Manila at standstill for Aquino

Thousand of mourners gather to pay their respects to late former president.

 The body of Corazon Aquino will lie in state until her funeral on Wednesday [EPA]

Tens of thousands of people have lined the streets of the Philippines’ capital, Manila, to pay their respects to Corazon Aquino, the late former president, as her body was transported to city’s cathedral.

The 76-year-old died in the early hours of Saturday morning after a long fight against colon cancer.

Thousands of Filippinos have been paying tribute to Aquino [AFP]

The scene in central Manila on Monday was reminiscent of the Philippines’ so-called “people power” uprising in 1986 that toppled Ferdinand Marcos, the former president, and brought Aquino to power.

Her body will lie in state at the cathedral before she is buried in a private funeral on Wednesday.

Masses of people yelled her name as Aquino’s coffin was escorted through the rain-soaked streets of the capital along a historic avenue that was the site of the revolt against what many saw as Marcos’ authoritarian rule.

Tens of thousands left their offices, schools and homes and converged on to the streets with yellow balloons, waving yellow ribbons and showering confetti on Aquino’s flag-draped casket.

Yellow became a symbol of the non-violent uprising in the country.

“I have not seen a crowd like this,” Franklin Drilon, Aquino’s former cabinet aide, told the Associated Press.

“The people here are very enthusiastic, people in sandals, people in coat and tie, young and old with babies, they’re coming out waving.”

Aquino rose to prominence after the 1983 assassination of her husband, Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino, upon his return from exile in the United States to challenge Marcos.

As his widow she led the largest funeral procession Manila had ever seen, with as many as two million said to have attended.

‘People power’

The killing angered many Filipinos and unleashed an opposition movement that pushed Aquino into the role of leader.

Marcos claimed victory over Aquino in a 1986 election but the polls were widely viewed as rigged.

Corazon Aquino became the icon of the Philippines’ struggle for democracy [EPA] 

A group of military officers subsequently rebelled against him, triggering three days of “people power” demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of protesters that finally toppled Marcos, forcing him to flee into exile in Hawaii.

Many mourners during Monday’s procession flashed the letter “L” sign with their fingers – symbolic for the world “laban”, meaning “fight”, Aquino’s slogan during the her election campaign.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all,” the youngest of the Aquino children, actress Kristina Bernadette, said as the convoy stopped in front of the statue of her late father, Benigno Aquino.

“Our hearts feel so wonderful because you are letting us feel that you loved my mum very much,” she said. “I feel so blessed to be a Filipino.”

She said allowing the public to openly view her mother’s body was “our way of saying thank you to the people who were with us from the very start.”

Reluctant leader

As a former housewife who reluctantly became president, Aquino once said: “What on Earth do I know about being president?” before taking up the challenge to run against Marcos.

During her presidential term Aquino, known as Cory to millions of Filipinos, helped cement the democratic process and oversaw the writing of a new constitution, thereby limiting a president’s time in office to one six-year term.

She left office in 1992, but remained politically active until beset by illness.

Aquino was forced to withdraw from public life after being diagnosed in March 2008 with colon cancer, which spread to her liver just days before her death.

Source : News Agencies


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