President Corazon Cory Cojuangco Aquino

First Woman President

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The people remember her as the bespectacled woman in her trademark yellow dress. Hers is an image that came to symbolize people power and later, democratic governance.

With the elegance and confidence of a former president, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino or simply Cory is still around, participating in public discussions on national issues. These days, she is often seen alongside Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin who, as always, is vocal in his political opinions.

Although Cory could only watch at how sophisticated this nation has grown since the late President Ferdinand Marcos imposed Martial Law in September 1972, she remains a moral force in Philippine politics. She said she would continue to help preserve the country's democracy, the legacy left by her six-year administration in 1992.

At 67, Cory who stays at their matriarchal home in Dasmariñas has a rich experience to cherish. She admits that she never thought of becoming the political figure that she is today, although politics was in her family's blood. She was born to a wealthy and politically prominent family on January 25, 1933 in Tarlac. Her parents — Jose Cojuangco, a three-term congressman and Demetria Sumulong, a pharmacist and daughter of a senator — were among the most influential names in Central Luzon.

She completed her elementary education at Saint Scholastica's College and high school at Notre Dame Convent School in New York. She earned her degree, Bachelor of Arts in French and Mathematics at Mount Saint Vincent Convent, New York. In 1956, she was planning to take up law at the Far Eastern University when Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino came into her life.

Her life was dramatically changed by Ninoy who in 1972 was a senator and the most ardent critic of Marcos. As Ninoy became successful in politics, Cory became the ideal wife and mother to five. The years that followed saw her visiting Ninoy at the cells of Fort Bonifacio where he was held as a political prisoner. Afterwards, the Aquino family lived in exile in the United States.

It was on August 21, 1983, the day Ninoy was assasinated at the tarmac of Manila International Airport that Cory was placed into the spotlight. The people saw in her the continuation of Ninoy's political quest for democracy. Followed by foreign and local press, Cory led street rallies that forced President Marcos to announce a snap presidential election.

The movement led by Cory against the dictatorial rule resulted in the "People Power Revolution" that overthrew the Marcos government in February 1986. Once in power, Cory ordered all political prisoners freed and built the machinery for democracy.

Cory ordered the dismantling of monopolies controlled by the cronies of President Marcos. The economy showed signs of recovery but the series of political struggles and natural calamities that ensued threatened the gains made by her administration. Her presidency survived seven military revolts, typhoons, drought, energy crisis, a major earthquake and a volcanic eruption.

But this period also saw Cory gaining the attention of the world. She received international awards such as the Time Magazine's Woman of the Year, the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, the United Nations Silver Medal and the Canadian International Prize for Freedom. She was cited for setting the example of nonviolent movement for democracy which later was also tested in Burma, South Africa, Poland and Chile.

In 1992, Cory finished her term and Fidel Ramos, her chosen successor, took over the reins of government. Back in private life, Cory kept herself busy by giving speeches and receiving awards in Hong Kong, Seville, Paris, London, Boston, New York and Washington. She became an active goodwill ambassador and a vocal advocate of human rights and women's issues.

These days, Cory tries her hands in painting and cooking, two things she did not have the time to do when she was a president. She also has longer time for reflection and it seems she is now more of a religious than a political person. She says the most important things to her right now are family and prayer.

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