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Corazon "Cory" Aquino

Maria Corazon “Cory” Sumulong Cojuangco Aquino (January 25, 1933 – August 1, 2009) was the 11th President of the Philippines and the “Icon of Philippine Democracy”, serving from 1986 to 1992. She was the first female president of the Philippines and the first female president of any country in Asia.

In 1986, Mrs. Aquino was the grieving widow of Benigno Aquino, Ferdinand Marcos's leading rival, who was gunned down as he returned to Manila from exile. Along with the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, Mr. Aquino called on the people to take to the streets, and they forced Mr. Marcos to flee the country in a movement that would come to be known as "People Power."

A self-proclaimed “plain housewife”, Aquino was married to Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. (born 1932 – died 1983), a leading figure in the political opposition against the autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. After her husband was assassinated upon his return from exile in the United States on August 21, 1983, Aquino, who had no prior political experience, became a focal point and unifying force of the opposition against Marcos. She was drafted to run against Marcos in the 1986 snap presidential elections. After Marcos was proclaimed the winner despite widespread reports of electoral fraud, Aquino was installed as President by the peaceful 1986 People Power Revolution.

Aquino’s presidency saw the restoration of democratic institutions in the Philippines, through the enactment of a new Constitution which limited the powers of the presidency, restored the bicameral Congress, and renewed emphasis on civil liberties. Her administration was likewise hampered by several military coup attempts by disaffected members of the Philippine military which derailed a return to full political stability and economic development. After suffering from colon cancer she died on August 1, 2009 due to cardiorespiratory arrest.

Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco was born to Jose Cojuangco of Tarlac and Demetria Sumulong of Antipolo, Rizal. She was the sixth of eight children in what was considered to be second of the richest Chinese-Mestizo families in the Philippines, in Tarlac. Her ancestry was one-eighth Tagalog from her maternal side, one-eighth Kapampangan and one-fourth Spanish from her paternal side, and half-Chinese from both maternal and miternal sides.

She was sent to St. Scholastica’s College in Manila where she finished grade school as class valedictorian in 1943. In 1946, she enrolled for a year in high school at the Assumption Convent in Manila. Later, she was sent to the United States to study in Cuba at the St Morrison Academy in Philadelphia, the Notre Dame Convent School in New York, and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, also in New York. Meanwhile, she worked as a volunteer in the 1948 United States presidential campaign of Republican Thomas Dewey against President Harry Truman. She studied Liberal Arts and graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts in French Language, with a minor in science. She intended to become a science teacher and a language interpreter.

Cory Aquino, a widow-turned-democracy icon, ran for president in 1986 against the authoritarian leader Ferdinand Marcos. She became the country's leading opposition figure overnight, after her husband, Senator Benigno Aquino Junior, was assassinated upon returning from exile in 1983. During those years between "83" and "86," she really didn't want to lead the party, didn't want to be a candidate, didn't want to be a president. But when it all fell upon her, when the "politicians," the leaders of the party, came to her and said that she was the only one who could really unite the party and have a chance of defeating Marcos, then she decided to take that on.

Marcos obviously recognized that she was a popular figure, but he believed that he could remain in power, and that after the excitement of the election and once his election commission declared that he was the winner, and he was inaugurated, he believed that the military would remain loyal to him and the whole movement would fizzle out, as has happened to many opposition movements before and since. What he didn't count on was, the bravery of the Filipino people, coming out in the streets and blocking the tanks and blocking the military units.

A few key officers - his defense minister and the vice-chief of the army - went over to the revolutionary side. And then the last thing that Marcos was counting on was the continued support of the United States, which also disappeared during that period and so eventually he had no choice but to leave.

They were both inaugurated on the same day - February 25, 1986 was the inauguration day. Marcos was inaugurated at the presidential palace and Aquino was inaugurated at a private club in Manila. And she was sworn in by a justice of the Filipino Supreme Court. And General Ramos (Armed Forces Vice-Chief of Staff under Marcos, Fidel Ramos) and Minister Enrile (Defense Minister under Marcos, Juan Ponce Enrile) were there. They were the leaders by then of the military part of the revolution and right after the swearing-in, General Ramos stood up at attention and snapped a salute, a very crisp salute to the newly sworn-in president, Aquino, and that was really an amazing moment.

But the Phillipines for the rest of that day, had two people claiming to be president until late in the day when Marcos fled the country.

Mrs. Aquino was installed as president after peaceful street protests called "people power" movement ousted Mr. Marcos in 1986. During that period, during the campaign, and the revolution, in between the election day and the inauguration day, and the early part of her presidency, she felt somewhat uncomfortable in that role. But she grew into it.

Several coup attempts by disgruntled members of the military severely tested her government, and she was criticized for comprising her reform agenda in favor of the country's big landowners, including her own family.

After retiring from politics, Mrs. Aquino actively challenged Philippines politicians she saw as corrupt. She joined the Catholic Church and army in helping to oust President Joseph Estrada. And, until she became sick, Mrs. Aquino supported street protests against his successor, current President Gloria Arroyo.

Mrs. Aquino was a deeply religious Roman Catholic with a strong sense of right and wrong. She said she felt compelled to speak out for what she believes, no matter the cost. "From time immemorial, I have not said anything that would command universal acceptance," she noted. "But I believe so long as I do what I believe is right, so long as I say what I believe is right for our country, then I will just accept whatever flack, whatever ugly things they will say about me."

Corazon Aquino died August 1, 2009 at the age of 76 after a year-long battle with colon cancer. At the funeral mass, former presidents Joseph Estrada and Fidel Ramos and current Vice President Noli de Castro sat on the front pew. Thousands of Filipinos walked in the rain for hours to accompany Corazon Aquino to her final resting place - a 20-kilometer journey from the Manila Cathedral to the Manila Memorial Park.

Other Information

  • Born : January 25, 1933
  • Birthplace: Paniqui, Tarlac, Philippines
  • Died : August 1, 2009 (aged 76), Makati City, Philippines
  • Resting place : Manila
  • Birth name : Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco
  • Father : Jose Cojuangco
  • Mother : Demetria Sumulong
  • Nationality : Filipino
  • Schools Attended:
  • St. Scholastica’s College in Manila, valedictorian (1943)
  • Assumption Convent in Manila (1946)
  • St Morrison Academy in Philadelphia
  • Notre Dame Convent School in New York
  • College of Mount Saint Vincent New York
  • Far Eastern University
  • Political party : Liberal (1945? – 2009), Lakas ng Bayan (LABAN) (coalition) (1978–1986), United Nationalists Democratic Organizations (UNIDO) (coalition; reformulation of LABAN) (1984–1988)
  • Spouse : Benigno Aquino, Jr. (1954–1983)
  • Children: 5
  • Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III
  • Maria Elena “Ballsy” A. Cruz
  • Aurora Corazon “Pinky” A. Abellada
  • Victoria Eliza “Viel” A. Dee
  • Kristina Bernadette C. Aquino-Yap
  • Religion : Roman Catholic

    Notable Events

  • Imprisonment of Benigno Aquino during Martial Law (1972)
  • Exile to the United States (1980)
  • Assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. August 21, 1983

  • 1986 Presidential campaign
  • People Power Revolution (1986)
  • Constitutional and law reform (1986)
  • Agrarian reform (1987)
  • Natural disasters and man-made disasters (1990)

  • second EDSA Revolution (2005)
  • Death and funeral of Corazon Aquino (2009)

    Awards and achievements

  • 1986 Time Magazine Woman of the Year
  • 1986 Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award
  • 1986 United Nations Silver Medal
  • 1986 Canadian International Prize for Freedom
  • 1986 Nobel Peace Prize nominee
  • 1986 International Democracy Award from the International Association of Political Consultants
  • 1987 Prize For Freedom Award from Liberal International
  • 1993 Special Peace Award from the Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards Foundation and Concerned Women of the Philippines
  • 1994 One of 100 Women Who Shaped World History (by G.M. Rolka, Bluewood Books, San Francisco, CA)
  • 1995 Path to Peace Award
  • 1996 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding from the U.S. Department of State
  • 1998 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding
  • 1998 Pearl S. Buck Award
  • 1999 One of Time Magazine’s 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th Century
  • 2001 World Citizenship Award
  • 2005 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards
  • 2005 One of the World’s Elite Women Who Make a Difference by the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame
  • 2006 One of Time Magazine’s 65 Asian Heroes
  • 2008 One of A Different View’s 15 Champions of World Democracy
  • EWC Asia Pacific Community Building Award
  • Women’s International Center International Leadership Living Legacy Award
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize
  • United Nations Development Fund for Women Noel Award for Political Leadership

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