The author of this article was an ardent critic of former President Corazon Aquino. He gave a very touching eulogy yesterday at the necrological service at the Manila Cathedral.
Theres The Rub
In lieu of flowers
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:43:00 08/03/2009
Even as our eyes moisten, we see things more clearly than before.
We commend the soul of Corazon Aquino to heaven, whose ways she believed in with the passion of a convert and whose commands she obeyed with the steadfastness of a soldier. At least as she was able to glimpse them through the prism of human imperfection. Some being less imperfect than others, though, I don’t know that she wasn’t able to glimpse them better than all of us. Surely, if there is a heaven, some people deserve richly to be there. Truly, if there is a heaven, its doors fling wide open for those who tried to bring it closer to earth.
Over the last few months, Cory herself expressed surprise that she had lasted longer on earth than her doctors predicted. She had been given only three months to live after her cancer was diagnosed to have spread over her body, but she went on to live for well over a year. It wasn’t altogether a surprise for those who knew her. It seemed to be a habit that refused to die in her, that refused to die with her. Throughout her life, she defied expectations.
Nobody expected her, an ordinary housewife, to rise to topple someone who, wielding unbridled and inexhaustible power, seemed destined only to last forever. Nobody expected her, an ordinary housewife, to deliver a nation that, torn and bleeding from the cancer that had spread across its every pore, seemed destined only to be grabbed by sundry plotters and would-be saviors. Nobody expected her, an ordinary person, to live a life that, by the warmth and radiance felt by those who came in contact with it, would make that person an extraordinary human being.
But she did.
No one expected her to last this long, least of all herself. How it happened, no one knows, least of all her doctors. Why it happened, no one knows, least of all her detractors. If you believe in God, you can only surmise that she had unfinished business left to do. If you believe in Good, you can only surmise that she was commanded by heaven and earth to exert herself one more time, one last time, to help heal an anguished land.
That is by way of example. That is by way of showing us the reserves of strength and courage we need to summon to battle disease. Whether that is the disease of the body or the disease of the soul. Whether that is the disease of the individual or the disease of the society. The quiet dignity with which she bore her pain can only awe us all. The furious heroism with which she thought of others first before herself can only inspire us all. The unshakeable conviction she held that life goes on after death, whether that is the life that lies beyond, in the bosom of the Divine, or the life that flows in the temple of the secular, in the memory of the race, can only bid us follow in her path.
In her leaving, Cory is more present to us than she has ever been before. In her passing, Cory is more alive to us than she has ever been before.
The people closest to her say her one last wish for us was, as then, to fall down on our knees in prayer. I will do as bid. I will invoke the power of prayer. But I will also go on to invoke what I believe to be the real power behind prayer. That is that true prayer comes from the heart and not from the gall. That is that true prayer is attuned to the will of God or Good, and not to the lure of lust and ambition.
I commend that kind of prayer above all to the one who holds the fate of the nation in her hands, the one who calls herself president. Even if that hope seems misplaced, even if that thought seems desperate, even if the possibility that heaven may yet compel the blind to see the light is remote. Who knows? Maybe the spectacle of the impermanence of things, of the spirit flowering long after the flesh withers, may yet plant sight in the blind, may yet enlighten the unseeing.
It is not a choice in any case, it is a necessity. We beg you, we warn you: Respect the law as Cory did. Obey the law as Cory did. At the end of things, go quietly. At the end of things, go gracefully. That is as much true of life when it ebbs as of power when it ends. Cory showed so as much by the graveness with which she accepted power as by the joy with which she gave it up. Cory showed so as much by the dignity of her entry as by the gracefulness of her exit.
The strength of democracy does not lie in heroes, it does not lie in saviors. The strength of democracy lies in its institutions and its processes. Chief of its institutions is peaceful transition. Chief of its processes is knowing when to cut, and cut cleanly.
I commend that kind of prayer as well to all of us, the people of this country. Cory is not the only one who has lingered at death’s door these past years; we have too. Democracy does too. I commend that we pray for the least among us, for the most oppressed among us, for the most tried among us. I commend that we pray that at the end of things we may be able to conquer the things that murder us, as much inside us as outside of us, as Cory has, by the largeness of her spirit, conquered death itself.
But I commend too that we see the one underlying principle in prayer that those who have truly understood prayer have seen throughout the ages, from Aesop to Mohammed to Jesus Christ: Zeus helps only those who help themselves. Allah helps only those who help themselves. God helps only those who help themselves.
I share the bereavement of those who have broken bread with Cory, who have walked with her through the length of her days. I do not think of this as a parting of ways, only a temporary diverging of paths. We will meet again.
In lieu of flowers, I offer my prayers. In lieu of tears, I offer my remembrance.