Monday, August 03, 2009

That Infallible Heart

I have searched for words to describe my reaction upon learning of Cory Aquino’s death. Days before, knowing she was terribly sick, I did not feel anything. Not grief nor sadness but a sense of inevitability. Nothing is finite and all beginnings must have an end. Since I do not have a god to which to pray, I had no recourse to the usual avenues of comfort.

On Saturday morning a friend alerted me to the news before I could plug in. The whole weekend I searched for a way to articulate my feelings and the thoughts in my head. I watched a few of her speeches on YouTube and sat teary-eyed every so often. I remembered what I had said earlier when the false news of her death had leaked, I’d said “Her death will mark a sunset to many things.”

Cory was our neighbor, my playmates said. She lived a few dozen meters down from my home in Kalookan. My playmates and I would come to her house and steal glimpses of her from outside her gates as she moved about her home preparing meals or scolding her children. We all wondered why she did not wear her trademark yellow. We reasoned, it must only be for her public appearances.

Much later I would realize that this woman was not in fact the new president of the country, as older folks would tell me. “No, that is not the President!” they would insist, but rather a look alike. My little heart was crushed as the reality dawned. And here I thought we had something special in our sleepy little neighborhood.

She has been described as many things – the mother of democracy, the homemaker, the politician’s wife, the reluctant president. As a child, she was an enigma, a leader so charismatic everyone spoke of her only in reverence. I would later come to know her politics in adulthood. I would know that she did not in fact deliver us from evil, that her constitution was a compromise, that the restoration of democracy would also restore the old power alignments peopled by old and new faces. Power alignments that had and indeed continue to threaten our fragile democracy. It is the same kind of realization one has when one realizes one’s parents are not infallible, that they in fact are human beings replete not only with strengths but also with weaknesses.

In adulthood we take responsibility for the successes and failures of the past. As our young nation gropes its way through the dark, we too make mistakes. We must all grow up one of these days.

Corazon Aquino’s death marks the sunset of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, where the people’s yearning for order gave way to the rot of centralized power and of centralized greed. That was the struggle of our parents and grandparents.

On Wednesday Corazon Aquino will be laid to rest. I can only hope that as any good daughter, we take with us the memories of her infallibility as child and what made her fallible as a grown-up. Our country’s democratizing project is far from over. It has only begun. Laban.

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