NOTE: This is a slightly different version of the photo-essay that this blogger wrote for 28Feb-06Mar issue of Fil-Am Star, a weekly newspaper published in San Francisco, CA for "Filipinos in Mainstream America."
February 25 this year, the 28th anniversary of the People Power or EDSA Revolution of 1986, was a special holiday in the Philippines but it was for schools only. Being a Tuesday, it was a regular working day in government and in the private sector.
Commuters to their workplace in the morning could have noticed that the People Power Monument was adorned with yellow flags and the yellow flowers, and a wreath-laying ceremony was going on led by Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
They could have missed the festive crowd of past celebrations. For the first time, the anniversary observance was brought outside Metro Manila to Cebu City, where the peaceful encounter or “salubungan” of the military and the civilian contingents was re-enacted with popular movie actor Dingdong Dantes as then Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, and Sen. Benigno ‘Bam’ Aquino IV as his uncle then Senator Butz Aquino of the August Twenty One Movement (ATOM).
According to reports, President Benigno Aquino III chose Cebu as commemoration venue because this was where his mother Cory called for civil disobedience and where she stayed with the Carmelite sisters during outbreak of the EDSA revolt.
Outside of government-sponsored anniversary events, there was the call of the Million People March to Scrap Pork Barrel movement for a “Black Tuesday at EDSA.” It urged their followers on social media to assemble at the EDSA Shrine in black and express indignation against RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
While there were not many who came to advocate “Stop Cyber Martial Law”, “No to E-Martial Law” or “Junk RA 10175,” this is a hot issue in social media discussions. To netizens, the specter of the oppression of the freedom of speech and information looms from the Supreme Court ruling on online libel even if it declared three provisions of the cybercrime law unconstitutional -- unsolicited commercial communications, real-time collection of traffic data, and restricting access to computer data.
This reminds us of the noose around our necks when the Marcos dictatorship controlled mass media, the wealth of the nation, and the coffers of government. We learned more about our government and the lifestyle of those in power from reportages in foreign publications, reproduced and circulated through network of friends of friends by multiple “Xerox” journalists, an underground real social media of those times.
Breaking loose was what we did twenty eight Februaries ago. We knew it was a military rebellion that Cardinal Sin called for the people to support. But It transformed into a truly civilian uprising when the multitude of Filipinos secured Camp Aguinaldo and later Camp Crame in support of the secession of Defense Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) from the Marcos government.
In the midst of that peaceful revolution on EDSA, somebody picked my pocket. By today’s spending standards, the money contents were not much. A Protestant minister who found it empty in a gutter mailed it back to us some time during those euphoric days after Ferdinand Marcos, his family, and his trusted cronies were flown out from Malacañang Palace to Honolulu, Hawaii.
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 could not have noticed somebody's sticky fingers fishing for our wallet in our back pocket.
It was not a heavy price though for the victory that came afterward. We soon forgot about it when word got around that the dictator had fled, and we went honking down the avenue on board a good friend’s Volks Beetle exchanging cheers with other sweat-drenched, exhausted yet ecstatic souls along the way.
The dictatorship was ousted and democracy restored, but for the past twenty years it has been a rough roller coaster ride through coup d’etat attempts, infuriating brown-outs, a second EDSA revolution, uneasy peace in the south, natural disasters, impeachment cases, allegations of plunder and pork barrel scams, widening gap between the rich and poor, from the first presidency of mother Cory to the incumbency of her son Noynoy.
It looks like the spirit of the 1986 EDSA has dimmed in the minds of the veterans of that revolt, more so among those who are still in government service. We can understand if the generations younger than 28 have not found meaning in the people power history. The lessons learned from that political experience have not been imparted to them.
We remember that at the EDSA@26 commemoration at the People Power monument, people wrote down on big white boards their personal stakes for the country: “Anong Taya mo Para sa Pilipinas Natin?”
People wrote: jobs, peace in Mindanao, iteration of Aquino’s “daang matuwid”, etcetera, virtually a wish list from the peaceful revolution of 1986. Has the Revolution failed? Or, did we fail the Revolution?