Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Passing of an Icon

Cory Aquino, former president and icon of the EDSA revolution in 1986, succumbed to her bout with cancer while I was here in the Philippines. Beloved by many, she was mourned continuously in many parts of the country from the time of her death last early Saturday morning to the funeral today (Wednesday). The Manila Cathedral was packed and the streets where her casket passed were pressed with people waiting to say good-by. The television stations had nonstop coverage of the events of her life, emotional comments from grieving family and friends and reflections on her presidency. Today was declared a non-working holiday. While out on the streets today many a small vendor had a TV tucked into the corner of their shop, each tuned into the funeral as a majority of the country collectively stopped for a moment in time.

Not everyone has been equally affected by this outpouring of national grief. When Ms. Aquino died I was in Western Mindanao, which has a high population of Bangsamoro people. No one bothered to tell me of Cory's passing and the coverage was more subdued. The recently jumpstarted peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will take a hiatus today. As one Muslim friend told me, “today is an emotional day…. A day for condolences…tomorrow we begin politics again.”

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