When former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was diagnosed with colon cancer March last year, her doctor gave her only three months to live. Amazingly, however, the People Power icon fought the disease for more than 16 months, before succumbing to it on the morning of August 1, 2009.
In three separate interviews by GMA-7's Jessica Soho on the first night of Cory's wake, three of Aquino's children—Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, and Senator Noynoy Aquino—characterized the former President as "a strong woman," who inspired them to hold their mother's final rites without surrendering to feelings of despair. A grandson, on the other hand, said he viewed the former President as a mentor.
BALLSY AQUINO-CRUZ. "Yung katibayan niya, katapangan at pagkatatag ang talagang I'm sure mami-miss namin," said Ballsy, the eldest child of Cory and Ninoy Aquino.
According to Ballsy, Cory Aquino died peacefully at 3:18 a.m., surrounded by her four daughters who were praying the rosary.
"About 2:30 the doctor was waking us up... so we started to pray the rosary," she explained. "We started with the joyful mystery... tapos nung nag-sorrowful mystery kami, nung nasa fifth mystery, parang mas madalang na yung kanyang paghinga... Pagkatapos, parang hindi naman naghihirap, basta she was breathing through her mouth. Sinara niya yung mouth niya, tapos parang gumanon yung ulo niya. Nakita namin yung monitor na nag-flat na. Pero natapos namin yun [rosary], and it was very peaceful."
Ballsy added that one of their mother's final wishes, to have a peaceful and happy death, was granted.
"I feel pagbibigyan naman kami ng Panginoon na she will have a peaceful death, a happy death. That everyone will feel na walang pagsisisi, walang sama ng loob, walang awa... okay na okay," Ballsy said.
How does she cope with the situation?
"Hindi ko nga alam, e. Pero kasi talagang 'yon yung kaba ko mula nang maliit ako. Kung nawala ang mom, pa'no na kaya ako? Tapos sabi ko, hindi ko alam kung paano kami without her. Pero naisip ko, it was being selfish. And I told her, five of us will help each other," Ballsy said.
PINKY AQUINO-ABELLADA. In a separate interview, Cory's second daughter, Pinky, said that her mother's best quality was an unwavering faith in God, from whom she drew all her strength.
"Yung faith niya... Never siya talagang kinakabahan. Kasi sa kanya, 'pag may malaking problema, your faith will get you through," she said.
Pinky added that this quality of her late mother is what she wants to emulate.
"Sana ma-practice ko yun sa life ko, para 'pag wala na siya dito, wala na kaming matatakbuhan, yung faith namin papatatagin namin para makayanan ang lahat," she explained.
Pinky added that she is trying to survive grief by visualizing her mother in heaven.
"Parang rollercoaster kami, may araw na ang sakit-sakit," she said. "Sinasabi ko sa mga anak ko, alam n'yo, tingnan n'yo si Lola ngayon, parang naghihirap siya. Pero i-picture n'yo sa utak ninyo... nandun siya sa heaven kasama ng Lolo Ninoy, parents niya, yung isa niyang sister. Hindi ba ang ganda-gandang i-picture nun?"
Pinky believes that before their mother died, she sure that the family would not have to endure extreme grief.
"Feeling ko talaga hinanda niya talaga kami for this... Gusto niya siguro na parati kailangan mo i-control ang emotions mo," Pinky ended.
NOYNOY AQUINO. Senator Noynoy Aquino, meanwhile, is trying to forget his grief so he could attend to family matters.
"Kung meron yung aking pain, paniwala ko, dapat i-postpone ko muna hanggang maayos ko muna lahat sa mga pamangkin ko," Noynoy said.
According to Pinky and Ballsy, it is Noynoy who is having the hardest time in coping with their loss. The senator lived with his mother for a long time in their house on Times Street in Quezon City.
"For the past few days I've been going in, and in fact, maybe just changing clothes, and going out," Noynoy narrated. "There's a passageway from my section of the house to her section. At pagdating dun, di ko talaga mapigilang matanong yung sarili ko, 'Mom, hindi ka na ba uuwi dito?' Mukhang mahaba-mahabang adjustment period 'to."
Noynoy plans to take care of the family because this is a pledge he gave to his father Ninoy Aquino, whose assasination in 1983 inspired the People Power Revolution.
Senator Aquino explained why the family refused the Malacañang offer to hold a state funeral in honor of their mother.
"Baka hindi [magustuhan] ng aking ina na diyan pa gugugulin [ang pondo ng bayan], imbes na dun sa makakatulong dun sa kabuhayan ng mga kababayan na talagang dinevote niya yung buong buhay po niya... We want to be doing this as a filial obligation to our parent," Noynoy explained.
KIKO AQUINO DEE. One of Cory's eight grandchildren recalled his grandmother as a good mentor.
"Kapag nagkakamali ka, hindi siya nagagalit kasi hindi siya naniniwala na matututo ka kung sisigaw siya, o magagalit siya, more of a motherly person. A mentor, a teacher talaga," explained Kiko Aquino Dee, the son of Victoria Eliza Aquino-Dee, Cory's third daughter.
Kiko's fondest memory of his grandmother was a story he heard in a retreat he attended in high school.
"I remember one of my lola's stories talaga when she was fighting the dictator," Kiko said. "Lahat ng paraan na paglaban sinubukan niya, pero what really got to him was when she started praying for President Marcos na he allows a peaceful transition into a peaceful return to democracy. So it was really only when she prayed na nagkaroon ng People Power."
The grandson was thankful that he was able to spend time with his grandmother in her last days.
"Nagpapasalamat kami sa Panginoon na nagkaroon kami ng pagkakataon na makasama siya after she was diagnosed," Kiko said.
When asked if he was the favorite apo of his Lola Cory, Kiko said, "I think that honor belongs to Josh and Baby James... Josh has a very special connection with her."
Josh and Baby James are the children of Cory's youngest child, TV host-actress Kris Aquino.