Cory’s gift and Steve’s burden

ICON. HERO. SAINT. Every possible tribute has been paid to Corazon Aquino, now touted, and rightfully so, as the most loved Filipino of all time.

Still, allow me to give mine. After all, I have always been a Cory fan long before today, when it has become fashionable to be one. Dennis Estacio, my grade school seatmate at the old Divine Word College of Laoag, would attest to this. To the consternation of our teachers whose lectures we occasionally disrupted, albeit unintentionally, Dennis and I, then only in Grade 1, often had impassioned debates on politics. As with almost all Ilocanos, Dennis was maka-Marcos. I was maka-Cory.

In 1986, I accompanied my dad to the voting booth, and bent his hand into voting for Cory. That was the second best thing to voting for her, which I could not do yet because I was just seven. The teachers did not mind that I accompanied my dad. To them, I was just a child.

But then I was not your typical boy. Even as a toddler, I preferred watching news and public affairs shows over cartoons on television. I had a pretty good grasp of the national condition. Very clear to me was the divide between tyranny and democracy, truth and deceit, good and evil. Even then, I knew Cory was goodness personified, and that it was the duty of self-respecting Filipinos to support her.

Sure, she had her own share of shortcomings. I remember the dim economy made even dimmer by the daily power outages during her term. But that her intentions were pure and that she tried her best are beyond doubt. Remember, too, that she was taking over the presidency of a nation which, for two decades, was robbed, molested, and chained by a megalomaniac. The nation was in disarray, and rebuilding it was more difficult than we expected.

In 1992, Cory supported Fidel Ramos. I was then a teenager actively campaigning for Miriam Defensor Santiago whom we looked up to with so much hope and respect. Looking at the pesky, self-centered, ridiculous human being Miriam has become today, I concede that Cory’s choice was right. I was wrong.

In 2001, Cory threw her support to Edsa II, a decision she would later publicly regret. I was in Edsa II, too, and I thank Cory for having lessened my guilt. I am now able to forgive myself for joining that madness which catapulted the most oppressive and annoying Philippine president this nation has seen.

When I was still teaching in Manila, I would always bring my students to the Ramon Magsaysay Awards ceremonies held annually at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Herself a recipient of the Magsaysay, Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, Tita Cory was present at the affair almost every year. Some of my students had the opportunity of meeting the former president, and I’m sure my they value that experience even more today.

And how can I forget the many times Tita Cory was with us in the long and winding struggle for truth, justice, and freedom, be it in church or in the streets?  Despite her age, she was so undaunted and untiring that it was shameful for the youth not to follow her lead.  She was mother of this nation, a title no other mortal can rightfully claim.

Upon learning of Tita Cory’s death, I immediately looked for a yellow ribbon to tie on my motorcycle. Because I was so busy and did not have the time to go to a store, I settled for a golden yellow garter which I found in my mom’s cabinet. Boy, I needed to grieve my loss, our loss.


Ironically, this loss leads us to appreciate better the gains we had because of one woman (“Just a woman, just a housewife,” Ferdinand Marcos quipped) who helped the Filipino people find the greatness inherent in them.

Among Tita Cory’s many gifts to the nation is our free press, a salient ingredient of a vibrant democracy.

Shockingly, four hours before Tita Cory took her last breath, Steve Barreiro, a fellow columnist in this publication, was the target of an assassination attempt conducted right in his backyard.

A grenade was hurled at Steve’s garage as he was about to enter his house in Laoag City after he had parked  his vehicle around 11 p.m. of July 31.

According to Steve, the grenade apparently landed inside a water-filled jar (burnay), thus diffusing the blast and sparing his life, although his houseboy, Michael Diza, was wounded in the eye by shrapnel.

Speculations are rife that Dingras Mayor Marynette R. Gamboa may be a suspect in the incident.  In his column, Steve wondered whether the Dingras mayor is the same Marynetter R. Gamboa who is conisderd a fugitive by the United States government.

Interviewed by TV Patrol Ilocos, Gamboa denied that she had a hand in the incident. “Malas na lang a ta napasamak kenkuana daydiay, (It’s bad luck that it happened to him),” Gamboa casually said. But anyone who has an iota of reason would know realize that assassination attempts happen not because of whimsical winds of fate, but are carried out rather willfully by criminal minds.

Note that I am not making judgments on Mayor Gamboa. I am just reacting to her statements on Steve’s assassination. In the same TV Patrol interview, Gamboa said, “Haan nga deta’t rason tapnon pumatay kami ti tao. (That is not the reason we would kill a person.)” Would it not have been more reassuring if she simply said that she would never have any person killed for any reason? Look more closely at her statement, dear karikna, and you’d realize that the mayor shot herself in the foot. It could be interpreted that they could indeed kill people, but for another reason. Scary.

I hope this is just a slip-up. Even then, instead of just denying involvement in the attempt on a journalist’s life, it would do well for Mayor Gamboa, as with any well-meaning politician, to denounce any attack against members of media.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) has already issued a statement condemning the attempt on Steve’s life.

Part of NUJP’s statement reads:

“This latest assault on a member of the media is clear proof that the enemies of press freedom continue to operate with impunity.

“And it is clear that this remains so because of a government that has failed to send a clear signal to the enemies of press freedom by acting forcefully to stop the attacks, solve the killings and ensure that the perpetrators and, most importantly, the masterminds, are caught, prosecuted, convicted and jailed.”

But Steve remains undaunted, even managing to look at the lighter side of things. He texted me to say that if the assassination attempt on him proved anything, it is that Ilocos pottery are very durable.

Having grown up in Manila, he spoke in struggling Iluko, “Masapul nga isuratmi iti kinapudno tapnon maamoan dagiti sangaili.” (By ‘sangaili’, Steve did not mean guests, but the nation.)

Doing serious journalism in the Philippines is really a constant tango with death. A writer’s foot is buried on the ground even as his hands pound the keyboard. God knows how many times my mom has asked me to stop writing or, at least, just to write about safe stuff.

The question really is, “Is it worth it?” Journalist Marlene Esperat exposed the fertilizer fund scam, and was brutally killed at her own home in Sultan Kudarat in 2005. To this day, her killers remain unpunished, and so are the manipulators of the fertilizer fund. We don’t need to look too far. Whatever happened to our own Roger Mariano’s case?

But worry nor fret not. Truth will inevitably shine soon, maybe sooner. We don’t know when. We don’t know how. We just have to hold on to faith, as Cory Aquino did, that one little candle can illuminate a sea of darkness, and that, after all, the Filipino is worth living and dying for.

“Your pen stings like a venom,” Bishop Sergio Utleg told me on one occasion. The good bishop, who has had his own share of flak in this column, asked me to be careful because I might be exposing myself to harm. While I was thankful of the bishop’s concern, I would have been more appreciative had he simply stressed on me what the Holy Scriptures reminds the Christian faithful to do 365 times over, and which I now tell my dear friend Steve: BE NOT AFRAID.

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

21 thoughts on “Cory’s gift and Steve’s burden”

  1. i agree with your i asked you awhile back..why don’t you write books? “BLOGGING,YOSI ,DEDMA AND THE LAKLAKS “

  2. As always I enjoy reading your blog… I’ve always known you to be speaking from the heart. God bless you for the work that you do. Take care my dear friend.

  3. Yes, she tells me stories about your mom and you too! I let her read your blog from my phone when they were here… Regards.

  4. Cory’s Gift and Steve’s Burden

    She was never a good leader.
    With all those good things told about her in television and in radios, I really never considered Cory Aquino as a good leader. I’m more on the side of Marcos as Dennis Estacio. I am really against all those negative teachings and awkward write-ups thrown to Marcos every time they try to remember his governance. That time, they hate the declaration of martial law which I think most of these Cory-fans misunderstand. During the time of Pres. Marcos there was really a problem on the country’s peace and order, that is why Marcos decided to declare martial law so that anyone who will try to break the law shall be punished. Right there and then, whether the rich or the poor if they try to cross the lines, they deserve something in return. In fact, too many infrastructures and laws we are enjoying and using today was made and built during the Marcos’ times.
    Cory never won in any elections, people did not elect her as president and that should be clear to all of us. EDSA People Power, maybe about 1-2 million who joined but that does not represent the entire nation and that does not mean all Filipinos wants Marcos’ resignation. It was unfair, there was a legal election that Marcos’ won over Cory, they asked for snap elections and still with the same result. They said that he cheated the votes, they stole ballot boxes and there were fraud all over and he did it twice, well as what they say when someone losses its not really easy to accept it. Likewise, Cory’s governance was full of blood also, still the problems from Marcos’ leadership became worse, and there were too many killings, coupdetat attempts and others.
    Cory supported Arroyo in EDSA 2 which makes Cory Aquino’s image worse for me. During this Arroyo administration, I can say this is the worst. Rampant killings on media people and to politicians, graft and corruption, robberies, rape, economy breakdown and more, these things are the prices of supporting Arroyo in EDSA 2 and I know nobody can tell at this very moment that we have good governance. Most Filipinos is dying in pain and in hunger, and this time these politicians and those who took part and still taking part of Arroyo’s placement is not worth dying for.
    Now, can someone say that the lives of most Filipinos got better now? Is this the kind of government that EDSA revolution brings us? Is it like grenades they are throwing to us that can kill us in just a blink of an eye? I never questioned Cory as a wife or a mother but regarding her contributions as a leader it should always be in question. Did she really give the Philippines a better change? Or a puppet controlled by some other big names in politics?
    These are my personal thoughts, some may think of it like I do and some will totally disagree, but I think of it this way and nobody can just step in and tell me that I’m wrong. We all have our personal way of wrapping up things anyway.

    1. Whew, nice insights WEAK. Note that Cory did publicly regret supporting EDSA 2, and led the moral fight against Arroyo.

      Cory taught us that one can have power and not be enamored into it. She’s a big source of inspiration of hope, considering the type of politicians we have today.

      She was not excellent leader, no, but she did lead us with 3 Ds–decency, dignity, delicadeza. Add one S for sincerity.

  5. My favorite lesson in Philippine History is Martial Law and People Power. Some think that HeKaSi/Social Studies are boring and “a subject where you’ll just memorize and memorize”, bur for me, it is interesting to look at how the Philippines evolved.

    I also liked watching news and current affairs shows when I was a kid. When the telly is on, I eagerly watch TV Patrol Laoag, the national TV Patrol, and Magandang Gabi, Bayan. Watching these kinds of shows developed my talent in newscasting and journalism. Pareho po pala tayo ng shows na kinahihiligan noon, sir! Still, I watch news shows.

    I was sad when I knew that Cory died. I was asleep when the news broke. At 10 AM, I was still asleep, my mom kept on waking me, and when she had enough, she said, “Anak, Cory is dead.” I thought she was joking, but when I turned on the TV, all channels were airing a special coverage about her death. I was shocked that time, and I was glued on the television. By Monday, I bought a yellow ribbon and gave my extra ribbons to two classmates. I wore the ribbon until Friday. Everyone was curious why a yellow ribbon was pined on my uniform.

    About what happened to Steve Barreiro, the place where it happened is near our family house-father’s side. Media killings (including attempts) are very rare in the province, and I can’t realize that someone can do this kind of crime. Journalists only do their job, and yet there are a few who are affected, and then they try to kill them. I actually wish to become a broadcast journalist, but some people tell me not to pursue it because of the dangers. I just tell them that this is the career that I want since Kinder.

    1. Guien, by all means pursue journalism if you are drawn to it, and if you are brave enough as I am sure you are. You will be a very good at it.

      Your keen interest at news and public affairs prove this. The depth of your insights are way above your league.

      By the way, we will hold the 2nd round of our presidential mock election Monday to Wednesday next week. We will present the results in a media briefing at CAS thursday morning.

  6. It’s good that you’ll have round 2 of the mock polls, sir. Probably it will be a tight fight because candidates have filed their certificates of candidacy.

    Also, the Debate Society of our school will conduct a debate seminar for students on Monday at the AVR of our school. Our adviser and some members of DebSoc will be the speakers. It’ll be the first time that we’ll conduct a DebSem, and it will also be my first time to be a lecturer about debating.

    1. Good luck, guien. Of course you will do well in your lecture. Let’s keep debate alive at MMSU.

      It’s been idle for a while.

  7. Hi Herdy-
    I have been reading some of your political views and affiliations in this site and there are some questions and issues that I may need you to explain and clarify. First was your affiliations with Senator Madrigal – the lady senator who is aspiring for the presidential office in this coming election. What is her accomplishment except that she belongs to the novo-rich class in PI. What was her accomplishment as a lady senator- except for just jumping in the bandwagon for major issues? Does she really deserves the elective position as a senator of the country? If your position is affiliation-by-convenience to the senator, then I could understand you being a student back then. Then there is another figure lady senator Defensor- kudos to you since you stand up as a real gentleman to reject this lady political figure. I did not see any jewels of this figure as well except for a few speeches of legal mumbling and bumbling words in the senate floor. Look where she is now, she is just wheeling and dealing to any party affiliations for her senate re-election. She is very pathetic and she likes to perpetuate her position because of the lucrative money as a senator.

    Again, I do not see any hope of the presidentiables for this coming elections. Are the Pinoys ready for another Aquino leadership? Please give them a break. Gordon should be given a chance but it would be a long shot because of financial handicapped, Binay is another figure but on the wrong side of the fence and politically doomed affiliations.

    1. Sir William,

      Thank you for raising the issues.

      First, with Sen. Madrigal. She recruited me in 2000 after reading an article I wrote for a national daily. I did not even know who she was then. Then came 2001, and Edsa II. I was working in our office at Malacanang then, but, after office hours, I’d go to EDSA to march against Erap although I knew it would mean Jamby’s going down, too, and me losing my job.

      All I say is that I was not a young man who sold out his principles “for convenience,” as you call it. Like Cory, however, I now regret going to EDSA II, because Gloria makes Erap look like a saint.

      Secondly, about Miriam. I really feel betrayed by her because she was the first politician I ever supported. I was only in grade school then, but I had very high hopes for a better Philippines under her leadership. I never believed she was mentally unstable. I was wrong. Her reason and sense of propriety are shaky.

      Thirdly, I am getting turned off by Noynoy’s poor performance in debates. My VP vote is torn between Binay and Roxas.

  8. Thanks for your input and position to the issues I have raised. You are a real gentleman and a scholar. You focused on the points and issues posted and not to the person posting the articles.

    1. Of course, Sir William S., journalists must be the first to know to shoot the message, and not the messenger.

      Thank you for raising the issues. They gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own decisions and motives.

  9. Hello, Sir. I was browsing thru the pages of your blogsite until I came across this post. Na-Bannawag ak sa, this time. I respect the man for being an objective journalist. It was he, and he alone, who dared seek the truth about the woven lies of this ecotourism group, with a bitter Ilocano veggie dish name, about the Adams green fee issue of 2004. And yes, I am part of the smaller LEAD Movement that bore the brunt of it. How did it feel to be harassed in your own home by Immigration officials right after a public hearing ordered by the SP, where we had to face the monsters? Just like Stevie’s own grenade ordeal — anticipating what might be next. Ilocos Norteans owe it to fearless journalists like Stevie. Had I known earlier I would have included the other proven use of burnay — that as a survival product or a grenade catcher —

    To, Stevie: Hello, dude. Keep on writing.

  10. Just come across this article and read it thoroughly. I thought you are a Marcosian, as you praise Apo at the other article “Legal Thieves”, but here you don’t like him at all and give Cory the honors. Well, she may have good virtues but never been good as a leader. She has the charisma to shepherd a mob because of these virtues. But action is what is needed in our country, not just righteousness. With all state resources and personnel, she was even unable to find enough evidences to pin someone who really was behind her husband’s death during her tenure! Nothing more could have been worst!!!

  11. for me, this article explains on how you like Cory. Many believe that Cory is brave and good. In another issue, we have a free press. But many of our journalist take their life in risk. I think it’s too hard for a journalist to work in a very dangerous situation.

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daytoy ti bunga ti rimkuas nga iliw ken abrasa dagiti lagip iti selsel met la a nagtaudanna...

Herdy Yumul

Blogger/Columnist/Book Author


Got Stuck Beneath the Ink of Pen And Aperture of Lens

When will things happen?

like how I want them to be...

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