Tue, Aug 04, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Massive turnout for Aquino procession

PEOPLE POWER The last time the streets of Manila saw crowds this size was when the former Philippine leader toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos 23 years ago

AP , MANILA

An honor guard carries the casket containing the remains of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino at the La Salle Greenhills, Manila, Philippines, yesterday. Aquino’s remains will be transferred to the Manila Cathedral, where public viewing will continue.

PHOTO: EPA

Masses of mourners yelled her name as former Philippine president Corazon Aquino’s body was escorted yesterday through rain-soaked streets to Manila Cathedral along a historic avenue that 23 years ago became the site of a “people power” revolt against a dictator led by the woman in a yellow dress.

Tens of thousands left their offices, schools and homes and converged on streets and overpasses with clumps of yellow balloons, waving yellow ribbons and showering confetti on Aquino’s flag-draped casket carried on a flatbed truck bedecked with flowers. Yellow became a symbol of the nonviolent mass uprising that forced Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986.

As sunshine rays broke through the clouds, a man on a bicycle released four doves. Manila’s notorious traffic came to a standstill as drivers rolled down windows and put out their hands flashing Aquino’s trademark “L” sign for laban, or “fight” in Filipino, her slogan in the campaign that toppled Marcos’ 20-year repressive rule.

Many of the supporters — nuns, priests, students, wealthy residents and their uniformed maids and ordinary folk — wore yellow, Aquino’s favored color. Huge banners displayed “Thank You Corazon Aquino” and “You’re Not Alone” — an Aquino slogan from the 1986 revolt.

From a school stadium where the casket was open for public viewing since her death on Saturday, the motorcade passed by a “people power” shrine on EDSA highway, where hundreds of thousands of her supporters blocked Marcos’ tanks in 1986.

Along Ayala Avenue, where Aquino led many pro-democracy marches, employees from high rises rained yellow confetti on the crowds below — reminiscent of the anti-Marcos protests Aquino led.

“I have not seen a crowd like this,” said Franklin Drilon, 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 streetside neon screen at the Philippine Stock Exchange flashed Aquino’s favorite nickname with her portrait and a message: “Goodbye Cory and Thank You So Much Cory.”

The funeral convoy briefly stopped at a monument of Aquino’s assassinated husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

“I’m looking out the window now and I see women crying,” daughter Kris Aquino said. “I really just appreciate the love. Everybody’s saying thank you to us for sharing my mom.”

Passing along palm tree-lined Manila Bay, her body will be moved to the Manila Cathedral to lie in state for public viewing until tomorrow’s funeral.

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 Marcos.

His widow led the largest funeral procession Manila had ever seen, with crowd estimates as high as 2 million.

The killing enraged many Filipinos and unleashed a broad-based opposition movement that thrust Aquino into the role of national leader. Marcos claimed victory over Aquino in a snap 1986 election, but the polls were widely seen as fraudulent. A group of military officers rebelled against him, triggering three days of “people power” protests by hundreds of thousands that finally toppled Marcos.

A housewife who was reluctantly thrust into power, Aquino struggled in office to meet high public expectations.

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