P-Noy in Paris
President Benigno S. Aquino III will not say it upfront but of the four European capitals that he visited during his first working trip to the region, it is Paris that he looked forward to the most, both for patriotic and sentimental reasons.
In his message after the warm welcome offered by French President Francoise Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Pres. Aquino revealed the reason for the country’s cordiality with France — “shared values between Paris and Manila,” noting that France was among the first in the community of nations to recognize the revolutionary government that his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino, mounted following the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.
The media coverage of Pres. Aquino’s Paris sojourn is not complete without cross references to the French visit of Cory Aquino in 1989. This was three years into the first Aquino regime, and the timing of Cory’s visit couldn’t have been more significant.
France was celebrating the bicentenary of the French Revolution, a grand affair that had President Cory as the only state visitor. The French peoples bestowed the exceptional honor because, in the words of then French President Francois Mitterrand, the bicentenary of the revolution deserved exceptional persons “who are working to create a more just and more generous world in the spirit of the universal values of human rights and democracy that France proposed to the world in 1789”.
In 2009, I had the privilege of living in Paris and although the city of lights offered an array of tempting distractions for jologs like me, I couldn’t help but monitor events in the Philippines because back then, the country was blanketed in a somber mood after it was announced that Cory was suffering from colon cancer.
I recall that Filipinos from all walks of life then offered prayers for her recovery. In solidarity with Pinoys back home, Pinoys in France offered mass for Cory in the Chappelle de Sainte Bernadette in the Auteuil district in Paris. Less than two months later, Filcoms in France converged again in the same chapel to mourn the death of the democracy icon.
The Chappelle de Sainte Bernadette is considered the parish of the Philippine chaplaincy in Paris. I had the privilege of having attended these two civic and religious events which, in my observation, gave overseas Filipinos a very deep sense of connectivity to the motherland.
President Noynoy Aquino may not have known the cross-references to his mother and the Chappelle of Sainte Bernadette in Auteuil but this is the same chapel that gave him the opportunity to meet with cordial compatriots as well as militant forces who tried to rain on his parade last September 19.
Despite the minor slip-up organized by a militant organization, the President was able to meet up with a sizable crowd inside the chapel. As if to make his audience settle down after the security breach, the President let out a few jokes which sent the audience in stiches.
As for the altar that five years earlier was the setting of heartfelt Eucharistic celebrations offered for his mother, it was blocked by a huge blue tarpaulin that announced his visit to the French capital.
It has been twenty-five years since Cory’s triumphant visit to the French capital and I guess her son was not disappointed by the warm welcome of French officials and OFWs in that part of the world.
Had the presidential schedule been less unforgiving, Pnoy’s observance of the declaration of Martial Law would have been more meaningful had he taken a short trip to the Normandy region and offer prayers for the country in the Basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux.
Lisieux is an important pilgrimage site in Europe because of the many miracles attributed to St. Therese of the Child Jesus. In honoring St. Therese, the Catholic Church built a Basilica, known as the biggest church that France built in the 20th century.
Inside the great church is a People Power mosaic made through the efforts of Filipino communities in France. Designed by the internationally acclaimed painter, Manuel Baldemor, the People Power mosaic was unveiled and blessed in October 2009. The mosaic made of Murano glass occupies the upper left wall of the Basilica, alongside other religious artworks donated by other countries around the world.
Needless to say, the People Power mosaic evokes the compelling role of former Pres. Cory Aquino in the dismantling of the evil Martial Law.
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