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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 39: President Corazon Aquino

Maria Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino was a Filipina politician who served as the 11th President of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992. She was the first woman ever to hold that office despite having never held prior elective office.

Aquino was born into a wealthy and politically prominent family from Tarlac. After receiving much of her education in the US, she returned to the Philippines and studied law at Far Eastern University. After meeting Benigno “Ninoy” Simeon Aquino, Jr., a promising young politician, she discontinued her studies and married him in 1954. They had five children together, and Cory stayed mostly behind the scenes raising the children during her husband’s career in public office.

Ninoy became the youngest governor and then youngest senator in the Philippines, funded partly by Cory selling some of her inheritance. He then became one of the most prominent opposition leaders to the Marcos regime, and he was jailed by Marcos for 8 years in 1972 with martial law being declared that same year. Cory accompanied Ninoy into exile in the US in 1980. When Ninoy returned to the Philippines in 1983, he was assassinated upon arrival.

Cory then became active and visible in demonstrations and protests against the Marcos administration and rose to be the symbolic figurehead of Marcos’ opposition. After Marcos unexpectedly called for Presidential elections in February 1986, Cory became the unified opposition’s candidate. She was officially reported as having lost the election to Marcos, but Cory and her supporters challenged the election charging widespread voter fraud.

After multiple days of large-scale protests in the streets (known as the People Power Revolution), criticism of the election by local leaders, the US Senate’s condemnation of the election and the defection of the Philippine Military, President Marcos fled the country on February 25, 1986, and Aquino was installed as President.

Aquino immediately abolished the 1973 constitution put into place by Marcos during martial law and restored democracy for the people of the Philippines.

Aquino was not photographed wearing the Barong Tagalog very often during her presidency, though she did wear barongs from time to time.

Cory Aquino stands next to General Fidel Ramos. She wears a Barong Tagalog underneath her jacket. Photo is likely circa 1986.

Cory Aquino stands next to General Fidel Ramos. She wears a Barong Tagalog underneath her jacket. Photo is likely circa 1986.

President Aquino at her first State of the Nation Address. She wears a Barong Tagalog over her dress

President Aquino stands with Speaker Ramon Mitra and Senate President Jovito Salonga at her first State of the Nation Address on July 27, 1987. Aquino wears a Barong Tagalog over her dress.

Aquino salutes the honour guard at Rizal Park on Philippine Independence Day on June 12, 1992. She wears a dress length Barong Tagalog

Aquino salutes the honour guard at Rizal Park on Philippine Independence Day on June 12, 1992. This is her last time leading Independence Day rites before she left presidential office. She wears a dress length Barong Tagalog.