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Masses gather for Aquino cortege

Tens of thousands of mourners pay their last respects to Corazon Aquino as her body is escorted to Manila Cathedral.

A truck carrying the casket of late former president Corazon Aquino passes thousands of people along the main street of Makati's financial business district of Manila on August 3, 2009.
A truck carrying the casket of late former president Corazon Aquino passes thousands of people along the main street of Makati's financial business district of Manila on August 3, 2009.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES // Masses of mourners yelled Corazon Aquino's name as her body was escorted through rain-soaked streets to Manila Cathedral today. Tens of thousands of people left their offices, schools and homes to converge on streets, waving yellow balloons and ribbons as the late former president's flag-draped casket went by on a lorry bedecked with flowers. Yellow became a symbol of the nonviolent mass uprising that forced Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986.

Manila's notorious traffic came to a standstill as drivers rolled down windows and put out their hands flashing Mrs Aquino's trademark "L" sign for "laban," or "fight" in Filipino - her slogan in the campaign that toppled Mr Marcos' 20-year repressive rule. Huge banners displayed "Thank You Corazon Aquino" and "You're Not Alone" - an Aquino slogan from the 1986 revolt. The motorcade passed by a "people power" shrine on EDSA motorway, where hundreds of thousands of her supporters blocked Mr Marcos' tanks in 1986.

Along Ayala Avenue, where Mrs Aquino led many pro-democracy marches, employees from high rises rained yellow confetti on the crowds below. "I have not seen a crowd like this," said Franklin Drilon, Mrs Aquino's former cabinet aide. "The people here are very enthusiastic, people in sandals, people in coat and tie, young and old with babies, they're coming out waving." Instead of the usual stock figures, a street side neon screen at the Philippine Stock Exchange flashed Mrs Aquino's favourite nickname with her portrait and a message: "Goodbye Cory and Thank You So Much Cory."

The funeral convoy briefly stopped at a monument of Mrs Aquino's assassinated husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. "I'm looking out the window now and I see women crying," said her daughter Kris Aquino. "I really just appreciate the love. Everybody's saying thank you to us for sharing my mum." Passing along palm tree-lined Manila Bay, her body will be moved to the Manila Cathedral to lie in state for public viewing until Wednesday's funeral.

Mrs Aquino died early on Saturday at a Manila hospital after a year-long battle with colon cancer. She was 76. The democracy icon rose to prominence after the 1983 assassination of her husband upon his return from US exile to challenge Mr Marcos. *AP