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Corazon Aquino
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Corazon Aquino

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Corazon Aquino was the 11th president (and first female president) of the Philippines. She restored democracy after the long dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Who Was Corazon Aquino?

Corazon Aquino's  husband had been an opponent of Ferdinand Marcos and was assassinated upon returning from exile. When Marcos unexpectedly called for elections in 1986, Corazon Aquino became the unified opposition's presidential candidate. She took office after Marcos fled the country, and served as president, with mixed results, until 1992.

Early Years

Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco was born January 25, 1933, in the Tarlac Province to a wealthy political and banking family. She attended school in Manila until the age of 13, then finished her education in the United States, first in Philadelphia and later in New York City. She graduated from the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York in 1953, with a bachelor's degree in both French and mathematics.

Upon returning to the Philippines, she enrolled in law school in Manila, where she met Benigno Aquino, Jr., an ambitious young journalist who also came from a family with considerable wealth. The couple married in 1954, and would go on to have five children together: one son and four daughters.

Benigno soon abandoned a career in journalism for politics. With Corazon at his side, he quickly established himself as one of the country's brightest young leaders. Over the span of just two decades, he was elected mayor, then governor and, finally, senator. Along the way, he challenged the rule of the country's president, Ferdinand Marcos.

Elected to the presidency in 1965, Marcos' administration was marred by corruption, human rights violations and political repression. In 1972 Marcos declared martial law, effectively stripping his citizens of their democratic rights and arresting key opposition leaders, including Benigno Aquino, who spent seven years in jail before being permitted to relocate with his family to the United States in 1980.

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Corazon Aquino stood by her husband's side, playing the role of the supportive wife. During his time in prison, Aquino served as the bridge between Benigno and the outside world, keeping his profile alive and passing his notes on to the press.

Unlikely Political Careers

After three years in exile, Benigno Aquino returned to the Philippines on August 21, 1983, when he was killed by two soldiers soon after arriving. Marcos was presumed to be behind the killing, and Benigno's assassination set off a wave of protests against Marcos' administration. The opposition coalesced around Corazon Aquino. While she gracefully dealt with her husband's death, Aquino evolved into a national symbol of reform.

With international pressure bearing down on his administration, Marcos unexpectedly called for presidential elections in February 1986. Marcos' opposition chose Aquino as their candidate. When she narrowly lost the election, Aquino and her supporters challenged the results. Quickly, Marco's fortunes began to turn. The army, and then the defense minister, soon declared support for Aquino, prompting Marcos to seek exile in Hawaii. Aquino was sworn into office on February 25, 1986, becoming the first female president of the Philippines. That same year, she was named TIME magazine's Woman of the Year.

During her six years as the country's president, Aquino fended off coup attempts by Marcos supporters, and struggled to address her country's economic problems. In 1992 she left office, and was succeeded by her former defense secretary, Fidel Ramos.

Final Years and Death

Aquino did not go quietly into retirement. Instead, she ran a think tank on non-violence and periodically helped lead street protests against the policies of endorsed by her successors.

In 2008, she learned she had colon cancer. She passed on August 1, 2009.

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