Cory Aquino was the most revered and most maligned leader in Philippine history. All through her presidency, Filipinos kept the infantile belief that she – one person alone – could bring the country back to normalcy. Right after the “people power” revolution, we wanted to get back to our normal, post-Marcos lives, while we expected her to keep house, make peace with all the warring factions, bring the economy up to speed, “make us proud again,” etc., in other words, to create a heaven out of our hell. When that didn’t happen overnight, the far left and the far right took advantage of the situation to say I told you so. To this day, they blame her, and her alone, for not having solved the country’s problems. Which, as we can all see, has always been their way of diverting attention from their own romantic visions of revolution. The left, with its hopelessly idiotic (and paranoid) leadership, has devoured itself, while clinging to its naïve hope of replicating a petrified ideology within a social and cultural landscape so unfit for it. The right, dazed by their idealistic notion that they can re-create a better, improved banana-republic dictatorship, continued to rumble against a social structure so unwilling to try another Marcos-style military democracy. And in the center is the country’s pervasive corruption and moral decadence, where no system, no matter how efficiently conceptualized, can survive.
Cory Aquino misunderstood all this – she herself just wanted to get back to normalcy, i.e. bring things back to where they were before the Marcoses looted the country – just as we all misunderstood her. She was no politician, thank goodness. She was, possibly, a yurodivyi in the Dostoevsky sense, until we told her to be smart, and she tried. For despite her stubbornness, she was a political blank slate. Every faction knew this and wrote its own self-serving agenda on her. When she began speaking on behalf of one or the other, we blamed it on her, not on the people who were using and re-creating her.
We wanted Cory Aquino to be strong so we could remain passive. We wanted her to save us so we could refuse to save ourselves. She was there so we could continue the infantile neurosis that has always sustained the Philippines’ need for a “guiding” power – God or a dictator, choose your daddy – and has always justified its corruption and poverty. She was, as so many predicted during the heyday of the people power revolution, our Joan of Arc. We knew we would burn her for allowing us to corrupt the vision we wanted her to sustain. We forgot so soon that she had achieved what no man in our supremely machismo-obsessed country had done – to get rid of the Marcoses. For that alone, we should be grateful. If the Philippines never rose from the “long nightmare” after she took over the presidency, we have no one to blame but ourselves.