The day after my surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor, I was transferred to a regular room where my nurse told me that Senator Ted Kennedy was just diagnosed with brain cancer. I've felt an affinity with him ever since and have been following his health status. I was glad to see him at President Obama's inauguration, but concerned when he ended up at the hospital.

The Lion of the Senate passed away today. While I thank God that I am still here, I mourn his passing. Sen. Edward Kennedy waged a brave fight. Now he can be with his illustrious brothers and family members.

Past 2 weeks have been hellacious. I feel worn-down, spent and just plain tired, mentally and physically. Dad went into hospital for an angiogram in preparation for aortic valve replacement. Procedure was canceled twice because he developed a cough during his hospital stay: diagnosed as bronchitis. It 's been very busy at work and we've been waiting for my boss to go out on paternity leave. (His wife delivered the baby on the same day I called out to go to the hospital for the second angiogram attempt.) In the meantime, there's the usual family drama with his sisters.

I was getting so angry and worked up about coming to see him, and having to deal with his sisters. In the end, it was anti-climactic. I choked up when I saw my Dad on the gurney in his hospital gown, with oxygen and IV lines hooked up. And all the issues of the last year melted away. The aunts? They just acted the way we thought they would, so no surprise there. Like Professor Dumbledore said, "sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often." Except in this case, it was no accident.

I know everything will be well as far as my Dad's health is concerned. I just know it in my heart and in my mind. The way I instinctively knew after his 2006 bypass and during my health issues last year. That's where faith comes in.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo probably wasn't too happy about this.

Thanks to GMA News live streaming, I was able to watch President Cory Aquino's funeral mass and the procession. I tried to stay up but couldn't do so past 130 AM. I cried so much, and was very moved by the mass of humanity who came out in the rain to say their goodbyes. When I woke up this morning, I read that it took 8 hours for the cortege to reach her final resting place, slowed down by the many mourners.

The death of Ninoy Aquino woke up the people in 1983. Let's hope the passing of his illustrious wife will again galvanize the Filipinos, especially with elections coming up next year. We have to believe and prove that we are, indeed, worth dying for.

(Photo from Time)

U.S. President Obama finally met with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the most unpopular Philippine president since Marcos, at the White House last Thursday. After some serious wrangling from MalacaƱang. I hope Barack wasn't choking on his words as he praised the Philippine "leader". To make matters worse, at the briefing, after broadcaster Rey Langit asked Arroyo her impressions of the American President, he asked Obama the same inane question:

“Is it considered to be ungrateful if I will not get your reaction? It will be greatly appreciated if you can also give your impression of our President.”

Mr. Langit had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to question the world's most powerful man, and this was the best he could come up with? But then again, MalacaƱang picked him to ask the one question from the Filipino press. Maybe they knew he wouldn't put forth any controversial issue or hard-hitting query. Shame on everyone!

But then again, why should I be surprised? This is such a typical ingratiating Filipino question. Everytime a politician/performer/celebrity visits the Philippines, they are always asked what they think of the country, the women/men, food, etc. Why this need for approval? And as if these visitors would diss their hosts. Of course they'd be gracious and sing the country's praises.

Thank goodness the meeting was overshadowed by the beer summit.

My thoughts and prayers go out to my brother-in-law's family. Auntie Nonie passed away last night after a brief battle with metastatic pancreatic cancer. I'm glad I had the chance to meet her last year.

Rest in peace.

News of Tita Cory's demise triggered many memories. Growing up in the Philippines circa 1970s, I remember my parents talking about Martial Law, Marcos, curfews, Communists. The government had their own TV channel, and there were only a few newspapers around. I remember relatives in New York, dissing Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, branding him a Communist. (Interesting how the same aunts would be singing Ninoy's praises after Marcos fell from grace.) I wondered why we had a Prime Minister and a President, and no elections like other countries. The word 'salvage' got a new meaning during the Marcos era. Because of the government controlled media, I wasn't aware of the abuses or excesses of the Marcos regime. In highschool, the newspaper Malaya (Free) became this subversive source of information. The song Bayan Ko (My Land) became an anthem.

August 20 is my sister Cecile's birthday, and we had a party for her in 1983. The next day, we found out that Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on his return to the Philippines. The massive outpouring of grief and support blew me away. We watched the funeral procession, saw the man still wearing the clothes he was shot in. We lived close to Santo Domingo Church where the memorial service was held; I wanted so bad to go there and be part of history. As far as I knew, my dad supported Marcos and wouldn't have let a 13 year old girl go. I mourned Ninoy, a journalist and politician who knowingly went to his death and changed the world. In the midst of it all, his family, led by his grieving and gracious widow, Corazon. Tita Cory in her yellow protest outfits, who became the unlikely heroine and reluctant leader of a disgruntled people. We lived near her, we'd pass by her house on our way to National Bookstore or McDonald's. Even her house showed signs of her faith and religiosity: an image of Jesus and the Blessed Mother outside her door.

And events snowballed the next 3 years: Agrava Commission findings, civil disobedience, snap elections, opposition rallies, the courageous walk-out of COMELEC workers, NAMFREL's declaration that Cory Aquino won, the Catholic Church's weekly pastoral letters, Radyo Veritas. On the fateful night of February 22, 1986, Ramos and Enrile broke from Marcos. Cardinal Sin dropping all pretense of impartiality, calling on the people to take to the streets. The rest is People Power history. (Again, my parents wouldn't let us join the masses on EDSA.) The Filipinos never had a prouder moment. It still makes me teary-eyed recalling the images of nuns handing out flowers to the soldiers, ordinary citizens giving soldiers food and drink. The soldiers could have easily shot the protesters, how the government really could have cracked down like what happened in Tiananmen. But in the end, the Marcoses fled and Corazon Aquino became the first woman President of the Republic.

The fragile democracy would be threatened time and time again throughout her 6 year term. We were also near several TV stations and military camps so with coup attempts, we could hear gunfire or planes. But survive these attempts the Aquino presidency did. And years later, other countries would follow the Philippines' example of non-violent resistance and change.

The Philippines is still a democracy. Turbulent, corrupt, disorderly, flawed, but free. I love my homeland. Now I pray it will be strong enough to oppose attempts by certain elements of the military to usurp civilian authority, and efforts by people in power to cling to power. God bless the Philippines.


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