Filipinos queue up for hours to say goodbye to Cory

Posted at 08/02/09 5:31 PM

MANILA - It's a road made famous as the site of the EDSA "people power" revolt that chased hated dictator of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos from power.

Corazon Aquino had been there beside her people to lead that peaceful revolt and now, 23 years later, the people were again at her side in their thousands.

This time to say goodbye.

A huge line of mourners filed along the famous Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) on Sunday to pay their last respects to Aquino, who died from colon cancer early Saturday at the age of 76.

People from all walks of life braved rain and fierce tropical heat to view Aquino's glass-faced coffin, lying in state at La Salle Greenhills school a little over a kilometre (over half a mile) from EDSA.

The high school was the venue of many meetings of pro-democracy forces and was where citizens monitoring votes in the 1986 election uncovered Marcos's attempts to cheat Aquino of victory.

Many people wore yellow items of clothing or ribbons, the symbolic colour of the anti-Marcos protests.

The coffin was draped in her beloved country's flag and surrounded by flowers as a single line of mourners filed past, each given a few seconds to pay their last respects.

Garment factory worker Ferdie Songco stood patiently in line for four hours as he awaited his turn to bid farewell.

"I was there for the EDSA revolution. I wanted to see her one last time," said the 49 year-old. "She was the only one who wanted to go against Marcos. She might not have succeeded in everything, but she tried."

After Marcos was toppled in 1986, and Aquino was installed as president, she had to face down six coup attempts before stepping down in 1992, earning a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for restoring and nurturing a fragile democracy.

The mourners sweated under the sweltering tropical early afternoon sun in an orderly queue on the side of the street. Most were middle-aged but some brought along their children.

"I was at EDSA day and night as a real fan, even when I was young," said businesswoman Vicky Buenaflor. "I wanted to show my love for President Cory because we always felt her love for the Filipino people."

American peace corps volunteer Sharon Kelb stood out as one of the few white people in the queue, wearing sunglasses and a straw hat.

"I do remember her. She did something very important for democracy around the world. This is a historic event," she told AFP as she stood in line with her Filipino friends.

"It's nice to see how many people wanted to come and pay their last respects."

A 21 year-old street vendor, Miguel Dacanay, who wasn't even born when Aquino came to power, sold 2.5-dollar yellow cotton T-shirts to the mourners.

"I've sold a lot of them, even though I just got here," he said. "My mother told me a lot of stories about her. She was the one who changed the Philippines, and now that my own mother is dead I am the one continuing the tradition."