By Benjamin Pulta
MANILA – Former president Benigno Simeon Cojuangco-Aquino III’s ashes were laid to rest Saturday at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
After the necrological services at the Church of Gesu inside the campus of his alma mater, Ateneo de Manila in Quezon City, Aquino’s urn was buried beside the tombs of his parents, former senator Benigno Jr. and Corazon, the president four terms earlier.
Sisters Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada, Viel Dee, and Kris Aquino were joined by an estimated 500 other sympathizers.
“Si Noy ayaw nya talaga na maging pabigat siya. Ayaw nya na kami’y nag-aalala at ayaw nya na hindi kami nakakatulog dahil sa pag-iisip sa kanya. Ngayon, nabutas na ang aming pagsasamahan. Nawala na yung gitna. Hindi na uli kami magiging kumpleto (Noy didn’t want to be a burden. He didn’t want us to worry or lose sleep over his condition. Now, we’ve lost him. Out middle sibling is gone. We will never be complete again),” Cruz, the eldest, said in her eulogy.
Full military honors marked the funeral, including a gun salute and a flyby by the Philippine Air Force.
Military camps across the country likewise fired simultaneous gun salutes, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said in a statement.
Only former presidents, as AFP commanders-in-chief, are entitled to military honors.
A brigade-sized Arrival Honors was rendered at the Manila Memorial Park while the military band played the National Anthem.
AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, was joined by major service commanders during the funeral and interment ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Joel Alejandro Nacnac, Director of the AFP Center for Law of Armed Conflict, led officers who took the urn to the gravesite for the final prayer.
During the inurnment, the military executed “pugay kamay” (hand salute at one-count) and the traditional 21-gun salute while the Philippine Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Team played on.
The simultaneous gun salutes are the AFP’s final salute to a former commander-in-chief. Only former presidents are entitled to such.
Period of mourning
The AFP will observe a 30-day mourning period as stated in its Military Regulations.
A “Badge of Mourning” must be worn at the left arm sleeves of the uniform above the elbow for 30 days, which started on June 25, or a day after the 61-year-old Aquino succumbed to renal failure secondary to diabetes at the Capitol Medical Center in QC.
President Rodrigo Duterte also declared June 24 to July 3 as a Period of National Mourning under Proclamation No. 1169.
All national flags will be flown at half-mast in all government buildings and installations nationwide during the 10-day period.
Cruz said they will always be proud of their only brother, whom he said would have scoffed at the military honors accorded him.
“To the man we were so blessed to have as our brother, habang buhay ka naming ipagmamalaki, pasasalamatan, hahanap-hanapin, at mamahalin (we will forever be proud of you, thank you, miss you, and love you),” Cruz said. (With reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)