The Filipina Women’s Network is hosting a community gathering tonight in San Francisco to honor Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the former leader of the Philippines who brought democratic reform to the country in the late 1980s and was its first female president.
Aquino, who led the country from 1986 to 1992, died of complications from colon cancer on Aug. 1 in the Philippines.

The San Francisco memorial event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church at 756 Mission St. It will include a traditional mass led by 10 priests and a celebration featuring Filipino performers and speakers who worked with Aquino’s democracy movement in the 1980s.

Marily Mondejar, president of the FWN, said she was personally inspired by Aquino’s leadership style.

“She made it normal for a woman to be president,” she said. “She was kind, compassionate, sensitive. It wasn’t about power or getting control. It wasn’t about her.”

Aquino’s husband, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., was a staunch political opponent of the Philippines’ autocratic president, Ferdinand Marcos, in the early 1980s. Benigno Aquino was assassinated in 1983, and Cory Aquino was recruited to run against Marcos in the 1986 presidential election.

Marcos was proclaimed the winner of the election, but after widespread electoral fraud was reported, a peaceful people’s movement installed Aquino as president and Marcos fled the country.

Aquino inherited extensive presidential powers from her autocratic predecessor, but she used her six years in office to draft a new Constitution that limited executive power, reorganize Congress and the Supreme Court, and bring about populist reforms.

“She gave up the powers of the president,” Mondejar said. “She restored checks and balances. That’s amazing. That to me personally, as a woman and a community leader, is something we need to emulate.”

Mondejar said Aquino’s administration survived multiple attempted coups. Despite coming from a wealthy family, Aquino angered rich property owners by drafting agrarian reform bills that redistributed pieces of land to farm workers.

“We consider her a saint because she’s just about doing good and the greater good,” Mondejar said. “I think she inspired a lot of people and inspired hope.”

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