When I was a freshman in high school at St. Scholastica’s College (which was incidentally President Cory Aquino’s alma mater) being president of the country was a popular aspiration. Sunshine wanted to be president, I remember. So did Margaux, or maybe it was Debbie.
For the 12 and 13-year-old girls in my class, Cory Aquino wasn’t just the first female president of the nation, she was THE symbol of the Filipina. Someone who was a leader, yet kind, someone who was not necessarily beautiful but fearless and brave anyway. That this ‘humble housewife’ was the commander-in-chief of the Philppine islands meant that any of us – of a similar colegiala upbringing, heck, even graduates of the same school – could also one day do the same.
Of course, we took it for granted then. But as budding feminists in the 90s, we were never made to feel that women couldn’t do certain things. After all, Cory was our president. She’d made the cover of Time magazine a bunch of times. She led a revolution. Even without the macho posturings of guns and armies, Cory changed our world.
Living in the late ’80s and most of the ’90s in the Philippines, right after overthrowing the Marcos dictatorship, was amazing. The whole country was constantly rejoicing, newly discovering freedom of speech, free trade (yes, even McDonalds), having more than three channels, being able to travel abroad, letting go of the US bases, art festivals.
We lived through coup d’etats, planes flying over our houses, en route to Malacanang palace, without really being afraid. (I remember being happy every time the army tried to overthrow the Aquino government because classes were suspended.) Cory made that possible, that fearlessness, that belief that everything was going to be OK. No matter what kind of leader she was, she gave us hope in ourselves and in our country. And really, that’s all we needed, and at the time, it was all that mattered.