• Corazon C. Aquino and son, Benigno S. Aquino III were two Philippine presidents who shared an extraordinary relationship
• President Cory, who passed away in 2009, was president from 1986 to June 30, 1992; while her son, Noynoy, was president from 2010-2016. He passed away June 24, 2021
• Noynoy was very protective of his mother, the president. He would sit back stage and always chose a position where his mom would be within his sight
• He was seriously injured by a bullet in his neck in an ambush during one of the coup attempts to push his mother from power
• Mother and son were book lovers and engaged in many conversations about what they read, politics, government officials, and issues of the day
• When Noynoy entered politics, running for congressman and then senator, Cory’s firm reminder was to ‘work at your best and for the people.’ Noynoy had promised he would do that
(The author was the Undersecretary of Media Affairs during the administration of President Cory and later her spokesperson as Private Citizen Cory Aquino.)
An extraordinary mother-and-son relationship – likely the only one in recent history – was shared by two Philippine presidents – Corazon C. Aquino and son, Benigno S. Aquino III. President Cory, who passed away in 2009, was our 11th president from 1986 to June 30, 1992; while her son, Noynoy, was the 15th president from 2010-2016. He passed away on June 24, 2021.
“Like mother, like son” may be an apt term to sum up their relationship, but beyond the historical significance of both having had led the country are the small gestures of familiarity. They now say much about how a young boy had taken the responsibility of protecting his mother and sisters, grew up to be congressman and then senator, and became the President of the same country his mother had led, and where his father is acknowledged as a hero. (August 21 was declared Benigno ‘Ninoy” Aquino Jr. Day by Republic Act 2956 signed in 2004.)
I was the Undersectary of Media Affairs during the administration of President Cory and later her spokesperson as Private Citizen Cory Aquino (PCCA) after the end of her term, and I was privileged to see the endearing signs of the mother-and-son relationship.
Noynoy was very protective of his mother, the president. I would often see him at the back of the stage where his mom was seated in any event, choosing to be with the Presidential Security Guards. Always, he chose a position where his mom would be within his sight.
Noy’s protectiveness for his mother and four sisters became more intense during the 1989 elections when Cory ran as the opposition candidate. Former President Marcos was in power and had the backing of the military. Cory had the support of the people.
During the campaign and the early years of her presidency, Noynoy deliberately stayed out of the limelight. He worked for a private firm and he lived with his mom and unmarried sisters in a house on Arlegui street near Malacanang. He accompanied his mother on trips to the provinces and other official engagements, always staying out of sight, especially keeping distance from the media.
Noynoy had assumed the role of “protector” that his father had assigned should anything happen to him when he reached Manila. In a separate interview years ago, Noynoy had said that his father said that in a casual manner before he left for the airport where Ninoy took the flight for the first leg of his journey to his homeland. He was assassinated upon arrival on the airport tarmac.
When the family arrived in Manila after the assassination of Ninoy, he stood beside his mom when they stepped into their house in Times Street where his dad laid in state in his bloodied white, long-sleeved safari shirt, at their living room. Cory had asked everyone, including the household staff, to leave the house and give her family a private hour with Ninoy.
After the hour passed, Cory stood stoically in front of family members and friends and announced that she was ready to face the media. Noynoy stood at his mother’s side during the press conference.
He was the only son of Cory and Ninoy, the hero; the middle child among five siblings. He was also the only son who the sisters – Ballsy (Cruz), Pinky (Abellada), Viel (Dee) and Kris – even those older than him, called “Kuys” short of “kuya” because the was the Big Brother. He completed their “circle of love.”
When the nieces and nephews came, he eased into the role of the doting – but authoritative –uncle.
As a young boy, Noynoy did not have the luxury of a close physical father-and-son relationship with his father who was a politician. From being the youngest mayor, youngest governor to youngest senator, his dad, Ninoy, the charismatic action-oriented politician, was kept busy by public commitments in Tarlac, their home province.
His mother, Cory was the politician’s dutiful wife, remaining close to her children. When Ninoy’s fight against the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos landed him in jail, Cory took over as mother and father to her brood. Kris was only 18 months when her father was jailed in Fort Bonifacio.
Noynoy grew up under his mother’s supervision, but not her control. He was a loving, dutiful son who understood the family circumstances, and so as not to add to his mother’s problems, he stayed out of trouble in his teen years. He was a good student at the Ateneo, and his mom allowed him to indulge his passion for books, music, and vinyl records collection. His room overflowed with electrical equipment for his music.
He was fully aware of the threats on his parents’ lives even when they were living in their Boston haven after his dad was allowed to go to Texas for a crucial heart surgery. He heard the stories the opposition politicians told about the brutality of martial law in the Philippines when they visited his dad. He absorbed the information and kept his silence.
In August 1989, several coup attempts were staged against Pres. Cory. The Palace was bombed in one of those coup attempts, aimed to instill enough fear to get the President to abandon the seat of power. Cory stayed put in Malacanang amid the gunfire from the group and from the rebel soldier’ planes.
Seriously injured during in that coup attempt was the President’s only son. Noynoy was ambushed by the rebel soldiers near Malacanang. During the crossfire between the soldiers of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (Ram) and Noy’s security team, a bullet hit the neck of the president’s only son.
The PSG rushed a profusely bleeding Noynoy to the PSG hospital on the other side of Pasig River. Surgeons who attended to his wound decided not to remove the bullet which would have caused serious problems. The PSG head, with the consent of Noynoy, decided not to let his mother know he had been wounded that evening.
A furious president learned about the near fatal incident after the surgery and at that same hour crossed the Pasig River on a raft to go to her son.
A rare side of the usually soft-spoken President Cory appeared. “Why was I not told! That is my son!” the mother in the president said to those “involved” in the cover- up. Noynoy soon recovered and got back to his responsibility to protect his mother, the president.
Between official functions, mother and son shared many conversations on politics, officials running the government, and the issues of the day. Some conversations turned into discussions but those were always conducted in a quiet manner showing great respect for each other’s opinions. On instances when I was present, I would quietly leave the room to leave both to their bonding time.
Both were book lovers too, and their readings were also topics of their discussions during their quiet times together.
I sensed that President Cory was not a domineering mother to her son with his bachelor ways. With wit and humor, she would sometimes comment to us on a girl her son was dating. She earnestly wanted him to settle down.
When Noynoy entered politics, running for congressman and then senator, Cory supported his campaigns. Her firm reminder to Noynoy was to “work at your best and for the people.” She told me that Noynoy had promised he would do that.
President Cory would not have been disappointed at the work done by her son, President Beninso Simeon Aquino III.