Rising Above Ourselves

Nonfiction by | August 16, 2009

There will come a time in our lives that we have to make a big decision—a decision whose consequences we are uncertain of. It is not easy to make such a decision, so we’ve got to really admire those who have mustered a mammoth of courage and made that decision.

History is strewn with great men and women who bravely made a big decision even if that meant putting their lives and other people’s lives at grave risk. On a wintry day in December 1776, George Washington decided to cross the Delaware River. The supplies and provisions of Washington’s Continental Army were fast running out. The soldiers were hungry and destitute. Some of them were sick; others were dying. And many more would die, including their fight for independence, unless they crossed the Delaware River into the garrison of the Hessians where stores of food, clothing, blankets, and munitions, run aplenty. On Christmas Day, Washington and his men embarked on a bold move that would, historians say, alter the course of the revolution the Americans waged against the British Empire. They successfully crossed the river, swiftly defeated their enemies, and resuscitated the revolution.

Corazon Aquino, “Cory” to many, made hers when her husband, the former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., was killed. The feisty senator was among those who were imprisoned when former president Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. Ninoy spent many years in prison, but was soon allowed by Marcos to go abroad for a heart operation. There, the Aquinos experienced a glint of peace. But Ninoy was a man who always wanted to be on the battlefields. Though he lived comfortably abroad, away from the claws of the dictatorship, he decided to come home. And he came home, only to be killed.

With his death, Ninoy left not only a bereaved family but an unfinished battle as well. That battle was to take power away from the hands of Marcos—the power that Marcos excessively wielded for himself. That battle was to bring back to people what was rightfully theirs—their freedom.

There were more able and more willing men who could have continued that battle. There was, for example, Jose Diokno, or Lorenzo Tañada, or Jovito Salonga, or Salvador Laurel—all of whom were brilliant and adept with the inner workings of politics. None of them, however, could be considered as a single unifying figure of the aspirations of the people.

And so it came to pass that the task fell on the shoulders of Cory—she who was reluctant to accept the enormousness of the task, who knew next to nothing about being a resident.

“What on earth do I know about being president?” Cory once said.

Yet the people launched a signature campaign for Cory’s presidency, convinced as they were that it was only she who could take her husband’s post. The movement, called Cory Aquino for President Movement (CAPM), was headed by Joaquin “Chino” Roces, then
publisher of the post-war “Manila Times.” Roces relentlessly worked; he was frequently seen in the streets pushing a grocery cart with piles and piles of papers. And yet Cory remained reluctant to carry on the fight her husband left. Sometime in 1985, Roces recalled, Cory phoned him and said, “Chino, tama na ‘yang kalokohan ninyo!”

But Roces continued with his kalokohan and gathered more than a million signatures. After Cory witnessed the outpouring of support in Davao City and elsewhere in the country; and after Marcos called a snap election—after all that, Cory finally obliged.

And the rest, they say, is history.

Cory could have led a comfortable life abroad. She could have ignored altogether the idea of assuming his husband’s fight, making it as though it were her own. She could have left the battle to others who were more willing and more experienced and more able than a plain housewife like her. She could have devoted her time to taking care of her fledgling family. But she did not. Although the decision was not that swift, she accepted her fate like Mary who, when Angel Gabriel appeared before her and told her to bear the Son of God, willingly submitted to the will of God.

If there’s one thing that Cory has taught us, it is that we have to rise above our petty concerns, above our predicaments, and indeed above ourselves. This lesson was imparted to us a long time ago by our founding parents. Cory is merely re-echoing, by example, what Emilio Jacinto, the Brains of the Katipunan, wrote as the first of the thirteen teachings in the Kartilla, the primer of the Katipunan: “Life which is not consecrated to a lofty and sacred cause is like a tree without a shadow, if not a poisonous weed.”

Cory consecrated her life to “a lofty and sacred cause”—a cause bigger and better than herself alone. And we must keep on fighting for that cause, so that Cory and those who have come before her shall not have died in vain.

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Arvin Antonio Oritz is a senior BSED-Social Studies student at Holy Cross of Davao College.

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