Another Edsa story
Twenty-eight years ago today, I was nine months pregnant and both impatiently waiting for the birth of my second child and wishing the blessed event would not take place just yet because we had yet to overthrow the Marcoses.
Two days before we were all taken for a loop when, first, “Radyo Bandido” announced that the Marcoses and their party had left the country, only to have our jubilation crushed when the dictator himself had his picture taken reading the newspaper edition of the day. Soon after the news of the Marcoses’ departure was prematurely announced, I gleefully announced to the hubby: “That’s why this baby doesn’t want to be born yet, it’s waiting for the Marcoses to leave!” Disheartened by subsequent events, I took to bed, vowing not to move until we were rid of The Apo and His Family.
So it was that we heard the news, over TV, the following evening that finally our fervent wishes had come true: The occupants of Malacañang had finally fled the premises. I don’t know what came over me. But I just had to be in Malacañang to witness “history in the making.”
Despite his reservations, my husband agreed to drive both of us to Malacañang, but not before making me promise to tell him the moment I felt any pains or contractions. We told the yaya to look after our six-year-old son, crossing our fingers that we would be able to make it home before he woke up.
* * *
By the time we reached the foot of the Santa Mesa bridge (in the area of what was still known then as “Stop and Shop,” after a defunct department store), traffic had stalled. The boulevard was filled with cars and pedestrians, people calling out “Happy Birthday!” “Happy New Year!” “Mabuhay ang Pilipino!” as they passed.
The hubby parked the car at the foot of the bridge, and we decided to foot it to Malacañang. We felt no sense of danger or risk, as the crowd, already growing, was quite friendly and affable, people holding up “V” signs with their fingers in every direction.
Near J.P. Laurel, I bent to pick up a length of barbed wire, torn from the street barricades knocked down by the mob that now occupied Malacañang, and decided to take it home as a souvenir. As we neared the Palace, though, the crowd had become dense and immovable, and while the people remained euphoric, we could smell in the air the mood turning sour and angry.
My husband and I looked at each other and decided we had pushed our luck far enough. We turned back, somewhat disappointed that we hadn’t reached the gates of Malacañang, as was our original plan, but relieved just the same that nothing untoward had happened.
Back on Magsaysay Boulevard, the impromptu celebrations were still going on. Cars and jeeps were filled with revelers, who somehow managed to find cardboard horns (leftover from New Year’s Eve?), whistles, drums and noisemakers to fill the streets with the sounds of jubilation.
We got home at around midnight, to a quiet house, one which I had thought I would have to flee if the Marcoses managed to prevail. We all knew the “mosquito press” would be one of the early targets of a crackdown, and indeed, it turns out that No. 1 on the list was Eggie
Apostol, publisher of Mr. & Ms., and later, the Inquirer. (Years later, Tita Eggie would merely shrug off the “compliment.” She would blithely reply, “A for Apostol.”)
* * *
The next morning, I woke up feeling cramps in my belly. And when I sat down for my morning ritual, I found a strange clump of blood and mucus, the telltale sign that labor had begun.
We still didn’t have telephone lines in our village those days (and cell phones were unheard of), and so the hubby said he would drive to his place of work and call my obstetrician. For some reason—actually, he confessed that since it had taken me 12 hours of labor to birth our son, he thought he had plenty of time—he decided to do a spot of work while he was there (men!).
I writhed in bed, moaning as the contractions came closer and closer and grew in intensity. I began to feel my baby’s head begin to push down, and it was all I could do to stop from cursing the hubby when he finally made an appearance at around noon.
We drove pell-mell to the hospital. At one point, I wondered if we had survived the Marcoses only to die on the road while I was in labor. At the delivery room, the doctors said they would no longer shave me because my baby’s head was “crowning.” When she came out, her head was long and pointed like an eraser, testament to how long it had taken her to negotiate her way down the birth canal. To this day, when I tell her the story of how she was born, I point out that she owes her pointy head to her father.
* * *
My daughter is turning 28 tomorrow. And it is her painful fate that I must tell the world the story of her birth every time the Edsa anniversary comes up. It is a source of endless embarrassment, I imagine.
I don’t know what this story means in the long term. I have hopes my “Edsa baby’s” life will turn out to be extraordinary in one way or another, given the circumstances and timing of her birth. But that is an unjust burden, I concede. It’s okay for me if the trajectory of her life turns out as “normal” as it has been for me. While we as a nation may have laid our dreams of democracy, prosperity and peace at the foot of Edsa, only to see these shattered at times, I as a mother can only watch from the sidelines as she carves out her own story, her own way.
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