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Philippine heroine stood for People Power


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POSTED: Saturday, August 01, 2009

Raymund Liongson choked back tears yesterday when he heard of the death of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino while watching cable television news.

“;She's an icon of democracy not only for the Philippines, but for the world,”; said Liongson, assistant professor of Philippine studies at Leeward Community College. “;It's really a big loss for the country.”;

Aquino's name is synonymous with the People Power Revolution that toppled President Ferdinand Marcos' 20-year rule of the Philippines. Liongson is among many in Hawaii who are mourning the death of Aquino, who battled colon cancer.

Aquino became the first female president of the Philippines following the August 1983 assassination of her husband, Benigno “;Ninoy”; Aquino Jr., a longtime political rival of Marcos. The assassination sparked an uproar among many Filipinos, pushing her into the public eye.

She was the focal point of the people's revolution, said Liongson, who was part of the People Power revolt. “;She has become a model of moral, political leadership in the Philippines.”; Years after her presidential term ended, she remained a prominent leader and continued to be revered in her country.

“;She was a powerful symbol signifying the return of democratic space,”; said Belinda Aquino, professor and director of the Center of Philippine Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who is no relation to the former Philippine president.

“;She was an extraordinary person,”; said Hawaii journalist David Briscoe, who served as bureau chief of the Associated Press in Manila from 1980 to 1986.

Briscoe was in a room full of journalists at the Manila airport awaiting to in-terview Ninoy Aquino, who arrived in the Philippines after spending three years in exile in Boston. Seconds after he exited the plane, Aquino was assassinated on the tarmac.

Briscoe described Corazon Aquino as a straightforward person who did not falter during the election against Marcos despite her inexperience in politics. “;She was a tough cookie,”; he said, adding that she did not give in to Marcos or Americans, including then-Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Geminiano “;Toy”; Arre, president of the Filipino Community Center, said: “;She had a great deal of personal integrity. During the most difficult times, she hung onto it.

“;Her passing is a great loss not only to Filipinos, but to those in other countries around the world who followed her example.”;

Her last visit to Hawaii was in July 2004 when she accepted the Asia Pacific Community Building Award from the East-West Center Foundation for her role in restoring democracy in her country.