MANILA, Philippines -- The Catholic Church broke its protocol to bestow on former president Corazon Aquino the honor of being the first lay person to have her wake at the country's historic Manila Cathedral.
Such privilege is reserved only for the archbishop of Manila.
The last wake held at the Manila Cathedral was for the iconic Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, Aquino's fellow freedom champion who passed away in 2005.
Before that, the cathedral hosted the wake of Sin's predecessor, the late Rufino Cardinal Santos who passed away in 1973.
Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas, a long-time aide to Sin and who is close to the Aquino family, said not even bishops and priests could have their wake at the cathedral.
?(The privilege) is not given to any ordinary citizen, not even us bishops or priests. Only the archbishop of Manila and Cory are given that honor,? Villegas said.
Father Genaro Diwa, head of the ministry of liturgical affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila, said only the archbishop of Manila would be allowed to have his wake at the cathedral ?because this is his church.?
?We break all the rules,? Diwa said, explaining the significance of Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales' decision to allow Aquino's wake inside the cathedral.
Also called the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Manila Cathedral is considered the mother of all churches in the country.
The special bond between Sin and Aquino were very much on the minds of the clergy who prepared the cathedral for the former president's wake.
Sin and Aquino were stalwarts of the 1986 People Power revolt that ousted the Marcos dictatorship, and again of the 2001 People Power revolt that ousted President Joseph Estrada.
"The presence of the late cardinal is very much felt on this occasion," Diwa said.
?Since their relationship is very spiritual and deep, I think the presence of Cardinal Sin is very much felt here,? he added.
Aquino witnessed the mass and public viewing for the late cardinal in 2005.
Sin and other former Manila archbishops are buried in the cathedral?s crypt.
?I'm sure a reunion between Tita Cory and Senator Ninoy and Cardinal Sin would be a happy reunion,? Villegas mused.
Turning philosophical he added: ?Tita Cory did not die. Life is not ended, life is only changed. That's why we say in Tagalog, sumakabilang-buhay (a move to the afterlife).?
It was the Aquino family who made the request to hold the wake and funeral mass at the Manila Cathedral. Cardinal Rosales readily agreed even if that meant breaking their own protocol.
The family apparently thought first of having the wake at the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City, where the wake of the late senator Benigno ?Ninoy? Aquino was held after his assassination in 1983.
The Aquinos' only son, Sen. Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III disclosed that relations with those who currently run the church have been strained.
Without naming names, he said: ?There is another church closely related to us, but in the commemoration of my father's 25th death anniversary, I understand we are not welcome there.?
?Fortunately, Manila Cathedral was made available by Cardinal Rosales. That is why we decided to hold it here. There are a lot of important memories in our lives that had connection to Manila Cathedral,? the senator added.