Filipinos bid farewell to former president Benigno Aquino; popular leader laid to rest amid outpouring of grief, tributes

Philippine military officers (white) and honor guards together with family members march alongside the carriage carrying the urn of the late president Benigno Aquino during the funeral mass at a memorial park in Manila on Saturday (June 26, 2021). Aquino was laid to rest in a Manila cemetery on Saturday beside his parents, two of the South-East Asian country's democracy icons.- AFP

* Former president Aquino buried beside parents; * Mourners line along roads, wave yellow ribbons; Catholic archbishop calls for return of government decency

MANILA, June 26 (Reuters): Philippine former president Benigno Aquino was laid to rest in a Manila cemetery on Saturday beside his parents, two of the South-East Asian country's democracy icons.

Hundreds of mourners in black and white, some also wearing yellow - the colour associated with the Aquino family and a 1986 revolution that toppled a dictator - ribbons and face masks, attended a funeral mass and burial ceremony.

Aquino, president from 2010 to 2016, died at age 61 in a Manila hospital on Thursday (June 24) of kidney failure as a result of diabetes.

"To the man we were so blessed to have as our brother, we will forever be proud of you, thank you, long for you and love you," Maria Elena Aquino-Cruz, an older sister of Aquino, said at the funeral mass.

Aquino's remains were cremated on Thursday. Thousands queued for the public viewing in a church in his alma mater on Friday.

Filipinos lined up along roads to pay respect during the one-hour convoy of dozens of vehicles from his alma mater, Ateneo de Manila University, to the cemetery south of the capital.

The military gave a 21-gun salute and a helicopter rained down yellow flowers. At the Aquino residence at the heart of the capital, supporters left chrysanthemums, yellow bell and sunflower for the late leader.

Among those paying respects to Aquino was vice president and political ally Leni Robredo, and close friends. Most supporters were blocked at the entrance of the cemetery to prevent mass gathering and the spread of Covid-19.

"I pray for another family with the attitude like Noy and his parents that will fight for truth, justice, loyalty, love for God and country," Thelma Chua, 64, wearing a yellow shirt at the funeral, told Reuters.

Known popularly as Noynoy, Aquino rode a wave of public support to the presidency after the 2009 death of his mother, the revered "People Power" leader Corazon Aquino, who was president from 1986 to 1992.

His namesake father, a staunch critic of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was assassinated when he returned from political exile in 1983, planting the seeds for the 1986 People Power revolution that booted the strongman from office.

As president, the younger Aquino led the Philippines in shedding its perennial "sick man of Asia" image through better governance and robust economic growth. He challenged Beijing's sweeping claims of the South China Sea before the arbitration court in The Hague in 2013.

Aquino, who led a private life after stepping down, is survived by four sisters.

The best tribute for the late president is "to bring back, recover, preserve, safeguard and never again to compromise our dignity as a people and the decency of our leaders as servants, not bosses," Archbishop Socrates Villegas, former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said in his homily.

President Rodrigo Duterte, criticised by the Catholic church and rights group for crassness and his bloody war on drugs but hugely popular as a man of the people, did not attend the funeral. - Reuters

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