Corazon Aquino, the unassuming widow whose "people power" revolution toppled a dictator, restored Philippine democracy and inspired millions of people around the world, died today (Aug. 1, 2009) in Manila after a battle with colon cancer, her family announced. She was 76.
Widely known as "Cory," the slight, bespectacled daughter of a wealthy land-owning family served as president of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992, the first woman to hold that position.
She was widowed in 1983 when her husband, political opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated upon his return from exile to lead a pro-democracy movement against authoritarian President Ferdinand Marcos.
Mrs. Aquino's "people power" movement took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands after the disputed presidential election in 1986 in which Marcos claimed victory amid allegations of massive fraud. He accepted an offer of exile in the United States and Mrs. Aquino became president.
In her six tumultuous years in office in the fractious, strife-torn, disaster-prone archipelago, Mrs. Aquino resisted seven coup attempts or military revolts, battled a persistent communist insurgency and grappled with the effects of typhoons, floods, droughts, a major earthquake and a devastating volcanic eruption.
As she dealt with those challenges, she took pride in restoring democratic institutions that had been gutted under Marcos' 20-year-rule. And she presided over a series of relatively free elections, the dismantling of monopolies and an initial spurt of economic growth.
Her administration failed to make much headway in alleviating poverty, stamping out corruption or delivering basic services. It bequeathed her successor an economic slump marked by protracted, costly power failures that reflected inattention to the country's energy needs.
Despite the turmoil that dogged her presidency, Mrs. Aquino oversaw the first peaceful transfer of power in the Philippines in 26 years. She returned to private life with relief, although she remained politically active.