Thursday, February 24, 2011

Twenty five years ago at EDSA

At EDSA in front of Camp Crame.
Twenty five years ago, in the midst of the peaceful revolution on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) in front of the gate of Camp Crame, somebody picked our pocket. Using today's spending econom, the contents were not much.  The wallet came back to us by mail some time during those euphoric days after Ferdinand Marcos, his family, and his trusted cronies were flown out from Malacanang Palace to Honolulu, Hawaii, contents all gone except for our residence certificate and company ID.  The sender, a Protestant minister, said he found it in a gutter on EDSA.

At EDSA fronting Camp Crame.
We were too busy with the camera, and with so many revolutionaries milling around during that bright, sunny 25th day of February and getting into multiple body contact every so often, we would not have noticed somebody's sticky fingers dipping into our back pocket.

Food and water for the soldiers.
One people.

It was not a heavy price though for the victory that came afterward. We soon forgot about it when word got around that Macoy has fled, and we were on board a fraternity brother's Volks Beetle honking down the avenue exchanging victory shouts with other sweat-drenched, exhausted yet ecstatic souls along the way.

One with the people.
The EDSA Revolution, People or People's Power Revolution, or Yellow Revolution remains to us first and foremost a military rebellion. If the mutineers did not get caught, and people did not heed the call of Cardinal Sin via Radio Veritas to go to Camp Aguinaldo then to Crame to shield Defense Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile, Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos and secessionist Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) military elements, a truly civilian people's uprising could have taken longer to happen.  True, Corazon Aquino was going around the country for the disobedience campaign, but she could not have ignited a people's rebellion that rapidly even if her voters were seething in anger over the results of the fraudulent February 7 election, the 29 NAMFREL canvassers having walked out of their job, and the Batasang Pambansa declaring Marcos the president-elect.

We are pleased to note that the role of the military in 1986 was recognized yesterday when the EDSA revolution museum at the defense department was inaugurated by President Benigno Aquino III with Senators Enrile and Honasan and former President Ramos were in attendance. After all, the military rebels were the ones who ignited EDSA.

It's really time to cast off the yellow magic spell. We should not forget why there were coup attempts during the yellow regime, or why brown-outs came about to ruin our economic agenda for many years.

The battle ground was as far as the eye could see.

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) in Morong, Bataan was on its final pre-operational tests and the nuclear fuel was all set for loading into the core when Malacanang ordered that it be shut down for good. That exacted a heavy toll on the Filipino people; they continued paying the multi-million dollar loan for it through many more years.

Neighboorhood associations on the march.
That yellow dictum was particularly painful for people like us who trained very long--here and in the United States--to operate it safely. We look at the BNPP today as symbol of government folly--folly of those who ruled that it be mothballed--more so now that the nuclear option is again on the legislative agenda that includes, among others, the use of the Napot facility.

Even the handicapped were in the thick of the rebellion.
There was no immediate replacement of the nuclear plant, and the existing power generators became severely inadequate to meet increasing electricity demand.  Thus began those infuriating brown-out years, something that the romantics, we suppose, conveniently forget in their glowing recollection of the aftermath of the EDSA revolution.

Cardboard encampment for the EDSA rebels.

Democracy working equally for all such as in the access to education and health services; economic well-being and poverty alleviation; good governance and elimination of graft and corruption--we dreamed of these 25 years ago, and we still do today. 

Student activists doing their street theater act near ABS-CBN on Bohol Ave.
Did we fail the Revolution under four presidents--Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?  Will we succeed under Benigno Aquino III?  The majority of our people voted for him because they thought he has the strong moral courage to lead it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Open letter of Irani filmmaker Jafar Panahi, condemned to 20 years of silence

Jahar Panahi (top left) and his internationally award-winning films.

"So from now on, and for the next twenty years, I’m forced to be silent. I’m forced not to be able to see, I’m forced not to be able to think, I’m forced not to be able to make films. I submit to the reality of the captivity and the captors. I will look for the manifestation of my dreams in your films, hoping to find in them what I have been deprived of. "

We were tracking the protest movements in the Middle East when we came across a reference to an open letter from Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi that Isabelle Rossellini read during the opening ceremony of the 61st Berlinale or the Berlin International Film Festival.

We jumped to the Berlinale webpage, and there it was, a video clip of the opening event showing his empty jury chair on the stage with a white board with his name on it, extracts from his movies, and Isabelle Rossellini reading his open letter.  After she was done, the audience gave Panahi a long standing ovation.

On December 20 last year, Jafar Panahi, 49, was convicted of colluding in gathering and making propaganda against the Iranian government, sentenced to six years of imprisonment, and banned for 20 years to make films, write scripts, travel abroad and give interviews to the media. His fellow filmmaker Muhammad Rasoulof was also sentenced to serve six years in jail.

Here is Jafar Panahi's open letter to the world, which can be downloaded from the Berlinale webpage in Farsi or English  --

"The world of a filmmaker is marked by the interplay between reality and dreams. The filmmaker uses reality as his inspiration, paints it with the color of his imagination, and creates a film that is a projection of his hopes and dreams.

"The reality is I have been kept from making films for the past five years and am now officially sentenced to be deprived of this right for another twenty years. But I know I will keep on turning my dreams into films in my imagination. I admit as a socially conscious filmmaker that I won’t be able to portray the daily problems and concerns of my people, but I won’t deny myself dreaming that after twenty years all the problems will be gone and I’ll be making films about the peace and prosperity in my country when I get a chance to do so again.

"The reality is they have deprived me of thinking and writing for twenty years, but they can not keep me from dreaming that in twenty years inquisition and intimidation will be replaced by freedom and free thinking.

"They have deprived me of seeing the world for twenty years. I hope that when I am free, I will be able to travel in a world without any geographic, ethnic, and ideological barriers, where people live together freely and peacefully regardless of their beliefs and convictions.

"They have condemned me to twenty years of silence. Yet in my dreams, I scream for a time when we can tolerate each other, respect each other’s opinions, and live for each other.

"Ultimately, the reality of my verdict is that I must spend six years in jail. I’ll live for the next six years hoping that my dreams will become reality. I wish my fellow filmmakers in every corner of the world would create such great films that by the time I leave the prison I will be inspired to continue to live in the world they have dreamed of in their films.

"So from now on, and for the next twenty years, I’m forced to be silent. I’m forced not to be able to see, I’m forced not to be able to think, I’m forced not to be able to make films.

"I submit to the reality of the captivity and the captors. I will look for the manifestation of my dreams in your films, hoping to find in them what I have been deprived of."

Panahi is a supporter of Iran's opposition green movement.  He was arrested in July 2009 for participating in the mourning of protesters killed in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election that year. He was released but was banned to leave the country. In February 2010, he was again arrested with his family and colleagues and taken to Tehran's Evin prison.

He is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker but his movies are banned in Iran.

His debut film, The White Balloon (1995), won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year.  The New York Film Critics Circle declared it the Best Foreign Language Film in 1996.

His The Mirror (1997) garnered the Golden Leopard of the 1997 Locarno International Film Festival and the Golden Tulip of the 1998 Istanbul International Film Festival.

The National Board of Review of the USA gave his The Circle (2000), a movie about women struggle in the sexist society of Iran, its Freedom of Expression award that year.  It went to the 2000 Venice Film Festival and brought home five awards including the Golden Lion and the UNICEF awards.  In 2001, it was the FIPRESCI Film of the Year at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and was, among others, the Best Film at the Uruguay International Film Festival.

His 2003 film, Crimson Gold, was not shown in Iranian cinemas because it was considered a "dark" movie by the government. Thus it could not be considered Iran's entry to the Best Foreign Film derby of the 2003 Oscars.   It's interesting to note that "the lead actor, playing a pizza delivery man, is, in real life, a pizza delivery man [who] is also a paranoid schizophrenic." (The hyperlink goes to a trailer of the film.) 

His movie Offside (2006) about a group of women trying to sneak into a stadium to watch a qualifying soccer game between Iran and Bahrain for the 2005 World Cup.  Women are forbidden to watch male sports events.  The film won the Silver Bear of the 2006 Berlinale. (The hyperlink goes to a trailer of the film.)

As Jafar Panahi said, he will make movies in his mind for the next 20 years. Hopefully,  international film festivals will give him every now and then some space and time for his freedom of expression through these films he has completed for the world to see.   


Stone, Susan. (2011, Feb 19). Berlinale focuses on Iran. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from,0,7637764.story

Dehghan, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, (2010, Dec 20).  Iran jails director Jafar Panahi and stops him making films for 20 years.  The Guardian Co. UK. Retrieved from

Hubschman, Daniel. (2010, Dec 20). Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi sentenced to six years in jail. Retrieved from

IMDb,com for materials regarding Jafar Panahi and his movies (hyperlinks in the above story).