Corazon C. Aquino, 1933-2009
By Beverly T. Natividad, Christine Avendaño

MANILA, Philippines—Her doctors said several times that she had only 72 hours to live, but a member of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (also known as the Pink Sisters) predicted she would go on a First Saturday because of her devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

The nun's prediction, made to family and friends of the cancer-stricken Corazon Aquino, proved correct. A longtime Marian devotee, the former President passed on in the early hours yesterday, the first Saturday of the month.

Aquino, 76, died "peacefully" at 3:18 a.m. at the Makati Medical Center, according to her son, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who made the announcement at 5 a.m.

"She would have wanted to thank each and every one of you for all the prayers and your continued love and support. It was her wish for one another and for our country," the senator told reporters.

The body now lies in state at the La Salle Green Hills gymnasium on Ortigas Avenue in Mandaluyong City, where it will remain for public viewing until Monday morning.

A private funeral is scheduled on Aug. 5, the senator said. He said his mother would be laid to rest next to his father, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.

Asked whether it was his mother's wish to have a private funeral, Noynoy Aquino said the former President had been "a private citizen since stepping down" from power in 1992.

"To a degree, we would want to spend as much time as possible as a family with her," he said, pointing out that both his parents had been "public property."

Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima

In his homily at a Mass held at the Edsa Shrine at noon Saturday, Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, said Aquino was a gift to the Philippines.

"Which other country has a Cory Aquino? Tayo lang (Only us)," said Arevalo, the former President's spiritual mentor and close friend.

"What a great gift the Lord gave us in her. What a great gift we have lost," he said.

Arevalo narrated his conversation with the Pink Sister on Friday: "The doctors kept on saying she had 72 hours, but she continued to live. Until this nun, who is a friend, said, 'She will die tomorrow. She will have to go on a First Saturday because of her devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.'"

Marian devotees commit themselves to the First Saturday devotion in accordance with the promise of Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia that those who do so will have a happy death.

Arevalo assured those present at the Mass that Aquino had "a very peaceful death."

"She went in her sleep," he said.

The assembly shed tears as Arevalo narrated anecdotes on Aquino's last hours.

He said that during the Mass he celebrated for Aquino on Friday at the hospital, which was attended by family and close friends, he noticed that Makati Representative Teddyboy Locsin had disappeared.

He said Locsin, who wrote Aquino's speeches as President, was later found at the stairwell of the hospital "crying his heart out."

"Everybody loved her. People felt nothing but love for her because of all the love she gave to people," Arevalo said, his own voice breaking.

People from all walks of life, many clad in yellow shirts, braved rain and heavy traffic to attend the Mass for Aquino at the historic Edsa Shrine, which was built as a memorial to the 1986 Edsa Revolution.

"Cory loved this shrine. This place is especially dear to her," Arevalo said.

A Quarant'Ore—a 40-hour prayer vigil before the Blessed Sacrament—was held for Aquino at the Edsa Shrine starting on July 30 until noon Saturday.