Ateneo PolSci Bloggers

A Mother Not Like Any Other: Postscript to Cory Aquino

In Culture, History, Philippine Issues, Politics on August 5, 2009 at 5:56 pm

by Hansley Juliano

Look around you! Look at these people. Do you see the suffering and unhappiness in this world? Their only hope is the Resurrected Jesus. I don’t care whether you’re Jesus or not. The Resurrected Jesus will save the world — that’s what matters…

I created the truth out of what people needed and what they believed. You don’t know how happy he can make them. Happy to do anything. He can make them happy to die and they’ll die… all for the sake of Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God. Messiah…

My Jesus is much more powerful.

– Paul the Apostle, The Last Temptation of Christ

Nick Joaquin, in an attempt to placate the anti-clerical bent of the traditional reading of the Filipino revolution, once proposed that we look kindly on our culture of festivities as it is these that bred the preferable ground for the Katipunan to launch their revolt on the eve of their discovery. We Filipinos, despite our pervasive liberal-democratic institutions, nevertheless have a legendary penchant for communal activities. We appreciate and bask in festivities not just because we swallow the shallow one-liner of John Donne of “no man being an island,” but because we value familial ties so much we want the familial mode of relations to be the dominant paradigm of transaction in any context. We have established superiority and authority in the parental figure, infusing it with such attributes that the private sphere has already become the priority of people, an ethic of sincerity and relationality.

These thoughts run in our mind in witnessing this week’s proceedings within the confines of La Salle Greenhills and its culmination from the Walled City of Intramuros. Truly Filipino, we find ways to solemnize any particular event with the air of a festivity, whether for revelry or reflective grieving. The funeral of the woman we have hailed and have been proud of as “the mother of democracy,” Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, despite efforts to render her a simple human being like all of us in that last journey of her earthly existence, has not dimmed nor effaced the gravity of her impact on an entire generation of Filipinos in their continuous, drudging, desperate, yet ever-hopeful struggle for a truly democratic society.

For all means and purposes, we do not exculpate our beloved Tita Cory from the many other questions regarding her tenure of office that have not been given satisfactory resolutions up to today. We never discount the fact that she, being a Cojuangco and a Sumulong, married to an Aquino, is inherently a part of the systematic (and, shall we say, chronic) dysfunction of our popular democratic institutions. We never forget her inabilities and shortcomings which found her in a compromising position with the very people to whom she owed her chance at proving her dedication to destroy all ramparts of the Marcos fascist-crony-capitalist state. We do not forget that she has a bumbling senator for a son and a deranged excuse for a daughter.

And yet, as Ambeth Ocampo would always reiterate, it is precisely these limitations, these failings, that make them all the more admirable for trying to dare the impossible. We have a culture of seeking to comprehend in the midst of incomprehensibility. Despite our penchant for jumping at the bandwagon to condemn incompetents, we never immediately blast somebody for trying to reach the goal through the more ambitious aim. In fact, we have an automatic identification and solidarity with them because we see ourselves in them, and therefore our capacity for greatness.

Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino embodies, in ways that people would be hard-pressed to actually articulate, the revolutionary trajectory of the Filipino in their quest for self-realization and the establishment of a true government of the people, for the people and by the people. We see in her the personification of what can be done to make the best out of a bad situation. It has not been new to us. Emilio Aguinaldo was thrust in the global political sphere in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, and exhausted every effort he can in order to maintain the independence his people were able to grasp from Spanish hegemony, if not for the tragic mistake of trusting the “cold, calculating Sons of the North.” Manuel Quezon, for all his flair, pushed on the platform of immediate independence despite its unfeasibility not just solely because he wished to strengthen his political acumen but because he is also among those who wanted a Philippines that truly speaks for itself.

Cacique democracy, it must be admitted, can never be separated from Tita Cory’s political identification. And yet despite this, it appears that, similar to that a creole like Quezon gained Malacanang at the downfall of the Federalistas, she was able to achieve what before seemed already a hopeless effort: an inauguration of a new revolutionary tradition. Though many would say that, in her later years, she is a fading voice of conscience in a society that has already lost its own and is apathetically (and pathetically) bumbling towards a hand-to-mouth existence, no one can claim that all that effort for re-imagining and reinstating what the people seeks for themselves did not make any relevant impact on the people’s fight. Her humble demeanour, never the first to impose but willing to strike back (as witness her denouncement of her own Vice-President, Salvador Laurel, after his turnaround during the Christmas Coup of 1989), appeals to our masses in the same way that we have a fanatical devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (she herself being one), the essential mother figure. That Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attempted to ape it (and ultimately failed to do so) shows us how permanent an image she has imprinted in our cultural consciousness.

Political analysts might highlight repeatedly (as we have done) her shortcomings, but the people will always give primary importance to her confrontation with the unlamented dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and how she supposedly was able to return “democracy” back to the people. It might also have been helpful that the dichotomies of good and evil are quite clearer then, and thus was able to strike our fellow Filipinos close to home and join the fight that has been protracted for so long. Our inability to fully relive the spirit of the EDSA Revolution is because we do not only have anxieties regarding our ability to do so as long as we fight for democracy, but because we have been kept in such mechanisms of docility stemming from the government created by the EDSA Revolution.

Time and time again, mythology has given us an enslaved community being liberated by a hero. Today, our narrative is no longer epic, but the value of communal commitment is actually stronger than ever: the late Fernando Poe Jr.’s penultimate film Alamat ng Lawin recognizes that only if the people themselves will join the fight will the willing heroes succeed. We have cried at the testimonies of Tita Cory’s friends and relatives. We have worn yellow and have enthroned her in our regard together with her husband Ninoy, the quintessential Filipino martyr in our imagination after Jose Rizal, “the only queen the people recognizes” as Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J. would reiterate in his homily during the mass. We have seen her body delivered to her resting place flanked by the very institutions that have been guilty of brutalizing the Filipino nation for two decades and have snuffed the life out of her husband. “Nothing else could be said about her,” the good priest said. But it should it end here?

She has become an ideal. She did not ask for it: we gave it to her. Therefore, this ideal shall only remain potent and serve as a beacon light for our children’s future if we ourselves would use it as our guidance, our source of hope, and our primary weapon against the forces of pervasive, perverted liberal democracy. This is the only, true and befitting tribute we can give her: protect the nation she has thrown her lot with and her whole life into.

And that might just stop the failed impersonator from “materializing” in our midst after 2010.

Gotham needs its true hero… “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” I can do those things because I’m not a hero… I killed those people. That’s what I can be… I am whatever Gotham needs me to be…

… Sometimes…the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

– Batman, The Dark Knight
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  1. […] Hansley Juliano in Spaces of Resistance: Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino embodies, in ways that people would be […]

  2. […] Hansley Juliano in Spaces of Resistance: Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino embodies, in ways that people would be […]

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