to the Filipino people

In separate interviews with the Varsitarian during the wake, politicians, clergymen, and other prominent personalities were united in saying that Aquino was a great gift to the Filipino people.

Balanga, Bataan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said Aquino is irreplaceable.

“There can only be one Cory,” Villegas said. “God will provide for [the Filipinos] in the moment of great loss, that God will not abandon us even if Cory has died.”

On a personal note, Villegas said Aquino taught him lessons which he summarized into three: “the courage and generosity to sacrifice, the power to show love for the nation, and the power of prayer.”

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Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio said the Filipino people should be inspired by Aquino.

“Cory had devoted her life and family in helping the nation,” he said. “We should always be ready to sacrifice and leave our comfort zone like what Cory did.”

Former budget secretary Emilia Bongcodin described Aquino as the nation’s moral leader.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan argeed, saying Aquino is an “icon of ideal governance.”

“All leaders in this country should follow her as an example,” Bongcodin added.

Singer Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement civic group said Aquino was a guardian of country’s democracy.

Navarro called on the youth to realize Aquino’s contribution to the nation.

“Remember, all the freedom you are enjoying now, your ‘gimmicks,’ your wifi, and many things, Cory gave all this back to [you], so do not make [your] life expedient,” she said.

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said with Aquino’s death, a part of the nation also died.

“I think she will be [leaving] her legacy–– love for country, love for democracy, honesty, and integrity,” said Sen. Rodolfo Biazon. “She will always be remembered.”

“Cory lived the meaning of the Filipino is worth dying for,” said Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. “She responded to the call of the Filipino people to lead them as president for six years, not without the pains and sacrifices of a struggling democracy,” Lagdameo said, adding that Aquino once stated that “the Filipino is worth living for.”

Ordinary people

Earlier at the wake at De La Salle gymnasium in Green Hills, San Juan, Filipinos lined up for hours to pay their last respects to the former president.

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“I am crying because I feel for her, I feel for her family and I feel for the nation in grief because she is gone,” said 67-year-old Clarita Marquez.

Oliver Velasco, who came all the way from Laguna, said that “as a Filipino citizen, it is a must to personally give our respects and prayers before Cory.”

“She is one prominent person who truly deserves an eternal gratitude and admiration,” he added.

“Cory Aquino is the epitome of the freedom we are experiencing now,” said Alvin Perez, a security man. “She is one of a kind. Just look at the number of people dying to see her, it’s unbelievable.”

Even the younger generations who knew Aquino only in biography and history books saw “Tita Cory” as a model for the youth.

“Her selfless, sincere and faithful character should be an example, not only to the youth but to all the Filipinos, especially government leaders. This is a call for them to change their crooked ways,” said college student Amiel Gamara.

“I am here to see Tita Cory because she is my idol and also, she is a former president who likes to wear yellow,” said fifth grader Kevin Gacita.

Aquino is laid to rest beside the grave of her husband Ninoy Aquino, at the Manila Memorial Park.

The funeral was held last August 5 and lasted for nine hours, due to the overwhelming number of people wanting to pay their last tribute to the former president and People Power icon.

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