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Reason for celebration

By Cynthia Lyn E. Pagaduan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 08/04/2009

Filed Under: Cory Aquino, Edsa 1, Family, People power

My family didn?t celebrate my fifth birthday and I will never ever forget why. In fact, I vowed to myself on that day that I would make each of my birthday special even if others didn?t feel like celebrating with me.

I was exactly 5 years old when I saw soldiers filling the roadside near our house. I thought it was part of my birthday celebration and that they were there to join the party. So I went out of our house and approached the men with long firearms and tried to touch the bullets strung around their waists.

When my father saw what I was trying to do, he rushed to grab me from the group of soldiers and took me home.

I had no idea of what was happening at the time. I couldn?t understand why my mother was packing some of our clothes and some canned goods. I asked her what she was doing and reminded her that it was my birthday and that we were supposed to cook some food for my birthday celebration.

She told me it was not a good time to celebrate my birthday and we should get ready to move out any time. She did not bother to explain why we might have to leave our house perhaps because she thought I would not understand.

I sat down and cried in a corner of our kitchen while my mother continued to pack our things.

It was Feb. 25, 1986 and it was my fifth birthday. I would learn later that a people power revolution was being mounted on EDSA and that the soldiers who had gathered near our house were preparing to attack the crowd of protesters. But on that day I didn?t understand what was happening; I would learn to appreciate it only when I got a taste of freedom.

After the EDSA revolution, my parents and my grandmother would often recall their life during the Marcos dictatorship. I could feel their pain as they recounted their experiences and bewailed how they remained voiceless and weak and felt powerless against those who ruled the country. Their stories made me realize how lucky I was to be born during the last years of the dictatorship.

I would not have known about democracy if our grade school teachers didn?t explain it to us. One of my favorite teachers recounted how the first Filipina president came to occupy that lofty position after leading the country back to democracy.

At first it hardly mattered to me what her name was; all I cared about was that I had added ?democracy? to my vocabulary. But as my teachers asked questions concerning her in our Social Science classes, I learned more about the woman who was one of the principal reasons I could enjoy freedom. I became proud of being a Filipino and being a girl. I even dreamed of becoming a woman who did something for the country, like her.

I admired her for many reasons, but especially for remaining strong after the assassination of her husband. I marvelled at her courage in fighting a dictator. And I felt proud when she was named ?Woman of the Year? by Time Magazine and when she was given a standing ovation by the members of the US Congress on that same year that she assumed the presidency.

After her inauguration, President Corazon Aquino immediately moved to bring back democracy by restoring the writ of habeas corpus and the bill of rights. She ordered the release of political prisoners, including top communist leaders like Jose Maria Sison and Bernabe Buscayno. In order to give the government a free hand in restoring order, she established a revolutionary government under a Freedom Constitution.

Time has a way of changing things and people. Now I understand why there are times when birthdays should not be celebrated. Feb. 25, 1986 is memorable to me not only because it was my birthday that our family did not celebrate but also because it was the day the Filipino people began to fight for the restoration of their freedoms and democracy. But this would not have happened if Cory Aquino didn?t have the courage and the vision to lead them.

I wanted to watch an early morning show last Saturday but instead I heard the announcement that Cory had joined her Creator. Pain immediately crept into my heart. I was shocked to hear the news, even though I knew days earlier that soon the time would come for her to say goodbye.

There are many cancers in our country today. We are suffering from the cancer of indifference, of poverty, of injustice, of corruption. These cancers are even worse than what President Aquino suffered. And unlike Cory who is done with her battle, we still have to deal with these cancers before they knock us down. There are many procedures we need to undergo to remove these cancers and we need to start them now.

Our democracy-loving people are mourning now for their icon will no longer be around to lead the fight for truth and justice, but her words and her example will continue to inspire and encourage us. She will always remain in our hearts.

Now that I am a teacher, I believe it is my duty to share with my students everything that I know about Cory Aquino, just like what my teachers did when I was still in grade school. I will not only teach them the meaning of democracy but also encourage them to defend it like Cory Aquino did.

Because of what she did, I have a reason to celebrate not just my birthday but every day that I enjoy freedom.

(Cynthia Lyn E. Pagaduan, 28, is an instructor at the Central Luzon State University Science High School.)

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