Mon, August 03, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific

Massive turnout for Aquino cortege in Manila

2009-08-03 06:39:15 GMT2009-08-03 14:39:15 (Beijing Time)  SINA.com

Students pay their respects during a wake for late former President Corazon Aquino at De La Salle University in suburban Mandaluyong, east of Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 3, 2009. Mourners wept as they paid their respects at the wake of former President Corazon Aquino on Sunday, with some pledging to carry on her legacy by protecting the democracy she helped install 23 years ago. AP Photo

People pay their last respect to former Philippine president Corazon Aquino during her wake in Mandaluyong, east of Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 3, 2009. Weeping mourners have been paying their respects at the wake of former President Corazon Aquino, with some pledging to carry on her legacy by protecting the democracy she helped install 23 years ago. AP Photo

Students walk past portraits of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino as they pay their last respect during her wake in Mandaluyong, east of Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 3, 2009. Weeping mourners have been paying their respects at the wake of former President Corazon Aquino, with some pledging to carry on her legacy by protecting the democracy she helped install 23 years ago.AP Photo

MANILA, Philippines – Masses of mourners yelled her name as former President Corazon Aquino's body was escorted Monday through rain-soaked streets to Manila Cathedral, along a historic avenue that 23 years ago became the site of a "people power" revolt against a dictator led by the woman in a yellow dress.

Tens of thousands left their offices, schools and homes and converged on streets and overpasses with clumps of yellow balloons, waving yellow ribbons and showering confetti on Aquino's flag-draped casket carried on a flatbed truck bedecked with flowers. Yellow became a symbol of the nonviolent mass uprising that forced Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986.

As sunshine rays broke through the clouds, a man on a bicycle released four doves. Manila's notorious traffic came to a standstill as drivers rolled down windows and put out their hands flashing Aquino's trademark "L" sign for "laban," or "fight" in Filipino, her slogan in the campaign that toppled Marcos' 20-year repressive rule.

Many of the supporters — nuns, priests, students, wealthy residents and their uniformed maids and ordinary folk — wore yellow, Aquino's favored color. Huge banners displayed "Thank You Corazon Aquino" and "You're Not Alone" — an Aquino slogan from the 1986 revolt.

From a school stadium where the casket was open for public viewing since her death Saturday, the motorcade passed by a "people power" shrine on EDSA highway, where hundreds of thousands of her supporters blocked Marcos' tanks in 1986.

Along Ayala Avenue, where Aquino led many pro-democracy marches, employees from high rises rained yellow confetti on the crowds below — reminiscent of the anti-Marcos protests Aquino led.

"I have not seen a crowd like this," said Franklin Drilon, Aquino's former Cabinet aide. "The people here are very enthusiastic, people in sandals, people in coat and tie, young and old with babies, they're coming out waving."

Instead of the usual stock figures, a streetside neon screen at the Philippine Stock Exchange flashed Aquino's favorite nickname with her portrait and a message: "Goodbye Cory and Thank You So Much Cory."

The funeral convoy briefly stopped at a monument of Aquino's assassinated husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

"I'm looking out the window now and I see women crying," said daughter Kris Aquino. "I really just appreciate the love. Everybody's saying thank you to us for sharing my mom."

Passing along palm tree-lined Manila Bay, her body will be moved to the Manila Cathedral to lie in state for public viewing until Wednesday's funeral.

Aquino died early Saturday at a Manila hospital after a yearlong battle with colon cancer. She was 76.

The democracy icon rose to prominence after the 1983 assassination of her husband upon his return from U.S. exile to challenge Marcos.

His widow led the largest funeral procession Manila had ever seen, with crowd estimates as high as 2 million.

The killing enraged many Filipinos and unleashed a broad-based opposition movement that thrust Aquino into the role of national leader. Marcos claimed victory over Aquino in a snap 1986 election, but the polls were widely seen as fraudulent. A group of military officers rebelled against him, triggering three days of "people power" protests by hundreds of thousands that finally toppled Marcos.

A housewife who was reluctantly thrust into power, Aquino struggled in office to meet high public expectations. Her land redistribution program fell short of ending economic domination by the landed elite. Her leadership, especially in social and economic reform, was often indecisive, leaving many of her closest allies disillusioned by the end of her term.

Still, the bespectacled, smiling woman in her trademark yellow dress remained beloved in the Philippines, where she was affectionately referred to as "Tita (Auntie) Cory."

She stepped down in 1992 after serving for six years.

Aquino will be buried beside her husband in a private funeral Wednesday.

Her youngest daughter Kris thanked the Marcos family in a rare conciliatory gesture and said her mother had forgiven all her political enemies.

Nevertheless, Kris Aquino said her family refused President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's offer of a state funeral because the government had attempted to recall two soldiers assigned to guard her mother when she was still alive. Former Philippine presidents traditionally have the right to retain at least two guards.

Aquino's only son, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, said the family would not be too enthusiastic to see Arroyo at the funeral but she could pay her respects.

Months before she was diagnosed with cancer, Aquino joined street protests organized amid opposition fears that Arroyo could amend the country's 1987 constitution to lift term limits or impose martial law to stay in power when her term ends next year. Arroyo said she has no desire to extend her term.

(Agencies)

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