35 years after the Edsa euphoria
Euphoric. That was how my fellow seminarians and I felt when we heard the Radyo Veritas announcement that Marcos had fled Malacañang on Feb. 25, 1986. The following day, the Philippine Daily Inquirer immortalized our collective euphoria with its screaming headline: “It’s all over; Marcos flees!”
My memory of the precise timeline of Edsa is now hazy. But the images of the shining historical moment of the Filipino have seared themselves forever in my memory. At Edsa, economic boundaries disappeared as everyone spoke to whoever they were next to like long-lost friends. Food flowed freely for four days and three nights. Those whose houses dotted the stretch of Camp Aguinaldo welcomed complete strangers into their homes. People sang along with fervor whenever someone started strumming the opening chords to “Bayan Ko” or “Ama Namin.” Those of us who huddled along Boni Serrano prayed the rosary like our lives depended on it. There were crowds as far as the eye could see. We cheered wildly each time a Scout Ranger in full battle gear jogged around to conduct a perimeter check.
Thirty-five years later, the euphoria that was Edsa is gone. In its place is the gnawing fear that the authoritarian legacy of Ferdinand Marcos is alive and kicking, notwithstanding the return of our electoral process and the revival of a free press. The continuing denigration and isolation of the “dilawan,” worsened by the 1987 Mendiola massacre and the 2015 Mamasapano tragedy, is not helping any. Not surprisingly, nearly every individual, group, or institution that dares to criticize and speak truth to power is dismissed as either a “dilawan” or a communist. As if the dwindling revenues brought about by social media are not bad enough, the fourth estate also has to contend with the life-and-death challenges posed by troll farms, libel laws, and political harassment. Take your pick: The Inquirer. Rappler. ABS-CBN. Lady Ann Salem. No wonder I recently heard veteran journalists speaking openly of stringent self-censorship as a matter of survival.
How then should we celebrate Edsa 35 years after? Should we even celebrate it at all?
At the start of our lockdown almost a year ago, San Fernando Archbishop Dong Lavarias suggested that the devil may have thought that it had scored a victory when COVID-19 shut down churches all over the globe. What it failed to factor in was the fact that the church is not just a physical structure. Every family that sheltered in place is actually a church in itself, capable of solidarity with other families. Thanks to virtual technology, those families have been participating in online masses, prayer services, recollections, and retreats like never before.
Drawing inspiration from Archbishop Lavarias’s insight, perhaps this pandemic is an invitation for us to celebrate Edsa by going inward instead of heading for the Edsa Shrine or the People Power Monument. “Katotohanan, Kalayaan, Katarungan.” Truth, Freedom, Justice. These values will never go passé even if “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” is now deemed a tired and trite song by some. And since they are values, they do not require physical structures to survive. What they do require to thrive is for Filipinos to imbibe them daily within their respective families—from coming together to sort out the small things that concern our barangay, to coming together to deliberate on the big things that concern our country.
It is too easy to pin the blame of the failed promises of Edsa on the inexperience of Cory Aquino, the Mamasapano blunder of PNoy, the lack of charisma and organization of the opposition, and a whole host of leadership shortcomings from FVR to Erap, from GMA to Rody. Maybe they may have, in fact, been complicit in our losing faith in the grace of Edsa. But lest we forget, Edsa took place because Filipinos stopped cowering in fear and leaving up their future to politicians and opportunists. More to the point, Edsa took place because 35 years ago, Filipinos finally figured out the wisdom of living out the answers to the questions that UP student journalist Abraham “Ditto” Sarmiento Jr. once asked: “Kung ’di tayo kikibo, sino ang kikibo? Kung ’di tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?”
Thirty-five years hence, we should do nothing less.
Von Katindoy is a teacher at Ateneo de Manila University and a student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
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