DO YOU ever wonder why we call Corazon Aquino simply as Cory? We seldom call her nemesis Ferdie. Perhaps it is because the family name is impersonal; it emphasizes distance. Marcos is beyond reach; Cory is familiar.

People also prefer to call President Macapagal Arroyo as GMA. If they call her Gloria, it is almost always accompanied by epithets, most of which are not flattering. President Estrada is called Erap, but this is often used in the context of a joke. In contrast, Cory has become a term of endearment.

Perhaps we love to call Corazon Aquino by her first name because she stood out in her individuality. Yes, she was both a Cojuangco and an Aquino. But she had refused being cast in a mold that had defined her aristocratic and elitist background. She had also refused to be identified simply as a president, mother of Kris, wife of Ninoy, political activist, etc.

Cory had managed to rise unvanquished above deterministic theorizing, labeling, and generalization. Unlike Marcos, Cory had not wedded her identity with her function, gender, or role.

Rightly can we say: Cory semper major. Cory will always be greater than the world’s idea of her.

In 1989, the curtain finally fell on Marcos, by then a bloated invalid, surrounded by the magnificent debris of power and unconsumed wealth. He was a man obsessed with changing Philippine history.

With his immense intellectual gift and leadership ability, he had dreamt of erasing the infamy of our oppressive past and enshrine the new Filipino in his New Society. But experience had turned his grandiose enterprise back upon itself, challenging promise with performance.

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Like many human projects infected with the arrogant claim for absolute power, it was doomed to failure.

Marcos thought he was soaring higher and higher, until he discovered that the rush was not upward but downward, pulled as he was by the weight of his self-importance.

His fall began the moment he started listening to the sound of sycophants’ wagging tongues, the coarse laughter of allies who surrounded him like flies and whose protruding bellies were sacraments of their remorseless greed.

Yesterday, the curtain also fell on Cory. But immediately, it rose again to reveal a woman, the famous anonymous, the housewife whose very powerlessness made her the emblem of nobility amidst suffering.

She became an icon of faith amidst seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Her life and person have become sacred to us, too elevated to mess with. More than being the symbol of people power, she had taught us how to join world affairs not as victims or pawns, but as dignified participants and leaders.

I hope her name will not be turned into a mere slogan mouthed by politicians or activists in support of dubious and self-serving causes. I hope her life will not be reduced into a few crumbs of witty anecdotes.

True to her name, Corazon had taught us that the real battle rages, not in the streets, the killing fields, or the stock market, but in the heart of people. It is with the heart that the Filipino feels his passion strongest, his drive fiercest, and his zeal blindest.

It would be tragic if we allowed our trivial pursuits and wretched excesses to quench the passion Cory had set aflame.

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This article was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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