Massive Turnout for Aquino Cortege in Manila

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.

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.
Honor guards stand beside the flag-draped casket of the late former Philippines President Corazon Aquino as it passes by the monument of her assassinated husband Benigno Aquino Jr. at Manila's financial district of Makati, Philippines on Monday. (Photo: AP)

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.

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.

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.

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.