, MANILA Aug 3 – Tens of thousands of Filipinos lined the streets of Manila to see the coffin carrying former leader Corazon Aquino make its way through the capital Monday, in an emotional procession to the city’s cathedral.
Aquino, whose husband was assassinated by forces loyal to dictator Ferdinand Marcos after returning home from exile in 1983, died at the weekend following a battle with cancer and is to be buried on Wednesday.
There has been a massive outpouring of tributes for the woman fondly called Tita, or Auntie, Cory, a grandmotherly figure credited with restoring democracy to the nation.
Traffic ground to a halt and confetti rained down from office blocks as people from all walks of life braved intermittent rain to get near Aquino’s coffin, lying on a bed of yellow flowers atop an open truck that slowly made its way through the Makati financial district.
Flashing the letter "L" sign with their fingers for Laban (Fight) — Aquino’s party slogan — the crowd sang a revolutionary anthem and chanted "Cory, Cory."
Women openly cried as yellow balloons symbolising Aquino’s "People Power revolution were released into the air. Yellow banners fluttered from rooftops and posters of Aquino hung from lamp posts outside the stock exchange.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all," the youngest of the Aquino children, actress Kristina Bernadette, said as the convoy stopped in front of the statue of her late father, Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino.
"Our hearts feel so wonderful because you are letting us feel that you loved my mum very much," she said. "I feel so blessed to be a Filipino."
She said allowing the public to openly view her mother’s body was "our way of saying thank you to the people who were with us from the very start."
Aquino’s cortege was expected to arrive later in the afternoon at Manila Cathedral. Aquino will be buried beside her husband at the Manila Memorial Park south of the capital in a private cemetery on Wednesday.
Outside the cathedral in the historic walled city of Intramuros around 1,000 policemen set up steel barricades to contain the thousands of people expected to gather there later.
The widow of Aquino’s arch-foe, Imelda Marcos, meanwhile said she hoped for a reconciliation.
"I can feel the pain, the loss of a loved one, so I am in prayer. If these two families reconciled, there will be a miracle for the Philippines," the former first lady said on television.
The Aquino family earlier said members of the Marcos family could attend the wake for the former president, but should not expect a warm welcome.
Marcos’s aides have said the former first lady or her children may attend Aquino’s wake later Monday, although there were no concrete plans.
Mourners also offered silent payers and recalled fond memories of the deeply religious woman who, even in death, wore her trademark yellow dress, and clutched a rosary with a golden cross.
Many wore pins and shirts with pictures of Aquino, whose death sparked tributes from around the world.
Among those who had visited her body was Wan Azizah Ismail, the wife of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who called Aquino a source of inspiration for Asian leaders.
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta was also expected to view the coffin at the cathedral later Monday, friends and family said.
Reluctantly stepping into the shoes of her husband, Aquino in 1986 challenged Marcos in a presidential election that he won amid massive cheating.
A group of military officers subsequently turned against him, and Aquino called millions onto the streets to protect them from Marcos’s troops.
This mushroomed into a massive street protest that eventually forced Marcos to flee to Hawaii, where he died in 1989.
Aquino’s family rejected the offer of a state funeral from President Gloria Arroyo, who fell out with the former president over allegations of corruption in her nine-year presidency.