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Young people assure that Edsa will not be forgotten

How I welcomed the discussion that the 30th anniversary of Edsa I generated—including the constant harping on semantics (not a revolution, it was adamantly insisted), as well as the brickbats and negative comments (so what have we accomplished 30 years after?).

There is no disputing the appropriate term to be used, the progress still to be desired to narrow the gap between the privileged and the rest of the population, the level of development the country needs to achieve. But hey, if the struggle from the years that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus was suspended and the horrors of martial law to the peaceful revolution on Edsa never happened, would we even be allowed to speak and write this freely today? If there were no Cory Aquino continuing Ninoy Aquino’s struggle for democracy, would the dictator and his cohorts have fled on that fateful day?  Who in our midst then could have liberated us from one-man rule?

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If the Edsa People Power Commission chaired by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa wanted a celebration like no other, it succeeded with flying colors. The most important emphasis was on the millennials, and rightly so, for they are poised to assume leadership roles in society.

For the program at the Edsa People Power Monument, aside from Ochoa and P-Noy, the only other two speakers were the youth representatives on stage. Three students awarded by Tayo (Ten Outstanding Youth Organizations Awards Foundation Inc.) for their leadership and volunteer work were there: Mark Arquiza, an officer of I am Making a Difference, which provides scholarships for students who can serve as role models in communities; Toni Faye Tan (a grandniece of mine, I am proud to say), a San Beda law student and founder and current president of Youth Sports Advocacy Philippines Inc., which organizes sports programs for neighborhood children who otherwise would not have that opportunity; and Maria Angela Villa, a University of the Philippines medicine student and president of Milk Matters, which provides the needed breast milk for the UP-Philippine General Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

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Listening to Arquiza and Villa speak reassured the aging adults in the audience that the future is in responsible hands.

A memorable feature that followed the Salubungan ceremony was the visit to the People Power Experiential Museum featuring the different phases of martial law, truly a dark and torturous journey toward the light. Visiting the Halls was an eerie experience, made alive by the actors that contextualized the exhibits: the Hall of Restless Sleep, the Hall of Hidden Truths (where, through peepholes, one views and is repulsed by the opulence of Malacañang parties), the Hall of Orphans (with sculptor Imao’s installation “Desaparecidos”), the Hall of the Lost (where plastered on the walls and the floor were dossier-like photos of those who opposed the dictatorship, including the young Joker Arroyo who defended Ninoy Aquino in the military court and was the very first lawyer to challenge the suspension of the writ and the declaration of martial law at the Supreme Court), and the Halls of Pain, of Forgotten Martyrs, of Awakening, of Reality, and of Action.

It seemed like revisiting a nightmare, and seeing the unedited video clip of the returning Ninoy during his last moments made me feel for P-Noy, who was in the same hall viewing it. If the rest of us were tense and distraught all over again, what about him? He was seen wiping tears away.

The images of the museum were akin to those in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC—the tall pile of shoes, journals, clothes, toys, and personal effects that spoke volumes about lives lived and lost.

It was a pity that the Experiential Museum, which was actually on an inaugural run, had only two exhibit days. The good news is that plans are being made to move it to a permanent home soon.

Two schools in Metro Manila had very meaningful school activities on Feb. 25 that required much planning and provided the students with rich learning opportunities. At the Raya School in Quezon City, which is known for a curriculum that leads students to a heightened awareness of themselves as Filipinos and citizens of the world, administrator Ani Rosa Almario said martial law was imposed in the classrooms throughout the week, with the freedom of speech curtailed. The natural reaction of the students was to hold a protest rally—a meaningful segue to people power discussions in their Araling Panlipunan classes.

At International School Manila, as a follow-up to its yearly talks by former president Fidel V. Ramos, one assignment for a Grade 8 class related to an Edsa timeline project was to create a “Fakebook” account where students imagined how the main Edsa protagonists would interact online. Students were reminded to try to keep the “Fakebook” posts historically accurate, particularly with regard to the ages of the Marcos and Aquino children at that time. That really spoke to the students, as it is a medium with which they are familiar.

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The first post in student Carlo Chang’s assignment was by Ninoy Aquino on the night of his arrest, with subsequent ones by Cory Aquino, Butz Aquino, and lawyers Jose Diokno, Joker Arroyo, Rene Saguisag and Jovito Salonga.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Cory Aquino, Edsa People Power Revolution, Ferdinand Marcos, martial law, Ninoy Aquino, Ten Outstanding Youth Organizations Awards Foundation
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