In September 2008, Jessica Soho had the privilege of doing Cory Aquino’s final interview. You can read the entire thing here.
Her feeling about the speech at the US Congress —
Jessica: Naalala niyo pa that moment when you entered Congress?
Cory: Ay talaga!
Jessica: And there was a standing ovation.
Cory: Oo e, naku! Parang “Wow!” At alam mo, ang nakakagulat noon Jessica, wala akong kanerbiyos-nerbiyos nun eh. Sabi ko, “Bakit kaya ganito ang feeling ko?” Although the day before, tinanong sa akin ni George Shultz, “Would you like to rehearse on my teleprompters?” Sabi ko, “Oh yes. Thank you very much!” Dahil wala naman akong bitbit na teleprompter.
Jessica: Si George Shultz daw may Cory Aquino doll on his lapel?
Cory: Ay talaga? Sa kabaitan naman sa akin, pinadala iyong technicians niya at tinanong pa sa akin, “Ma’am may we know what size heels, how many inches?” So kaya tamang-tama kung saan nilagay iyong (telemprompters).
Noong araw, medyo luma pa iyong mga teleprompters. Hindi kamukha ngayon na hindi mo na makikita. Sinabi nga ng mga anak ko, dahil ang kasama ko lang noon si Viel, yung mga nandito sabi, “Mom, ang akala raw talaga ng tao minemorya mo ang speech mo,” dahil hindi nga nakikita. Siguro mas matagal na silang gumagamit ng teleprompter.
Pero everything just went well at talagang, “Wow, is this all happening to me?” At nakakagulat nga na kilala pala ako. Noong araw, asawa ako ni Ninoy or ngayon naman, sasabihin mommy ako ni Kris but that was really, I just felt so (shakes head).
On her leadership style —
JS: How would you describe your management and leadership style when you were president?
Cory: Ang very clear sa kanilang lahat na first, we do everything not only according to the law but we do what is right and honest. At nalaman nila nung umpisa na may nagpapadala ng regalo sa akin, siguro mga damit, pinasauli ko and some people were hurt by that pero I said, “Hindi na. Para maliwanag na whatever it is, kailangan walang mga regalo-regalo.” And I remember, we were I think in Iloilo – basta one Visayan province. Then Mita Pardo De Tavera told me afterwards, “Ma’am I just wanted to tell you that when you were walking, one of the women said, ‘Naku, suot na naman niya iyong damit na iyon.’” And then I said, “It’s what I want them to notice. That first of all, yes, I’m president but I’m not president of a rich country. And what’s wrong with wearing a dress more than once, twice?” I really wanted to set an example.
And I also wanted our cabinet members to do the same thing, sabi nga nila medyo istrikto nga daw ako but I felt if we wanted changes made, we should start with our own lives so that was never a problem with me.
Jessica: Sabi ho ni Maria Montelibano, because I interviewed her also on your presidency, na you were a very popular president pero ang observation was “She didn’t play along, she was just what she was.”
Cory: Ayoko nga iyong arte-arte e.
Jessica: Oo nga ho.
Cory: Bacause that’s not me. At I don’t want to pretend to be somebody that I am not. The people voted for me seeing the way I was. Wala naman akong inartehan or whatever. I mean, this is what you get, okay?
On President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo —
Jessica: How about Gloria? How is your relationship with the president now?
Cory: Well. I haven’t talked to her. The last time I talked to her was when I went to Malacañang to ask for her resignation. That was July 7. And then the following day, I said it on TV.
JS: Pwede po bang malaman how she took it when you told her, “You should resign?”
Cory: Kasama ko kasi iyong apat na bishops eh. Ako iyong ikalimang nagsalita. So we all asked her to do the same thing.
JS: Ano ho ang reaction niya?
Cory: Alam mo, nung gabing iyon, parang awang-awa nga ako sa kanya eh. Sabi ko noon at that time, we were thinking of it as a break for her to leave the country. She could have a graceful exit, dahil hindi pa naman ganoon kasama ang sitwasyon. Then she went to the August 21 (Ninoy’s death anniversary) mass after that. July ako nag-ask for her resignation. Then on August, Lupita called up Ballsy and said, “Pinapatanong ni Presidente kung pwede siya magpunta.” Well, pwede naman eh. Sabi ni Lupita – well she answered her own question – “Tutal, public ano naman iyon.” Tapos tinanong sa akin ni Ballsy, (sabi ko) “So sige, kung gusto niya.”
Her closing words —
Jessica: Ma’am, baka gusto raw ho niyong magbigay ng message to everyone?
Cory: Ako’y nagpapasalamat sa inyong lahat at lalong-lalo na sa Panginoong Diyos na ginawa niya akong isang Pilipino. Talagang karangalan ko iyon, na maging katulad niyo at maraming salamat sa lahat ng tulong na ibinigay niyo sa akin.
Jessica: Thank you. That was really powerful.
Indeed. Cory Aquino in her own words, ladies and gentlemen. Full interview here.