On Saturday, August 1, I woke up to an sms from my co-UP Concert Chorus Alum, Ging, that our dear former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino or Tita Cory, had passed away. Her message was quickly followed by another one, asking if I was willing to come over and sing for the 8pm mass set that evening in La Salle, Greenhills where the late President's body was brought for public viewing. It was going to be the first mass for the wake of Pres. Cory Aquino...
I knew there was going to be a lot of people, tight security because of all the VIPs coming, parking was going to be difficult, not to mention I haven't sung with the UP Concert Chorus in a long time...but there was no hesitation when I replied: Yes, I will go.
After some errands in Makati and a light KFC take-out dinner in the car, Liz and I made our way to La Salle, Greenhills. Along the way, we could already see the yellow ribbons on the vehicles around us, on the branches of trees along Ortigas Ave, even on lamp posts and road blocks, all leading us to where we needed to go.
When we got there, we found La Salle had been closed for entry so we parked across the street and walked to the gymnasium where the mass was going to be held. There was already a long line of people waiting under the rain, hoping to get one last look at the beloved former President.
Inside the gym, the lights were bright but the mood somber and respectful. There were chairs arranged in rows in front of a makeshift stage, and in between was the casket with the remains of Tita Cory. There were 2 cameras on extensions, several more cameramen going around, and there was a row of tables with laptops and other gadgets on them which I assumed were the press people.
I looked around and saw her family: I saw Kris Aquino was being interviewed, I saw Jiggy Aquino-Cruz, one of her grandsons who I happened to read about in a magazine just before going to the wake, Mikee and Chynna Conjuangco were there too.
Mayor Sonny Belmonte was there, VP Noli De Castro, Mayor Alfredo Lim, Sen. Loren Legarda, former President Fidel Ramos and a host of other political figures were present. Media personalities and celebrities were also in attendance: David Celdran, Charo Santos-Concio, Bianca Gonzalez, Tessa Prieto-Valdez. Singers Jose Mari Chan, Jaime Rivera and Gary Valenciano were also present, and later gave tributes and sang after the mass ended.
Being inside the "VIP" area, we did not have to line up from outside to view the remains of the late President. So we took a short queue from inside the barricaded area, Liz and I went together, to see her in person for the first, and for the last time.
Cory looked peaceful, her face bright, her hands clasped and holding a golden rosary. I uttered a short prayer for her, and before we left, I gave her a small bow to show my respect. I would have preferred to have sung for her in a different setting, but I guess it must be this way. Even though I was singing with 20+ other people in the choir, it felt like it was my personal tribute to her. It was an honor to sing for her. I will always remember her as a shining symbol of hope and democracy for the Filipino people and for the world.
Thank you for the inspiration, Cory Aquino.
Here's the only Youtube video I found of the mass with us singing in the background: Click here.
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