Where have all the people gone?
Well, many of them really needed to go to work on the 29th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution, but that very same thoroughfare proved to be their undoing. Edsa serves as a stunning reminder of a subjugated people’s triumph over oppression, but the soul-crushing traffic on that day thoroughly doused the light of the candle.
On the night of Feb. 25, 1986, there was music and laughter, tears of joy, and dancing in the streets when the news broke that the Marcos and Ver families had fled to Hawaii. Just a decade later, the euphoria having given way to creeping disenchantment, Inquirer founding chair Eggie Apostol asked: “Where have all the flowers gone?” Together with her friends Fely Arroyo, Del Lazaro, Ed de Jesus, Pepe Abueva, Amando Doronila and Doreen Fernandez, Eggie organized the Foundation for Worldwide People Power (now known as the Eggie Apostol Foundation) to preserve what we had learned at Edsa and to learn from instances of the People Power phenomenon in other autocratic societies.
One thing is certain, though. After all these years, through 28 other People Power celebrations, it should be apparent by now that the best way to commemorate Edsa is through activities that aim to deepen our youth’s appreciation of this social phenomenon’s historical context and subtext.
The Eggie Apostol Foundation is firm on this position: “Focusing on the four days in February 1986, during which Filipinos mobilized to protect those who rebelled against the Marcos regime, tends to distort our view of the People Power Revolution and the Aquino government that it installed to power. It ignores the long and painful process that led to the confrontation at Edsa. The People Power Revolution climaxed a process that began with the First Quarter Storm and the declaration of martial law, and that intensified with the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. Those who study the transitional pains that restored democracies around the world continue to suffer have a greater appreciation of this reality.”
There are countless stories about Edsa that are worth retelling, as Neni Sta. Romana Cruz said in her column last week.
One of my favorites is the time when Cory Aquino first realized that she had the upper hand against “the savviest politician that this country has ever known.” Here’s how she described it: “One of the most touching moments in the [snap election] campaign took place at a rally in a pineapple plantation in Mindanao. While I was speaking before a crowd of mostly farm workers and their families, I noticed a plastic bucket being passed from hand to hand. After my speech, the barangay leaders showed me what was inside the bucket: five- and ten-peso bills and coins which those poor folk wanted to contribute to my campaign. There I was receiving money from the poor, while my opponent’s henchmen were busy buying their votes from elsewhere. My heart overflowed with gratitude and I felt for the first time that I was going to win.”
But the stories of Edsa will resonate weakly, if at all, when told without the backdrop of martial law and the cold brutality of the Marcos dictatorship. These are the stories that people would rather forget because they are too heartrending to recall, but they, too, must be told and retold until their significance is thoroughly understood.
Our youth are fortunate that Pete Lacaba’s “Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage” and Conrad de Quiros’ “Dead Aim: How Marcos Ambushed Philippine Democracy” can still be found in major libraries, at least. More in keeping with digital technology, the Eggie Apostol Foundation’s landmark video documentaries—“Batas Militar,” “Lakas Sambayanan” and “Beyond Conspiracy”—are available on YouTube.
In fact, there’s a plethora of scholarly work on the subject available on the World Wide Web. However, the Internet being what it is, there’s also a lot of misleading, revisionist, even patently false information floating around, ready to intrude into a young impressionable mind’s sensibilities.
Cory Aquino herself reflected on this in depth. She said: “I see our youth playing a critical role in helping untangle the complications of globalization. Savvy as they are with modern technology, the youth are in the best position to solve the paradox of declining human connections amid a dense web of global connectivity. They should be able to find ways to harness the new technological tools to enhance meaningful interaction among people within their larger family.
“On the other hand, the youth are the most vulnerable to powerful forces of cultural homogenization that come with these same vehicles of technology. This implies an urgent need to sensitize young Filipinos to the broad range of consequences that this phenomenon could bring.”
She once asked: “Have we moved forward as a nation, spiritually and materially, since those glorious days? Have we only the capacity to endure but not to excel and to significantly elevate our quality of life?”
Together with Ninoy and Cory Aquino, an entire generation of Filipinos has left a legacy of heroism and sacrifice that culminated in our victory at Edsa in 1986. In our schools and in our homes, this is what we should be telling our young when they ask why we celebrate the Edsa Revolution.
Butch Hernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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