Back to Edsa
It was the first time the Edsa celebration was held outside Edsa, and the idea was inspired.
In Cebu last Tuesday, the area around the Capitol filled with a crowd very early in the morning: soldiers and police, students, government workers, pockets of people wearing yellow T-shirts, hawkers and passersby. There was excitement in the air. I had not felt that excitement in an Edsa celebration in a long time.
Maybe people were just curious, it was a novelty after all, Edsa outside Edsa. Maybe the Cebuanos felt flattered about having been given a place in history, or a role in the story, or movie, the government finally doing something about “Manila imperialism” and remembering Cebu, too. As a local official put it when asked what he thought about the Edsa celebration being held outside Metro Manila for the first time: “Why not? It’s about time!”
Who knew? Maybe the sense of excitement drew from something deeper, from a better understanding of what “Edsa” or “people power” really meant, albeit grasped more instinctively than definably.
Certainly, much of the public was indifferent to media reports claiming the holding of the Edsa celebration outside Metro Manila was being resented by the major players, the “real heroes,” of Edsa who had been left out in the cold, who had been deleted in the revisionist retelling of the story. Where was Fidel Ramos, where was Juan Ponce Enrile, where was Gringo Honasan, where were the military officers, where were the Church officials? Why only Butz Aquino, why only government officials, why only the Cebuano Edsa faithful, why only civilians, why only “ordinary folk”?
One major figure in Edsa at least, Ramos, quashed that talk, saying the holding of the Edsa celebration in Cebu had his blessings. He had been invited to it but had declined for various reasons. But he, too, felt it was time it was held outside Metro Manila. Edsa was not just a local revolution, it was a national revolution.
I myself thrilled to it for this reason: Maybe the relocation of Edsa to Fuente Osmeña reinterpreted Edsa, rewrote Edsa, revised Edsa—but what of it? Maybe it wasn’t just time that Edsa was relocated elsewhere, maybe it was time Edsa itself was retold. Because what we’ve had over the last 28 years was really pretty much a reinterpreted Edsa, a rewritten Edsa, a revised Edsa. Maybe it was time we reinterpreted the reinterpretation, rewrote what had already been rewritten, revised the revised version. To correct it, to rectify it, to stand it on its feet and not on its head.
What I’ve always been unhappy about in our past celebrations of Edsa is the inordinate importance, the predominant role, it gives the mutineers. Of course they played an important part there, but they were not the central figures there, they were not the real heroes there. The people were. Strangely enough, though we keep citing “people power,” we’ve always cast the people in a subordinate role, as extras, with the mutineers—the “key figures,” as the media keep referring to them—as the lead stars.
It’s gotten so that the storyline has been that the mutineers liberated the nation from tyranny, and not that the nation liberated them from perdition. The storyline has been that the mutineers rescued the people from Marcos’ grip and not that the people rescued them from Marcos’ tanks. The storyline has been that they heroically went out to protect the people even though they knew they were courting death and not that the people heroically went out to protect them even though they knew they had been among their worst oppressors.
Ramos at least has been more appreciative of the people’s role in Edsa; Enrile has not. Enrile in fact felt so entitled by his self-assigned role as savior of the nation that he sought to succeed Marcos, launching one coup attempt after another when the people chose Cory to do so instead. There is a need to reinterpret the reinterpretation, rewrite the rewritten, revise the revision. The Edsa celebration in Cebu did so.
The celebration also shed a luminous light on why Cory, quite apart from the people, is the central figure in Edsa when sublimely paradoxically she wasn’t even there when it happened. She was in Cebu, where she had gone after the snap election earlier that month, not to flee persecution and harassment but to continue to defy martial law by mounting a civil disobedience movement. To which the Cebuanos, who had offered a bastion of resistance to Marcos, responded with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. It gave whole new meanings to the phenomenon of Edsa, to the concept of Edsa, to the reality of Edsa.
Cory was not at Edsa physically but she was there spiritually. And here more than elsewhere is where spirit trumps the flesh. In a very real sense Cory was at the heart of Edsa during the Edsa revolution itself. Without her, the people would never have turned out like a flood, certainly not merely to save the hides of those that had helped mightily to oppress them. Without her, Marcos’ unmasking of the RAM, which compelled its leaders to flee for dear life into the dungeons of Camp Aguinaldo, would have been a minor footnote in history instead of the historic epic it became.
All of which said in the end that Edsa was an explosion of rage and grace, magnificence and miracle, that took place not just at the literal Edsa but at the heartland of the nation. All of which said in the end that Edsa was not just the desperation of a few but the inspiration of the many, not just the shouts from a street but the roar from the nation, not just the power of the camps but the power of the people.
It was the first time the Edsa celebration left Edsa.
It was the first time the Edsa celebration got back to Edsa.
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