Prayers offered for Cory as she leaves ICU

MANILA, Philippines - Prayers and words of sympathy for cancer-stricken former President Corazon Aquino continued to pour in yesterday as doctors allowed her to leave the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Makati Medical Center where she has been confined since late last month.

Reports said Mrs. Aquino was in stable condition when wheeled out of the ICU. Her spokeswoman said she has refused further chemotherapy or any other medical treatment in her battle against colon cancer.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III, in a family statement, said they are now leaving her fate to God.

Despite her condition, loved ones said Mrs. Aquino was conscious and even “nodded and smiled” when a daughter told her of the turnout at a Mass for her healing at the Greenbelt Chapel in Makati City, her assistant Margarita Juico told The STAR yesterday.

The Aquino family, meanwhile, in their first public statement since the recent hospitalization of their mother, thanked the public for their prayers and said they remained “in complete trust in God’s infinite healing power.”

“(Our mother) has and always will be a woman of faith, a fighter, a source of hope and inspiration for all of us, not just her family but our entire nation as well.”

They said their mother’s current hospitalization “was necessary because of her loss of appetite, caused by fluid build-up in her stomach area.”

“Just like she has always taught us by her life’s example, we entrust everything to God,” the statement read.

A second healing Mass was held at the Greenbelt Chapel yesterday, with former President Joseph Estrada, his wife Loi and children Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Jackie Lopez leading friends of Mrs. Aquino in prayer.

“I admire President Cory’s courage, sincerity and for being hailed as the Philippines’ least corrupt President,” Estrada told newsmen after the Mass. “I am saddened by her condition and pray for her healing.”

He said he felt no need to visit Mrs. Aquino in the hospital.

“I don’t like to bother her right now,” Estrada said.

Mrs. Aquino was one of the leading figures behind the so-called EDSA 2 which ousted Estrada.

Mrs. Aquino’s spokesperson Deedee Siytangco said the former president is in “stable” condition, and is very much aware of the outpouring of prayers and affection for her.

Juico, who was Mrs. Aquino’s appointments secretary at MalacaƱang, added, “Tita Cory has been fighting many battles all her life, and this is just another battle. She will not give up without a fight.”

No bitterness

She said Mrs. Aquino had once confided to her that she had no anxieties and bitterness about her illness and in fact wanted to be reunited with her husband, the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

“But she had promised her children to do everything she could to fight her cancer,” Juico said.

She said Mrs. Aquino has been visited by the priests closest to her, like Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J., and Monsignor Socrates Villegas, and Masses attended only by her immediate family have been held at a room next to the one occupied by the former president at the Makati Medical Center.

Mrs. Aquino was diagnosed with colon cancer in March last year and has undergone chemotherapy, laparoscopy and radiation to battle her cancer. She reportedly has not been eating well for close to a month now.

Fr. Jun Sescon, who celebrated yesterday’s healing Mass, said Mrs. Aquino wasn’t only an “icon of democracy” but also an icon of the power of prayer, because even through the most difficult times in her life, she believed prayer would see her through.

Healing Masses for Mrs. Aquino will be held at the Greenbelt chapel at noon everyday until July 9.

Family at bedside

Siytangco said Aquino had been moved to a private room, in a decision “she and her children made in consultation with her doctors.” Family members are at her bedside, she added.

“She is no longer receiving any chemotherapy or any other medical intervention,” she said in her column in the Manila Bulletin, quoting a family member.

Former first lady Imelda Marcos, who celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday, also offered prayers for Mrs. Aquino.

“I asked all these people to offer prayers to her. I have peace in my heart and am comfortable with the truth. I am praying for her safe recovery,” Mrs. Marcos said.

Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, who had figured in many anti-Marcos rallies that led to EDSA 1 and served as acting mayor under the new Aquino administration, asked his constituents to pray for Mrs. Aquino.

“President Aquino has given so much for the country. The least that we can do is to pray for her,” Binay said.

Fr. Francis Lucas, president of the Catholic Media Network, also appealed for prayers for Mrs. Aquino.

“At this critical moment of her life fighting against cancer, we enjoin the Filipino people to offer prayers for her. May she continue in her faith and trust in the Almighty and ever loving Savior. May she see the love of God amidst the suffering she is forced to endure,” Lucas said over Radio Veritas.

“The CMN would offer prayers for her and also the members of her family as we journey with them in faith during this painful moment in their life,” he added.

“We miss her leadership now that our country faces new challenges to democracy, rule of law and morality,” he added.

“We should continue to be strong and have faith in the Lord because he would never forsake us,” Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said.

Need for solitude

Get well messages and prayers flooded the website of the former president but her family sought understanding as they declined to grant interviews to the media.

“The members of her family beg everyone’s understanding of their need for solitude and privacy at this delicate time,” a recent posting on the website said.

“Let us all pray that God grant her good health and spare her from pain and suffering,” it added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson also said in a statement that the nation still needs Mrs. Aquino.

“Few have contributed so much for the democratic space Filipinos now possess. Let us all pray for the turnaround of Cory’s condition and her recovery,” Lacson said.

“Now that the institutions of that democracy have been weakened by continuous and continuing assaults by the powers that be, all the more does the nation need her uncompromising faith in democracy and her unflinching advocacy for good governance,” Lacson said.

Prayers from GMA

Palace officials said President Arroyo has set aside her differences with Mrs. Aquino for whom she offered prayers yesterday.

“We will constantly be in prayer for her speedy recovery and we will also pray for strength and faith for the family of the former president, especially in their trying times,” deputy palace spokesperson Anthony Golez said.

Golez said that the criticisms aired by the former president against the administration could be brushed aside and maybe even forgotten at this time.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that every member of the Cabinet has been praying for the recovery of the former president.


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