Filipinos mourn as Aquino laid to rest

Aug. 6, 2009 at 11:42 AM
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MANILA, Philippines, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- A tearful and sobbing Kristina Aquino prayed for her mother, former President Corazon Aquino, at Manila Cathedral as tens of thousands paid their final respects.

"Dad, please take care of mom," Kristina said, referring to her murdered father Benigno, whose death in 1983 launched the self-confessed apolitical housewife on a career that would take her to the Presidential Palace in 1986.

Heavy rains at times and blustery winds couldn't keep away the throngs of mourners inside and outside the cathedral. More than 1,000 government officials, diplomats, priests, nuns and visiting dignitaries gathered in the cathedral for the funeral mass of Aquino, 76, who died of colon cancer last weekend.

The mourners included the current Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, albeit briefly.

Arroyo arrived at Manila Airport just before 3 a.m. from San Francisco after cutting short her U.S. visit. By 3:40 Arroyo was being greeted at the cathedral by Aquino's son, Sen. Benigno Noynoy Aquino, and would spend 10 minutes along with other mourners paying her final respects before leaving.

Arroyo's controversial visit went off without a hitch after Kristina had spoken out on national television about government security for her mother being disbanded, saying it was a right for former presidents.

The family turned down a state funeral offer from the government over the affair. Arroyo's security section was concerned that her appearance at the cathedral might be accompanied by heckling, local media reported.

After the mass, the former president's body was driven through the streets to Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City for burial beside her husband Benigno Aquino in the family mausoleum. Police had trouble holding back the crowds, and hundreds managed to get by them to be close to the final ceremony, according to media reports.

"She did not want elaborate decors, not even marbles," the park manager is quoted as saying.

Aquino's husband Benigno was believed assassinated by a group operating for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1983. Benigno had been preparing to run for president and had just returned from exile in the United States.

His wife's presidency helped set up a more stable democracy in the island nation, and her government oversaw the writing of a new constitution limiting a president's time in office to one six-year term.

But analysts point out that greater economic progress was not a lasting legacy, and she left office in 1992.

Philippine media also report that around 4,000 people have joined an online campaign on Facebook calling for a formal petition to the Roman Catholic Church to begin the investigation for an eventual sainthood of Aquino.

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