Ninoy and Cory Aquino: Heroes of Country, Heroes of Faith

Joy Sosoban-Roa

Ninoy and Cory. Two seemingly household names but representative of a couple that played a key role in toppling a 20-year dictatorship in the Philippines.

Great Faith

In 2009, when former Philippine president Cory Aquino had been battling cancer for several months already, her doctors predicted that she had only 72 hours to live. But a member of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters said that Cory would go on a first Saturday because of Cory’s devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

The nun’s prediction came true – Cory passed away in the early hours of 1 August 2009, the first Saturday of the month.

At Cory’s funeral Mass, Fr. Catalino Arevalo SJ, said Cory told him many times, “Every time life painted me into a corner, with seemingly no escape, I always turned to Him in trust. I knew He would never abandon us if we trusted in Him. And you know, somehow, He found a way for us.”

Pinky, one of Cory’s daughters, shared, “Mom was always calm even in the most trying times. She trusted God would always be there for us.”

Blazing But Serene Hope

According to Fr. Catalino, “Our Lady truly had a special, living presence in her life: Mary was, for Cory, true mother and incomparable friend. No, Mary was not the center of her faith, but its air, its atmosphere; and the rosary, her lifeline through every trial and crisis. In the long harsh months of her illness, Sister Lucia’s beads never left her hands.” (Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the seers of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal, gave her a special hand-made rosary.)

Sister Lucia told Cory when they met that many sufferings would come her way. With seven coup attempts, a declaration of national emergency in 2006, her fight with colon cancer, and the many sufferings she and her family endured because of Ninoy’s love for country, we can say Cory suffered much indeed.

Cory summed up her faith beautifully when she said that it “…is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things – with resignation, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”

Ninoy’s Story

While Cory is well-known for her faith, it is not often mentioned in the press how the Lord transformed Ninoy Aquino, Cory’s husband.

Before the declaration of Martial Law on 21 September 1972, people expected Ninoy to become president by becoming standard bearer of the Liberal Party. But after Martial Law was declared, Ninoy instead became the most high-profile political prisoner of the country.

In his letter to Senator Soc Rodrigo dated 19 June 1973, Ninoy shared his “conversion” story. He tells of his solitary confinement and how he went through a period of desperation and deep desolation. One time, while he was praying the Rosary, Ninoy questioned God on why He was allowing the “thieves in Malacañang to enjoy themselves while he was being made to suffer so much in prison. He asked what he had done to offend God.”

Then, according to him, “… as if I heard a voice tell me, ‘Why do you cry? I have gifted you with consolations, honors and glory which have been denied to the millions of your countrymen. I made you the youngest war correspondent, presidential assistant, mayor, vice governor, governor, and Senator of the Republic, and I recall you never thanked me for all these gifts. I have given you a full life, a great wife and beautiful, lovable children. Now that I visit you with a slight desolation, you cry and whimper like a spoiled brat!” With this realization, Ninoy asked for forgiveness from the Lord, thinking that he may just be undergoing a test to prepare him for another mission. He resolved to resign himself to God’s will. 

From Human Glory to God’s Glory

The time of Ninoy’s greatest trial transformed him from just another ambitious politician into the man who looked beyond material wealth and personal glory. In fact, in that letter to Senator Rodrigo, Ninoy excitedly told him that he will join him in spreading the Good News after he leaves prison. And he did, but not in the usual way.

On that fateful morning of 21 August 1983, Ken Kashiwahara, husband of Ninoy’s sister, shared that Ninoy was up at 5:00 a.m. in Taipei, praying the Rosary, calling up Cory in Boston, speaking to his children one by one and writing each of them a letter. At the plane, Ninoy was again deep in prayer, head bowed, praying the Rosary again.

In his prepared speech, Ninoy was supposed to say, “According to Gandhi, the willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful answer to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God and man.” We Filipinos can say that for Ninoy and Cory, the willing sacrifice of their lives – both purified in the fires of suffering, and strengthened by the grace of faith expressed in prayer and in the Holy Rosary – these two heroes became for us Filipinos, the foundation stone of our rise from dictatorship to democracy, from fear to freedom, and hopefully, from darkness to light.

References: Inquirer Special Reports, 2 August 2009;, “Cory’s Faith and Marian Devotion”; On the Wings of my Dream blog, “Cory Aquino Died Saturday Month Day Devotion Virgin Mary”;;;;

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