x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE Filipino community mourns Aquino passing

Filipino diplomats and members of the Filipino community in the Emirates pay rich tributes to the former Philippines president Corazon Aquino who died today.

AD200910908019989AR
AD200910908019989AR

ABU DHABI // Filipino diplomats and members of the Filipino community in the Emirates paid rich tributes to former Philippines president Corazon Aquino as they mourned her death today. Known as the country's democracy icon, she died of cardio-respiratory arrest at the Makati medical centre in Manila at 3.18am today. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is in the United States where she met the US president Barack Obama at the White House, declared a 10-day period of national mourning. Noel Servigon, the consul-general and charge d' affaires at the Philippine embassy, said they will open a book of condolence for Mrs Aquino at the embassy and organise a special mass at St Joseph Church in the capital. He is joining the rest of the Filipino community in the UAE in expressing condolences to the former president's family and the whole Filipino nation with her passing. Mr Servigon said his decision to be a volunteer of the Cory Aquino for President Movement (CAPM) more than 20 years ago was a testament that he believed in the cause that she was campaigning for. "I did not regret such decision," he said. He recalled that in 1986, when he was still a law student at the University of the Philippines, he became a CAPM volunteer. He was assigned to conduct seminars in northern Luzon for CAPM poll watchers there. "When I was told that I had passed the examinations for the foreign service officers in 1988, I did not expect that my appointment would be signed by then President Aquino herself. I regret that I was unable to take my oath of office before her," Mr Servigon said. He met Mrs Aquino personally in 2003 when she attended the Human Rights Congress in Vienna where he was posted as vice consul. "When I escorted her to a side trip to Prague, I told the former president about what I had done as a CAPM volunteer," Mr Servigon said. "She was so delighted to know me as her long time supporter that she gave me a copy of her book with her personal dedication. I still bring that book with me to all my other postings." The country's first woman president was diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2008 and underwent surgery to remove part of her colon in April this year. She was confined at the Makati medical centre in late June. "She has done a lot to restore democracy and overcame several coup attempts," Nasser Munder, the labour attache at the Philippine overseas labour office in Abu Dhabi, said. "She also restored the confidence of the people and we take pride at her good governance. At the end of her term, she stepped down with no rancour or hatred." Mr Munder said he met Mrs Aquino for the first time at the Malacanang presidential palace in 1988. "It was such a rare privilege. I was a municipal judge at that time and was part of a delegation who discussed the developmental projects of Lanao del Sur [southern Philippines]." Florencia Ardivilla, the assistant labour attache in Dubai, said: "Filipinos should be grateful to her because of her presence in the political scene. Democracy was restored when she became the president of our country. During her term, I did not hear anything about her being involved in any questionable transactions." "She's a very sincere person and because of her love for our country, she fought for our democracy and was brave enough to accept the challenge to serve the Filipino nation," she said. Emmanuel Mascarina, 51, a transport co-ordinator at the Ras al Khaimah Free Trade Zone, Mrs Aquino will be remembered as a symbol of democracy who continued the legacy of her late husband. "She restored democracy and was a woman of courage and faith. She survived seven military attempts to overthrow her presidency but I believe that she is one of our country's greatest leaders," Mr Mascarina said. He had a face-to-face encounter with the former president sometime in 1986 at a rally held at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City. "It was such an honour to meet her at that rally," he said. "As Aquino supporters, we all wore yellow shirts and called for former President Ferdinand Marcos to step down. Later, I also participated in the people power revolution at Edsa which installed Mrs Aquino into power. " Rene Fernandez, 42, a nurse in Abu Dhabi for 13 years, said he met Mrs Aquino once in 1987 when she launched a project in Cebu City in the Philippines. "For me, she is a role model and I would compare her to my mother," he said. "As the widow of the former senator Benigno Aguino, she took good care of her family and of the Filipino nation as well." "We are praying to give Mrs Aquino's family strength and courage to accept God's will," said Leonila Sanchez, 52, a health professional and a resident of Abu Dhabi for the past 27 years. "She was the most honest and religious president." She said even her Indian friends at St Joseph Church had earlier been praying for Mrs Aquino's recovery. Filipinos, led by several political and business leaders in this mostly Catholic South-east Asian nation, had been offering masses for Mrs Aquino last month. Mrs Aquino is the wife of the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr, one of the staunchest critics of the former president Ferdinand Marcos. She rose to power in February 1986 after a civilian-backed military uprising known as the 1986 "People Power". rruiz@thenational.ae