Cory produced a P-Noy, will FPJ give rise to P-Grace?

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(From L to R) The late Pres. Cory Aquino, Pres. Benigno Aquino III, the late Fernando Poe Jr. and Sen. Grace Poe.

Editor's note: Any opinions expressed here are solely the author's.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — There's a very thin line between real life and the movies in the Philippines.

Filipinos love the underdog, the "no one from nowhere" battling the high and mighty.

This was basically the story behind the late President Corazon "Cory" Aquino's rise to power in 1986: a simple housewife ousting a strongman, a dictator.

Tita Cory, as she was fondly known, became one of the most-loved Philippine presidents. And when she died of cancer on August 1, 2009, Filipinos here and abroad wept and grieved.

But her death, just like her husband Ninoy's, would give birth to another Aquino in Malacañan.

I remember the last time I saw then Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. It was early September, over a month after his mom died.

Back then, I was an executive producer for a current affairs show hosted by Mr. Tony Velasquez at the ABS-CBN News Channel  (ANC) and Senator Noynoy was our guest.

That time, he was virtually — by popularity standards — "unknown" as a senator. So much so that we invited him not to talk about "carrying the Aquino torch," but to talk about an issue regarding the creation of a new district in Camarines Sur because he was then the chair of the Committee on Local Government.

After the taped interview, all those in the studio (including myself) were posing to have our picture taken with him — and we were jesting that this might be the last time we could do so before the senator becomes president.

But lo and behold, the "yellow fever" once again came to life as Filipinos couldn't move on yet over Tita Cory's death.

Streets were lined with yellow ribbons to symbolize the country's longing and aching for a woman who had become an icon of democracy.

Talks of making Cory a national hero were also making the rounds.

There was a feeling of loss, emptiness. And like any void, it had to be filled.

Destiny calls

The Liberal Party, then, was even jestingly dubbed as the "Starex party," because you could fit all the members in just one van.

But the newbie senator was at the right place, at the right moment.

The filing of certificates of candidacy was in October. Had Tita Cory died earlier or later than when she did, things may have played out differently at the polls for the younger Aquino.

A reluctant Noynoy stepped up to the call of what he would call in the future as his "bosses."

There was a groundswell of support for the "new Aquino" at the Palace. Yellow wristbands, stickers and what-nots were being distributed by enthusiastic volunteers.

Aquino_memorabilia-2_CNNPH.png Some of the 2010 "yellow fever" memorabilia this writer was able to keep.  

Until then, Noynoy was still not a shoo-in.

Not until February 2010. I distinctly remember a broadsheet carrying Noynoy's statement in front of a sea of supporters. He said, "Ito ang ating tadhana." (This is our destiny.)

I had goose bumps after seeing that front page story. But from that moment on, I was certain that he will be the 15th president of the Republic of the Philippines.

Long story short: the rest was history. And history indeed, repeats itself.

Senator Grace's meteoric rise to popularity

Two surveys, Pulse Asia released on Thursday (June 18) and Social Weather Stations on Friday (June 19), showed that Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares overtaking the erstwhile consistent presidential choice topnotcher Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Late last year, I remember telling my friends and officemates that the next president could again be a woman, specifically, Senator Grace.

But the lady senator was not making waves back then, so no one was taking such an idea seriously that time.

Until the Senate held a series of hearings on the Mamasapano encounter that left 44 police commandos dead.

It was here where Llamanzares, or Poe — as she adopted her late adoptive father's last name —shone the brightest.

As chairperson of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Poe submitted a report on March 19 saying that Special Action Force (SAF) troopers were slaughtered and stripped of belongings by Islamist rebels and private armed groups.

And it did not stop there. The report also pointed to the President, resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima and former SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas for breaking protocols and regulations in carrying out "Oplan Exodus."

During this time, the Senate was also carrying out a series of probes into alleged corruption in Makati when Binay was still the city mayor.

But curiously, Binay was still topping presidential preference surveys, although his lead was getting slimmer.

It was at this moment that Filipinos were beginning to put two and two together and notice the humble, soft-spoken yet highly-principled fledgling lawmaker.

Eureka! There is an option other than Binay.

Not long after, Poe's name began appearing on survey preferences for vice president. And later, for president.

In memory of — and tribute to — FPJ

But Poe's sudden popularity was not solely because of the Mamasapano hearings.

Its roots can be traced back long before that, although the Senate hearings were the ones that triggered the memory — and epiphany — among survey respondents.

Poe's father was the late "Da King" of Philippine movies, Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ.

FPJ's movie career spanned over four decades, playing characters seeking out justice and revenge for the oppressed.

Filipino moviegoers loved FPJ. Even in Mindanao, Muslims lined up at the box office to see the fast-drawing, rapid-punching champion of the poor.

I grew up watching these movies and listening to stories that FPJ was so popular, loved and admired to the extent that moviegoers would actually pull out their guns and shoot at the movie screen during scenes where their idol was being beaten up by goons or kontrabidas.

But FPJ had always shied away from politics — aside from campaigning for his long-time best buddy, former president and now Mayor Joseph Estrada.

That changed in 2004.

The opposition, looking for someone to pit against the incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was able to finally convince FPJ to join the presidential race.

When the votes were canvassed, FPJ lost to Arroyo — amidst accusations of massive cheating and the infamous "Hello, Garci" scandal.

In December of that year, FPJ fell into a coma and died — leaving millions of grieving fans and supporters.

Filipinos may forgive but never forget

Even FPJ wouldn't have had predicted what would happen 9 years later after his controversial defeat to Arroyo.

For the Filipino voters, it was time to give Pedro what is due Pedro. It's payback time.

Poe topped the senatorial race with a record-breaking 20 million plus votes.

And FPJ certainly would not have predicted what would happen after that.

Now, his daughter is the number one choice for president and stands a good chance to be actually the 16th president of the Philippines.

Cory for Noy, FPJ for Grace

In a statement on Thursday, June 18, Poe thanked those who believed in her and said that she would not have had that level of public trust if it weren't for her late father.

President Aquino had said similar sentiments many times — giving tribute to his mom and dad's memory and legacy.

As lawmakers, both Aquino and Poe had chalked up no landmark, groundbreaking piece of legislation and wouldn't be able to hold a candle to most of their colleagues.

But what sets them clearly apart from the others?

It's that people see them as a reflection of their well-loved parents, who were untainted by corruption and unblemished in reputation.

And like what the President said, he cannot and will not do anything to sully the memory of his iconic parents.

Very much like the lady senator.

However, a lot can still change between now and next year.

But one thing won't: By FPJ's supporters and fans' reckoning, justice had not yet been fully served for the late King of Philippine cinema who was "wronged" in 2004.

And if Senator Poe eventually decided to run for the presidency, that justice will be fully exacted come May 9, 2016.