06 November 2009

ERF: Cory Aquino 1

It was after the murder of Ninoy Aquino and before Marcos announced a snap election. I was part of a group doing a video on Ninoy to be shown underground to Filipinos, so that people would know exactly why he was such a threat to Marcos that he had to be shot at the airport. I was working closely with the Cojuangco family. I met regularly with Cory in the Cojuangco building in Makati. I have so many memories of those days. Here's one:

Cory and I were left alone in the room after everybody else had left. We chatted a bit about Ninoy (I will not break confidence!). What I can reveal is this: it was after dark and there was no one left on the floor where we were. At that time, Cory was not considered in danger nor a threat to the Marcoses, so she had no bodyguards, no secretaries, no one to care for her person.

Cory said it was time for us to go home. She got up, went to the window, closed the blinds, checked the electric plugs, and as we went out the door, made sure the door was locked. There was absolutely no "presidential air" in the manner she went about making sure the office was okay before she left it. Right there, I knew that, if there were any chance at all, she should be president of the country.

A few months later, Marcos announced the snap election. Of course, I wrote Cory's first speeches, including the proclamation speech at Liwasang Bonifacio. I wrote all the speeches in Filipino. One afternoon, when she and I were again alone in her office, she asked me, "Do you think I should be running for president?"

I said, unhesitating, "Ma'am, you will make a great president."

Then she asked me something that I will never forget.

"Promise me," she said, "that if I become president, you will break through my cordon sanitaire." She was so afraid that she would be isolated from the people by the people around her.

"I promise, Ma'am," I said. That is one promise that I never fulfilled, because when she did become president, no matter how hard I tried (and I knew the people closest to her), I could never get through her cordon sanitaire.

After her term, it was much easier for me to get to her. I invited her to a couple of events I managed, and she always came. She even consented to swear me in as president of the Fulbright alumni association. But that was after her term. Before her term, I was fairly close to her. After her term, she was very nice to me. But during her term, I never got to see her. Sadly, she was indeed kept isolated by her unwanted cordon sanitaire.

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