Make noise, tell a story
Every year, when this date comes around, I debate with myself on whether I should still write about the events that took place 32 years ago. Haven’t I told the story often enough?
One would think that after three decades, the Filipino people would not only have been intimately acquainted with those events, they would also have learned from them. We no longer have excuses. Enough time has passed, an entire generation has been born and matured, and those who witnessed and took part in the “miracle on Edsa” should have imparted its lessons and insights before they, too, fade into history and forgetfulness.
But here we are and, shockingly, we realize that not only do we need to remember and retell, we also need to relive the story of Edsa. More than ever, it turns out, we need to revive the spirit that animated the events of three decades past. Because, having let the years and the memories rush past, we seem to have forgotten the valuable lessons we learned on that highway, and in the “parliament of the streets” that followed the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.
Those were three years of unrelenting public and private turmoil, of waking up and having to work up the needed anger and courage to face police armed with batons, long arms, fire hoses and tear gas in any of the numerous protest actions. “Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa” (Ninoy, you are not alone) was our cry. “Never Again” marked our resolve.
In the process, we battled not only with Marcos loyalists and their armed minions but also with one another, scuffling over who held the “right” views and tactics, whose patriotism was most pure and unsullied, whose motives were colored with ideological, class, or selfish interests.
What made the massing up on Edsa a true fulfillment of the anti-Marcos protests, in fact, was the absence of partisan, religious, or ideological distinctions. Rushing to the highway to provide a buffer against a possible military or police invasion of the mutineers gathered first in Aguinaldo and then in Crame, we were only all Filipinos, sensing a turning point in history and unwilling to miss out on the action, despite the risks.
But who would have thought that 32 years later, we would be facing a virtual reprise of the situation and events of 1983-1986?
Why, even some of the personalities are the same! Who would have thought, indeed, that the Marcoses would be so back on the scene? Who would have thought, while we joined the teeming crowd on the highway, that 32 years later, the dictator Marcos’ son and namesake would be breathing down the neck of the legitimate Vice President and staking a claim on the office he aspired for and lost in the elections?
The biggest question of all, of course, is: Who would have imagined that the country would be headed by a President who not only eschews the spirit and meaning of Edsa but actually boycotts it? Who would have thought that a man who launched a war on drugs in which thousands have been killed, who time and again threatens the imposition of martial law (which he has already done in Mindanao) and the dismembering of the nation through a warped plan of federalism and possible term extension, if not perpetuation, would be our head of state?
Or that his policies, bizarre behavior, and coddling of criminals would be supported by underlings, some of whom used to enjoy our respect, who turn a blind eye to and even justify his erring ways and actions?
So, yes, it’s time we retold the story of Edsa, if not relived it entirely. It’s time we reminded the Filipino people once more of everything we nearly lost in 1986, of everything we have since gained, and now stand to lose again.
Today, we wake up in a Philippines laboring under threatening shadows: an oppressive government that imprisons, belittles, intimidates and kills its perceived enemies. But we also have the opportunity to add our voices to the growing chorus of disenchantment and perhaps raise so powerful a cloud of noise that it’ll send the walls of falsehood and oppression crumbling down.
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