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Corazon Aquino, cory Aquino, president aquino, Corazon Cojuangco, tita cory
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Corazon Aquino, First Female President of the Phillipines

June 29, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
Corazon “Cory” Aquino was a pious, soft-spoken housewife who became the leader of a popular movement that overthrew Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy to the islands.

Corazon Aquino’s Early Days

Maria Corazon Cojuangco was born Jan. 25, 1933, into one of the wealthiest families in the Philippines. Her father, grandfathers and uncles were all involved in Filipino politics, which would help prepare her for her later life in politics.

“Since she was a little girl, Cory has been accustomed to meeting the great personalities of the world,” said Benjamin Brown, a former director at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs. “She is comfortable and confident in those circles.”

She traveled to the United States to complete high school and college, graduating from Mount St. Vincent College in New York in 1954. She returned to the Philippines to attend law school, but she dropped out after a year to marry Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., an ambitious young politician.

Aquino’s Life in Politics

Mrs. Aquino spent much the next two decades at home raising five children. In 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos abolished the constitution and assumed dictatorial control of the country. He jailed his political rivals, including Benigno Aquino.

For the next seven years, Corazon Aquino worked on behalf of her husband, transmitting his messages from prison and raising money for his cause. Benigno was released in 1980 and moved to the U.S. with his family. After three years in exile, he returned to the Philippines, but he was shot and killed before he could get off the plane.

The assassination sparked opposition to Marcos, and Aquino’s supporters rallied behind Cory at her husband’s funeral. “The devout and stoic Roman Catholic widow became the incarnation of a pious nation that had itself suffered silently through more than a decade of autocratic rule,” writes Time.

The shy, soft-spoken Corazon became the face of the anti-Marcos People Power movement. When Marcos called for snap elections to be held in February 1986, Corazon reluctantly entered into the race. Marcos used bribes and voter intimidation to win the election, but he generated a backlash that forced him out of office a month later. Corazon Aquino succeeded him, becoming the Philippines’ first female president.

Time magazine named her its Person of the Year for 1986. “Aquino’s revolution with a human face was no less a triumph for women the world over,” wrote Pico Iyer. “The person known as the ‘Mother of the Nation’ managed to lead a revolt and rule a republic without ever relinquishing her buoyant calm or her gift for making politics and humanity companionable.”

Aquino’s six-year tenure in office would be rife with problems, however. She had not campaigned with a specific political platform, and her loosely affiliated coalition fell apart almost immediately. Marcos loyalists attempted coups against her throughout her term.

She “broke up the monopolies held by Marcos’ allies over the economy, which experienced steady growth for several years,” explains Encyclopedia Britannica. “But she failed to undertake fundamental economic or social reforms, and her popularity steadily declined as she faced continual outcries over economic injustice and political corruption.”

Aquino chose not to seek re-election, instead throwing her support to her Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, who went on to win.

The Rest of the Story

Corazon Aquino retired from politics, though she continued to lead political demonstrations. She was also active in charitable organizations, and ran a center dedicated to non-violence.

She died Aug. 1, 2009, of colon cancer at the age of 76. Philippines President Gloria Arroyo declared, “Cory Aquino helped lead a revolution that restored democracy and the rule of law to our nation at a time of great peril. … She picked up the standard from the fallen warrior Ninoy and helped lead our nation to a brighter day.”

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