Ninoy’s wife. The first woman president of the Philippines and Asia. These are but a few of the things we have come to know of Corazon “Cory” Aquino. Yet as they say, there’s always more to something than meets the eye; the same goes for Cory.
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Let’s get to know more about the “plain housewife” who never in her wildest dreams had thought that she–instead of her husband–would someday become president, let alone become one of the most respected and beloved political figures in Philippines history.
1. She was her grade school valedictorian by accident
This could probably be considered as the precedent of Cory getting accidentally pushed into the limelight. Unlike her husband Ninoy who considered himself an average student with his grades neither going above the 90s or falling into the 70s, Cory did pretty well for herself especially in her grade school years at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila. In fact, she was supposed to graduate salutatorian of her class.
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But as fate would have it, World War II caused her fellow classmate–who was the graduating valedictorian–to evacuate along with her family. In the end, Cory became the valedictorian of the class.
2. She spoke Japanese and French
Besides being able to talk in her native Kapampangan, Tagalog, and English, Cory was also able to speak Japanese and French quite well.
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She learned Nippongo during the war as a child and was even awarded a bag of sugar-coated peanuts—a luxury at the time—by some Japanese soldiers when she perfectly recited a Japanese poem to them. As for French, she learned the language when she enrolled at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the US. In fact, she became a celebrity and was known as the “la dame en jaune” (lady in yellow) when she went on a state visit to France in 1989, even granting an interview in French.
Incidentally, the French were the first foreigners to recognize the legitimacy of Aquino’s presidency.
3. She did have some ‘political experience.’
Contrary to popular belief that Cory did not have any political experience, she did somewhat had a brief foray into the world of American politics. During her stay in the States, Cory joined the junior Republicans and became a volunteer supporter for New York Governor Thomas Dewey against the Democrat Harry Truman during the 1948 elections.
4. She studied law just like her husband
When Cory went back to the Philippines in 1953, she enrolled at Far Eastern University for a law degree not because she wanted to be a lawyer but because she expressed an interest in the said discipline.
After a year, however, she stopped her studies and wedded Benigno S. Aquino Jr. who himself had initially studied law but dropped it to pursue journalism.
5. She was initially unhappy about Ninoy’s political ambitions
Although we have long painted Cory as the quiet but supportive housewife of Ninoy, she initially disproved of his political aspirations. She was quite unused to traveling with Ninoy especially on his campaign trails.
In one instance, she and her husband—then running for mayor of his hometown—had to ride a carabao cart and traverse a knee-deep swamp just to get to a far-flung barrio. They spent a night there sleeping in a hut with only a pineapple can as a makeshift toilet. That was her baptism of fire according to her.
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She also didn’t like it when people would come to their house—sometimes right inside their bedroom—when Ninoy was mayor. Aside from that, she had a pet peeve about other people using their towels which she had monogrammed for family use. In fact, Cory was secretly relieved when the Supreme Court declared Ninoy’s mayoralty illegal because his young age made him ineligible.
6. She sacrificed going to beauty salons and buying new clothes for her husband
After Marcos declared martial law 1972 and imprisoned Ninoy along with his other critics, Cory did her best to show solidarity with her husband’s suffering. To that end, she stopped going to beauty salons and did not buy any new clothes while also admonishing her children to avoid attending parties. A priest later advised her against this and told her to live a normal life as much as possible.
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7. She used tranquilizers to stop herself from crying
During her husband’s incarceration, Cory vowed that she would be strong for her husband as well as not let his opponents ever see her cry. For that purpose, she sometimes used tranquilizers before going out in public or visiting her imprisoned husband.
Ninoy wrote in his diary that he was ashamed of himself for breaking down while his wife never even dropped a single tear. Cory would later answer that she was able to control herself because she was “fortified with tranquilizers.”
8. She could have run for another term in 1992 but refused
As her presidency drew to a close in 1992, her supporters and allies pointed out that since she was not inaugurated under the 1987 Constitution, Cory could still technically run for another term.
However, she refused to, stating that she had to set a precedent among the people and politicians that being a president is not a lifetime position as what her predecessor had done.
9. She rode an ordinary car after she turned over the presidency to Ramos
When Cory Aquino finally transferred the reins over to Fidel Ramos, she did not drive away using a government-issued Mercedes, but in a simple white Toyota Crown. This was to bring home the point that she had no qualms over relinquishing her presidency and that she had become a private citizen once again.
During her own inauguration, she gave her security detail a big headache when she ordered them to follow the traffic lights in a break from the Marcoses’ extravagant motorcades.
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