Monday, August 3, 2009

Witnessing History from the Twentieth Floor

Maybe I was one of those people who, few hours later, got hold of the ill news; having work-related activity that gloomy Saturday early morning. It was not surprising, really. And I know her family shared the same sentiment since it was a losing battle against cancer.

Tita Cory has died.

But only today did this fact actually sinked in to me. I didn't even know that her remains were to be brought from La Salle Greenhills to Manila Cathedral around noon today--unfortunately, it was news blackout for the sleep-deprived. I walked from my apartment in J.P. Rizal Street and then traversed Makati Avenue going to work this morning; yellow ribbons on every posts and sills along the way. There are people in yellow shirts. There are security details at every corner of Makati CBD. It was raining. It seemed sad and dejected. I was indifferent.

"It is snowing!", a Malaysian colleague called out while, with other people in the office, peering out of the windows. My initial reaction was comical but upon seeing his matter-of-fact face it seemed that it was indeed snowing: flakes of yellow replaced the dampening rains. And with ABS-CBN's DZMM tuned in from a live streaming on one laptop, it became very clear.

Tita Cory is near. She is coming.

I joined the group leaning on the thick hingeless window; after all, we were at the 20th floor. A sea of yellow crowd greeted me from below. As we were waiting, so were they under the scorching sun. It seemed that the sky was in one with the people; rains on a sudden halt. But still open umbrellas can be seen. The person on the PA system desperately asked them to close all umbrellas to no avail. In this country of skin whiteners, this request will surely fall on deaf ears. But as if by providence, an invisible blanket engulfed the sun and the scorching heat joined the rains at bay waiting for one moment to pass. Umbrellas now closed, and then goosebumps.

She is here.

Her flag-draped casket stopped right in front of her late husband's monument at Ayala Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas. Jim Paredes' Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo can be heard in the air while yellow confetti continued to fall. It was like a warp speed back into history when people eagerly waited for Ninoy. Now, it was the wife-turned-president-turned-icon. I reckon no one in the post-colonial Philippines had received this kind of accolade and reverence from the people aside from Magsaysay and the Aquino couple.

Tita Cory has been called Tita Cory from Day One. Not even the highest office in the land changed that; she was never called President Aquino. I reckon it's because the Filipino people relate to her in close kinship rather than a political figure plastered on glossy posters. That's why she is loved. She may not have put the country back to the economic pedestal it used to stand before Marcos' plunder. She may not have resolved insurgency from the South. She may have been unsuccessful in addressing the problems of the previous regime. But still people at that moment in that intersection of the financial district still gave their sincere respect to so many is the greatest president we had. This is because of the one legacy no post-colonial president had ever done: genuine democracy. She served her purpose of restoring democracy and of smooth transition from revolution to republic. She could have just stayed home and, instead, consoled her grief-stricken children orphaned by a father. She chose not just to be their mother but the mother of a restarting nation. Technically that time she could have ruled by decree for she was both executive and legislative but she refused to be like the tyrant she toppled. She convened the first Constitutional Convention that drafted our present Constitution. She ensured that every democratic mechanisms of a new government are in place before stepping down. Her allies enticed her to seek re-election since the newly instituted term-limit provision of the Constitution does not apply to her. But she stepped down all the same and she exited with grace (choosing to go home in a Toyota Crown rather than in the government's Mercedes); not succumbing to lust for power. Come to think of it, she can be dwarfed by the modern infrastructure Marcos had built. But what stand out are the things that can never be seen.

I stood behind that windowpane at the 20th floor seeing the thing that was not there before, and I was not indifferent anymore. I was suddenly overwhelmed. I know this is history and this is one her-story not meant to be just witnessed from afar.

I know I have to go down, take the nearest elevator and be part of the writing of our story.


This was also one of those times that I wished I never had left my DSLR at home. I am meaning to go into photojournalism, and this is one event that can not go without capturing. At least I have my iPhone, my Indian colleague's Canon Powershot SX110 IS and an unobstructed bird's eyeview from the 20th floor.

Ayala Ave. cor. Paseo de Roxas - taken with Canon Powershot SX110 IS; post-processed with Adobe LR2

For the last time, people are drawn to your charisma;

Ayala Ave. cor. Paseo de Roxas - taken with iPhone 3G; post-processed with Adobe LR2

seas of yellow carried you to final rest.

people's reflection on one of the glass windows of Enterprise Bldg. - taken with Canon Powershot SX110 IS; post-processed with Adobe LR2

Vox populi,

glass windows of Enterprise Bldg. - taken with Canon Powershot SX110 IS; post-processed with Adobe LR2

democracy reflected and defended.

the people and the flag-draped casket of the former president - taken with Canon Powershot SX110 IS; post-processed with Adobe LR2

With you standing up as our leader.

the people, the icons and democracy - taken with Canon Powershot SX110 IS; post-processed with Adobe LR2

He said, the Filipinos are worth dying for.
You said, we are worth living for.
Now, both of you are eternal.

Tower One Bldg. as seen from Philamlife Bldg. - taken with iPhone 3G; post-processed with Adobe LR2

The yellow ribbon will continue to undulate with the winds;

Makati CBD - taken with Canon Powershot SX110 IS; post-processed with Adobe LR2

A beacon that lights the path of those
bound to your noble cause -- a nation that is truly free.

GMT +8 Manila, Philippines

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