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Massive turnout for Aquino cortege in Manila

Masses of mourners chanted the name of former President Corazon Aquino as her body was escorted through the Philippine capital's rain-soaked streets Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Masses of mourners chanted the name of former President Corazon Aquino as her body was escorted through the Philippine capital's rain-soaked streets Monday.

The five-hour funeral procession, slowed by mobs of followers, traced some of the same streets where hundreds of thousands of protesters — inspired by the woman in a yellow dress — faced down army tanks 23 years ago and ousted a dictator.

On Monday, tens of thousands left their offices, schools and homes and converged on streets and overpasses, clutching clumps of yellow balloons, waving yellow ribbons and showering confetti on Aquino's flag-draped casket, carried on a flatbed truck bedecked with flowers. Yellow was the symbol of the nonviolent mass "people power" uprising that forced Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986.

As rays of sunshine broke through the clouds, a man on a bicycle released four doves. Manila's notorious traffic came to a standstill as drivers rolled down windows and put out their hands flashing Aquino's trademark "L" sign for "laban," or "fight" in Filipino, her slogan in the campaign that toppled Marcos' 20-year repressive rule.

'You're Not Alone'
Many of the mourners — nuns, priests, students, wealthy residents and their uniformed maids — wore yellow, Aquino's favored color. Huge banners displayed "Thank You Corazon Aquino" and "You're Not Alone" — an Aquino slogan from the 1986 revolt.

Aquino died early Saturday at a Manila hospital after a yearlong battle with colon cancer. She was 76.

From a school stadium where the casket had been open for public viewing since her death Saturday, the motorcade passed by a "people power" shrine on EDSA highway, where hundreds of thousands of her supporters blocked Marcos' tanks in 1986.

Along Ayala Avenue, where Aquino led many pro-democracy marches, employees from high rises rained yellow confetti on the crowds below — reminiscent of the anti-Marcos protests that Aquino led.

"I have not seen a crowd like this," said Franklin Drilon, Aquino's former Cabinet aide. "The people here are very enthusiastic, people in sandals, people in coat and tie, young and old with babies, they're coming out waving."

Instead of the usual stock figures, the Philippine Stock Exchange's streetside neon screen flashed Aquino's favorite nickname with her portrait and a message: "Goodbye Cory and Thank You So Much Cory."

The funeral convoy briefly stopped at a monument to Aquino's assassinated husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

"I'm looking out the window now, and I see women crying," said daughter Kris Aquino. "I really just appreciate the love. Everybody's saying thank you to us for sharing my mom."

After driving across the congested capital for nearly five hours, Aquino's funeral convoy reached the Manila Cathedral, where her children, former Cabinet members and fellow pro-democracy activists gathered for a Mass.

Her body will lie in state for public viewing until Wednesday's funeral.

Husband's assassination
Aquino rose to prominence after the 1983 assassination of her husband upon his return from U.S. exile to challenge Marcos. She later led the largest funeral procession Manila had ever seen, with crowd estimates as high as 2 million, and emerged as a leader of a broad-based opposition movement.

FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006 file picture, former President Corazon Aquino, center, and son Rep. Benigno Aquino Jr. , right, talk with police and others outside a standoff at the Philippines Marines Headquarters in Manila. The potential threat to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's leadership ended peacefully after disgruntled marine officers agreed to end a five-hour standoff that began when their commander was relieved of his duties. The officers appeared to back down when their appeal for people to defy a ban on rallies and turn out to protect them "from aggression" drew only about 3,000-4,000 opposition figures, leftist leaders and their followers. Aquino, who swept away a dictator and then sustained democracy by fighting off seven coup attempts in six years, has died, her family said Friday, July 31, 2009. She was 76. David Longstreath / AP

Marcos claimed victory over Aquino in a snap 1986 election, but the polls were widely seen as fraudulent. A group of military officers rebelled against him, triggering three days of "people power" protests by hundreds of thousands that finally toppled Marcos.

In office, Aquino struggled to meet high public expectations. Her land redistribution program fell short of ending economic domination by the landed elite. Her leadership, especially in social and economic reform, was often indecisive, leaving many of her closest allies disillusioned by the end of her term.

Still, the bespectacled, smiling woman remained beloved in the Philippines, where she was affectionately referred to as "Tita (Auntie) Cory."

She stepped down in 1992 after serving for six years.

State funeral turned down
Aquino will be buried beside her husband in a private funeral Wednesday.

Her youngest daughter Kris thanked the Marcos family in a rare conciliatory gesture and said her mother had forgiven all her political enemies.

Nevertheless, Kris Aquino said her family refused President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's offer of a state funeral because the government had attempted to recall two soldiers assigned to guard her mother when she was still alive. Former Philippine presidents traditionally have the right to retain at least two guards.

Aquino's only son, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, said the family would not be too enthusiastic to see Arroyo at the funeral but she could pay her respects.

Months before she was diagnosed with cancer, Aquino joined street protests organized amid opposition fears that Arroyo could amend the country's 1987 constitution to lift term limits or impose martial law to stay in power when her term ends next year. Arroyo has said she has no desire to extend her term.

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