By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated February 19, 2011
Those who were born a few years before and after 1986 are now aged 22 to 28 years old. “EDSA babies” make up an entire generation of millions of young adults now poised to becoming the country’s future leaders. I wonder how many of them understand and appreciate the significance of EDSA 1986. I will not be surprised if they know little or nothing at all. After all, they never lived under Martial Law, they have always been free to express their political views, they vote, and most of all, when they party, they do not have to deal with State-sanctioned curfew hours!
This piece is for you, dear EDSA babies.
How time flies! It’s been 25 years after the Filipino people trooped to the now historic highway to support then General Fidel V. Ramos and Minister Juan Ponce Enrile’s defection from the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. Yes, FVR and JPE were the original whistle-blowers and we came to their rescue.
I went to EDSA alone but did not feel alone. It was my first time to see that huge number of people gathered in one place and immediately, I felt one with them. The sea of people stood solidly for CHANGE —yes, the same word you often hear now from politicians and activists alike.
We were on to a very serious business: reshaping the country’s direction, yet the mood was mostly festive and everyone was friendly. Food kept coming and it was shared with everybody. I received a sandwich from someone I didn’t and never got to know. After all, food unites Pinoys. We eat whatever the occasion is, whatever the mood is. EDSA was no exception.
Songs were sung to inspire and keep the spirits up. I happened to be near both a group of priests and nuns and some activist organizations. Thus, it became a merry mixture of religious hymns and nationalist songs in my ears. Again, this was very Pinoy. We have songs for everything and we are a country of singers.
People stood side by side with tanks. I will not forget the grim faces of young soldiers manning one. They were there with us, ready to fight for and with the people in the name of democracy. We all knew that there were real threats of being caught in the gunfire between “loyalist” (those loyal to Marcos) and “renegade” soldiers, or hit from above by helicopter attacks but people courageously stayed on. Imagine what could have happened if someone spread a bomb scare as we have now.
I will always cherish the moment when finally, it was announced that Marcos has left Malacañang. People were jubilant! We jumped, danced, shouted, hugged each other, cried. It was a triumphant moment. The Filipino people were free!
Or so we thought. EDSA brought to the fore people’s hopes and expectations of a fully democratic and progressive Philippines. Many believed that EDSA was the miracle that could cure the social ills besetting the country then. People thought the work was finished.
EDSA 1986 brought back formal democracy at best. Through Ninoy’s widow, Corazon Aquino, who became EDSA’s symbol and President after Marcos, a new Constitution came to effect, government was re-established, new democratic institutions created, and elections held.
Freedom of speech was brought back. Media ceased to be controlled. It was a good start, but the work is far from over.
Dear EDSA babies, it is time for you, together with us, to reclaim the spirit of EDSA.
Twenty-five years after, we now should look back, learn the lessons of EDSA and use these to really move the country forward.
Think not of EDSA 1986 as a religious undertaking. Recently, Bishop Bacani issued a threat that the CBCP may call another EDSA, this time to protest the reproductive health bill.
There is NO single group that owns EDSA 1986. While priests and nuns were visible, the bulk of people were ordinary Filipinos. People went to EDSA not as a religious obligation, but out of genuine concern for the country. We were all Filipino citizens there, religious or not. It is thus, wrong for those in power, including bishops, to directly or indirectly appropriate EDSA 1986 as theirs.
Think not of EDSA 1986 as a revolution. It was a revolt that resulted in the overthrow of a dictatorship, largely led and participated in by the middle class.
A revolution is supposed to create RADICAL changes in a society’s systems and culture. We may have achieved formal democracy but it remains in the hands of the elite. The voices of ordinary people remain unheard. Our political culture is still traditional, patriarchal and relies heavily on patronage. Our electorate needs to be better informed to mature.
We rejected Marcos not only because his was a one-man rule but because corruption, then termed as “cronyism” was also rampant. But corruption remains a major problem now. Billions of pesos of people’s money are lost to corrupt officials at all levels. Imagine how many schools, homes, and hospitals can be built if this kind of money is properly used.
“People power,” the term Filipinos popularized from EDSA 1986, remains an elusive dream. The spirit of EDSA remains valid to you, EDSA babies.
Think not of EDSA 1986 as an end in itself. It was an important stepping stone in a long muddy road toward a progressive Philippines.
EDSA 1986 did not happen solely because of Ninoy and Cory. Decades of hard work were put in by various organizations, many of them had to go underground, to bring to the people, and the international community the real state of the country then. EDSA 1986 could not have happened without them.
These groups’ work continues. Social justice is far from achieved. Millions remain impoverished. Human rights continue to be violated. Governance is still significantly ineffective in addressing people’s needs.
EDSA babies, be with us in continuing the work for a better Philippines. Reclaim the spirit of EDSA. It is an unfinished business.