x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Thousands mourn Aquino at wake

Mourners wept as they paid their last respects at the wake of the former president Corazon Aquino.

Baby Dante, a supporter of the late Philippine president Corazon Aquino, is escorted as she grieves at the De La Salle school gym.
Baby Dante, a supporter of the late Philippine president Corazon Aquino, is escorted as she grieves at the De La Salle school gym.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES // Mourners wept as they paid their last respects at the wake of former President Corazon Aquino on Sunday. Some pledged to carry on her legacy by protecting the democracy she helped install 23 years ago. Filipinos have been sensitive to any slide back toward autocratic rule since Mrs Aquino and Roman Catholic church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin led the 1986 "people power" revolt that ousted long time dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Jose Olazo brought his year-old grandson to Mrs Aquino's wake with a yellow band tied around the child's head. The colour was a symbol of the nonviolent mass uprising that forced Mr Marcos from power and into exile in the United States. Mr Olazo, a 53-year-old labourer and democracy activist, cried at Mrs Aquino's flag-draped casket and quietly vowed to continue safeguarding the democracy she helped implant after decades of brutal dictatorship. "He's the next-generation protester," Mr Olazo said, pointing to his grandson James.

Mr Olazo was among thousands of people who lined up for hours to pay their last respects to Mrs Aquino at a suburban Manila university stadium, where her coffin was displayed on a platform teeming with yellow roses and orchids. Some mourners openly wept. Some held protest mementoes such as yellow ribbons and an old poster of Mr Marcos. Mrs Aquino, 76, died early Saturday in a Manila hospital after a year-long battle with colon cancer, reminding many Filipinos of her role in bringing democracy to the country - and of the effort needed to keep it intact.

Months before she was diagnosed with cancer, Mrs Aquino joined street protests organised amid opposition fears that the president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may amend the country's 1987 Constitution to lift term limits or impose martial law to stay in power when her term ends next year. Mrs Arroyo said she has no desire to extend her term. Ismita Maliakel, a nun from Kerala, India who lined up to attend the funeral, said Mrs Aquino's death was "a blow to democracy" but added she will continue to be a democratic symbol. "Like Gandhi, she will be remembered in the Philippines," Mrs Maliakel said.

Mrs Arroyo declared a 10-day national mourning period starting Saturday, and her aides said she will cut short a US trip. * AP