I rarely make comments about the government both here and in the Philippines. I’ve made it a point to not write about my political views, or lack of it. But I’ve seen so many posts and tweets about the 1986 People Power Revolution that I started asking myself what I remembered about it. It was in 1986, I was turning 10 and the school year was nearly over (I was moving over to the big school—at least I thought about it that way, because that meant I would be in school until after lunch, because until quite recently, school was only half-day). I think details will be hazy and even if I try to piece together my timeline, I may not be able to.
I vaguely remember the elections. I remember feeling unsettled because my bestfriend supported Ferdinand Marcos (they were related, you see). I remember her making the V sign for Marcos and I would stop myself from making the L for Cory because I felt unsure of how she would feel about me not supporting her grandfather. She even gave me buttons and stickers which I hid from my parents because I wasn’t sure how they would react to it. We supported Cory not just because we were against Marcos but because my family was close to the Laurel family (I am unsure about how much history there is between my grandfather and the Laurels, but from what I remember from the stories, they go back a really long way).
I remember vaguely feeling that Marcos was bad and that he did something wrong (Although that being said, it was during Marcos’ time that my grandfather was made National Science Development Board chairman, and he was made brigadier general by the former president, so we did have a connection as well. I grew up knowing President Marcos’ contribution to my grandfather’s scientific career, and despite the fact that my family did not support his continued presidency, we acknowledge and are grateful for his auxiliary role in allowing my grandfather to make his contributions to Philippine science and technology). Mind you this was probably a result of overhearing adult conversations and not quite understanding what was being discussed. My family (on both sides) is rooted in civil service and we grew up knowing that we had to be good citizens of the country.
I vaguely remember watching the news about Ninoy Aquino’s assassination and my family’s consequent trip to his Manila Memorial grave during that year’s All Saints’ day. I remember my dad saying that since we were there (my grandmother was buried in a plot on the opposite side of the cemetery), we should try to pay our respects. As we approached Ninoy Aquino’s grave site, I remember seeing, what seemed to me to be, a sea of yellow candles and melted wax. Strangely enough, I even remember feeling the heat of the candles as we approached the area (it was already hot enough day, without the heat from the lit candles!). I remember wondering how many people came to visit before us. We stopped and we had a few moments of silence and then we went home.
My memories of the People Power Revolution are concentrated on one person really (All the snippets of news, of former President Ramos saying the famous words: “Mr President, I think you know your time is up!”–now am doubting my memory, was that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile after all?), the statements from then Gen. Ver, Imelda singing with Marcos on the balcony in Malacanan, statements from Cory, from Gringo Honasan, from various politicians, June Keithly and Angelo Castro, all that is incidental): my father. I can’t even remember which night it was. All I remember was one of our neighbours coming to the house and my father coming out to talk to them. Then my dad coming in and talking to my mother. I don’t recall hearing anything. But the next flashback of memory was my mother taking one of my favourite of their towels (it was orange with embossed flowers and a fringe at both ends) and putting it under the tap and wringing it to take out the excess water. I remember her putting it in a plastic bag and doing the same to another towel. I remember her saying “Para sa tear gas (for the tear gas),” in a matter-of fact tone. I remember her making sandwiches. I remember my dad putting everything in a bag. Then he hugged us. I can’t remember which one of us asked him a question, but he replied, “Ginagawa ko ito para sa bayan natin (I am doing this for our country.)”
When our neighbour came by again, he hugged all of us tightly and said goodbye. I don’t remember being really afraid that he wouldn’t come back. I don’t think I was aware of the potential danger my dad was putting himself in. All I remember thinking was that he was with friends and that we’d see him later. But even then, at just nearly 10 years old, I could feel a sense of urgency and an unexplainable anxiety. All through the night I think our TV was switched on, and somewhere in the house our yayas had the radio switched on as well.
I must have fallen asleep and I have no recollection of how long my dad was away. But all I remember is waking up and my father being there again, telling us where he went and what he saw (they went to Radio Veritas I think and to Channel 4). He showed us the ring of barbed wire he snipped off from one of the barricades. Then the images on TV came: the people standing in front of the tanks, the nuns forming human chains clutching their rosaries, people handing food to the soldiers in the tanks, flowers being exchanged, Ramos and Enrile’s press interviews being replayed over and over again, ABS-CBN back in the airwaves properly, people storming Malacanan and stomping on pictures of President Marcos and his first lady, the now infamous Imelda Marcos, the rows upon rows of her shoes, Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel installed as President and Vice-President of the country (maybe that happened while the revolution was happening but like I said, the sequence of events, as far as my memory is concerned is probably not correct), the Apo Hiking Society leading Filipino artists singing Handog ng Pilipino Sa Mundo and Virna Lisa singing Magkaisa and yellow ribbons and yellow confetti everywhere.
I don’t think I quite understood everything that happened until later. I do know however, that it was quite a miracle that no one died in this particular revolution. That a dictator, who had an iron grip over the military, the media and pretty much everything in the country was removed from power this peacefully. No one died. Maybe people were hurt, but NO ONE DIED (I remember reading about how the students who protested at Tianamen Square in China were inspired by the EDSA People Power Revolution and that they tried to do what the Filipinos did. Things didn’t work out for them, unfortunately and so many died in those protests. I remember seeing the news and seeing how the tanks flattened people who stood in front of them. I was horrified because that didn’t happen in the Philippines, at EDSA. It could have, but it didn’t). I understood that the Filipinos had achieved something that was very nearly impossible. That the patriotism and nationalism that fired up the strength and bravery of our long gone heroes was alive and well in every Filipino, that when push came to shove, when we needed it the most, the Filipinos can come together and work to make the country better.
I believe in EDSA. I believe that the Filipinos can unite under a desire to make the country better. I’d like to believe that for one brief moment, no one had an agenda except to make the country better. We may have lost our way, and I will chalk that up to growing pains and adjusting to a democracy after years of dictatorship, but we need to unlearn the bad habits and selfish thoughts we’ve picked up along the way. We, as a people, need to find our way back to that spirit of EDSA where we were all united.
If we did it once (to be honest, I don’t really count the ousting of Joseph Estrada in 2001 as a real EDSA experience, although I was with friends at EDSA on they day before Estrada finally stepped down and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in), we can do it again. We can all come together for the good of the country and show the world what the Filipino can do.
Remembering EDSA – x-spotsaudiarabia.blogspot.com
The Filipino is Worth Dying For – http://forthephilippines.blogspot.com
EDSA Revolution pic1 – http://lostcarlos.blogspot.com/
EDSA Nuns – Gel Santos Relos