MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE 4) Hoping their beloved Tita Cory rallies, friends of the ailing former president Corazon Aquino gathered Wednesday at the Greenbelt chapel in Makati to start off a nine-day series of Healing Masses for the 76-year-old People Power icon who is battling cancer.
?Our hearts are burdened because of the illness of our beloved former president, and the pain and discomfort she has to endure,? broadcaster Korina Sanchez said, reading a novena prayer for Tita Cory, as the former president has been fondly called.
?She needs all your prayers,? Ms Aquino?s spokesperson, Deedee Sytangco, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In a separate interview with INQUIRER.net, Sytangco said Aquino, who is at the intensive care unit, was conscious and vital signs are stable and asked the public to respect the family?s privacy.
"We also ask the public for support and prayers," Sytangco said over the phone.
The Makati Medical Center has not issued any medical bulletin.
Mrs. Aquino was taken to the Makati Medical Center last June 24 due to lost of appetite.
Sytangco said Ms Aquino has been visited by her priest-friends since her second hospital confinement on June 25.
?We hope she rallies,? Sytangco said.
The chapel was filled with sympathizers for the noontime Mass intended for the former president as well as others who are suffering from cancer.
?You took the hand of our dear sister Cory, as she struggled through every trial, as she confronted every challenge, and embraced every cross of her life. Take her hand now and have mercy on her and upon all poor souls who are in agony and make Your will known to them,? Sanchez also said, still reading from the novena prayer.
Sytangco said Sanchez had asked Ms Aquino to stand as sponsor at her wedding to Senator Manuel Roxas.
Ms Aquino ?is in a very serious condition,? said a close Aquino family friend who asked not to be identified by name for lack of authority to speak to the press on the former president?s condition.
?Tita Cory is conscious. She can talk and pray but she's not well. It's serious," the friend added.
Among those who attended the service former members of her Cabinet, led by former Senate President Franklin Drilon and wife Mila, former Finance Secretary Ramon del Rosario Jr., former Land Reform Secretary Philip Juico and his wife, Margie; Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and anti-Arroyo activists Dinky Soliman and Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement.
Meanwhile, Kris Aquino, the former president's youngest daughter, was inconsolable, according to her manager and long-time friend Boy Abunda.
?Iyak s'ya ng iyak [She has been crying]," said Abunda, who spoke with the actress-TV host by phone around 6 p.m. on Wednesday. ?She said ipaubaya na muna ng mga tao ang panahong ito sa kanya [that she be allowed to have this moment to herself]. She said she would rather not talk about her mom's condition at the moment."
Senator Benigno "Noynoy'' Aquino?s office issued a statement later Wednesday thanking "those who continue to pray for his mother's healing.''
The senator had said that his mother was brought to the hospital because she had lost her appetite. Her doctors had advised hospital confinement so that they could address her nutritional needs.
The former president is being fed intravenously.
Mrs. Aquino was taken to the Makati Medical Center last June 24 due to lost of appetite. The hospital has not issued any medical bulletin.