Reliving the days of February 1986
I may not be feeling overly sentimental nor nostalgic about the 34th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution on Tuesday, Feb. 25, but I remain jubilant over the reminder of all that we did to be rid of a dictator. Yes, we lament that the event may have lost its luster over the years with lamentations of the revolution that it never was. Be that as it may, I am still convinced it is a high point in our history—and today’s youth must be reminded of the patriotism and fervor that made it possible. Just how easy was it to be rid of a Marcos? How dare some of us say that its meaning is lost when it took us 14 challenging years of protests and rallies and nameless deaths in what looked like a David-Goliath struggle to free the nation from a power-hungry president. It was not easy then as it is not easy now to overthrow a dictatorship. I am also pleased that Feb. 25 remains a national holiday as it gives us the time and space (and the absolute reason) to talk about it especially with the youth. An important part in our storytelling narrative in the light of attempts to rewrite history to make it more favorable to undesirables. The Edsa story is worth retelling for always.
The recently launched book, “To Love Another Day: The Memoirs of Cory Aquino,” compiled and edited by Rapa Lopa (2019, The Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation) ends with her memories of 1986. The chapter, “It was now or never,” recalls that no one imagined Cory Aquino, a woman candidate and Ninoy’s wife at that, would ever be allowed to win the presidential election against Marcos. The ballot boxes were reported to be stuffed full even before election day—the winner was certain. She wrote: “The cheating was so brazen, the Filipino people felt that they had to finally do something to get rid of the dictator. It was now or never. There was an air of restiveness, a pressing for action.”Remember that Candidate Cory took such pride in her being so different from Marcos. She was not a dictator and had no experience in cheating—she would reply to his condescending comments about her being nothing but a housewife and scoffing at her abilities.
Those days in February 1986 take on a richer context in the light of the documentary, “The Kingmaker,” by Lauren Greenfield with the most famous and most notorious quote from the film which played on a limited run in Manila. Imelda is convinced that “Perception is real and the truth is not.”
How does one regard an individual like that at face value? The filmmaker discovers early on what an unreliable narrator Imelda is but faithfully captures her as she really is. She does not draw awe nor admiration, but pity for her and the illusionary world she lives in. I have been asked if the documentary was worth it. I believe so because at the very least, it is additional evidence and documentation of the excesses and abuses of the Marcos years. An area of knowledge we need to build up to speak to future generations when we, 1986 eyewitnesses and participants, will no longer be around.
With no words needing to be spoken, the camera shots of Imelda are all too revealing, hardly flattering, despite her much publicized days as a Manila beauty queen that swept her dictator-husband off his feet. Yes, all she wanted was to make Filipinos happy, she flippantly says at every turn. The film opens with her with a prominent multiplicity of chins, in an air-conditioned van distributing wads of bills to the common folks knocking at her window. Then, more crisp bills at a children’s hospital so they can buy candy. In another scene, she is concerned that she may look fat in the shoot, she tells her aide.
The most stirring and the most powerful voices in the film are those of May Rodriguez, Etta Rosales, Pete Lacaba. There was also the old woman displaced from Calauit who said in a heartbreaking tone, “They (the Marcoses) preferred the animals to live here, rather than the people.” What eloquent first-person accounts as victims of a dictatorship, making the film worth it. How can revisionists alter such testimonies?
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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