“Where were you in ‘86 EDSA Revolution?”
This caught my eye while on a jeepney cruising along the Quezon Bridge near Quiapo a long, long time ago. It was written on a wall of an old dilapidated building along the Pasig river. The handwriting was crude using a black paint, who put it there and for whatever reason we will never really know.
But it was a good question come to think of it for this year's 21st Anniversary of the People Power Revolution, an event that changed not only the history of the Filipino nation and its people but also proved to the world that change could be achieved peacefully. The people in the communist world soon followed thereafter as they emulated and learned the lessons of our unique form of ending a tyrannical regime without bloodshed.
Thus, we Filipinos could lay a claim that we had a hand in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc in the late 80s to the early 90s and in the process changed the lives of millions of people all over the world. But while other nations have progressed since, our country remains in a quagmire of our own making but that is another story that would merit a deeper analysis and another post in the future. Suffice it to say that for now, we will not stray away from the topic.
Back to the question, I was neither at home in Tiwi, Albay nor protesting in EDSA at that time. I was in the Visayas, Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo to be exact during the National Secondary Schools Press Conference (NSSPC) held in that rustic but charming town and if I remembered it correctly, some 30-plus kilometers away from the City of Iloilo.
I was in third year high school in 1986 when I was chosen as one of the representatives of the Bicol Region (by virtue of me landing in 5th place in the News Writing Category in the Regional Secondary Schools Press Conference (RSSPC) held at the Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City of the same year) to the NSSPC where lady luck smiled on me in Barotac Nuevo for I placed 9th (only the top 10 were announced and awarded certificates onstage) out of 150- plus contestants nationwide and was the highest placed Bicolano in the News Writing Category.
My recollections of the events that led to the 1986 People Power Revolution began on the day when Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino was murdered on the hot tarmac of the then Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983.
My grandfather, who was the head of the Bicol Saro in our town, that was the leading opposition party in the Bicol Region during the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship, was keenly awaiting on radio the news of the opposition senator’s arrival and what he heard from sketchy reports was Ninoy was shot dead by an assassin despite the presence of the Avsecom personnel in the heavily guarded airport.
I remember my Lolo in shock and could only muttered in a barely audible voice that, “this is the beginning of the end for Marcos. He is finished and sooner or later he will be deposed by the people.”
It never occurred to me then that his words would prove providential years later but then I am not surprised now for my grandfather was a serious student and practitioner of politics having been elected vice- mayor and then mayor of Tiwi, Albay in his younger days but of a different kind, back when politics is really “for the people, by the people and of the people”; where the elected leaders did not enrich themselves while in office as opposed to the battle cry of our present crop of shameless politicians as told to me by a descendant of Filosofong Tasyo years ago -- ”poor the people, buy the people and off the people.”
So, when the dictator called a snap presidential election and the Cory- Doy bandwagon rolled into Bicolandia, I was there with Old Grandpa. I saw up close and personal the two opposition candidates at the house of then Asssemblyman and later Senator Victor S. Ziga when they held their Miting de Avance in Tabaco, Albay and became a certified member of the Yellow Army by playing the recordings of protest songs (Freddie Aguilar’s Bayan Ko) in all the anti- Marcos rallies in our town as well as leading my friends in putting up campaign posters in all the available spaces and places that we could find and most of our forays were done in nightime.
I remember listening on the radio with Lolo of course, the fiery interpellation and filibustering of the loquacious Assemblyman from Mindanao, Homobono Adaza during the canvassing of the election returns in the Batasan Pambansa as then Speaker Nicanor Yniguez of Leyte and other Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) stalwarts railroaded the process and proclaimed Marcos as the winner of the snap polls contrary to the beliefs of the people and the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) count which showed the opposition as the runaway winner.
While the daily protests against the dictator and the boycott of all the crony companies were in full- circle, the Bicol delegation to the annual secondary schools press conference was on its way to Iloilo. We were billeted at the classrooms of Saint Paul School in Barotac Nuevo and during the parade of delegates the next day I could see the local people’s faces light up whenever they saw the Bicol Banner and exclaimed, “Bicol, panalo sainyo si Cory at Doy!” and enthusiastically flashed the Laban sign as we passed by.
After the News writing contest, my mom and I decided to go shopping in SM- Iloilo and there in the sidewalks, on the frontpages of the Inquirer and
Malaya newspapers were the pictures of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lieutenant General Fidel V. Ramos barricading themselves in the military camps along Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue (EDSA) as they announced their withdrawal of support from their erstwhile leader.
We could tell the tension in the air as even the local leaders, policemen, parish priests and the Ilonggos were monitoring the events unfolding in Manila on radio in every nook and cranny of the city.
Even the delegates and speakers could not remain apolitical as news updates continued to pour in with the majority cheering for the reformists. Only the delegates from Region I (Ilocos) were rooting for the status quo.
When the late Joe Quirino who was then the speaker for Feature Writing made a remark about the yellow garland that he was wearing and showed his true colors in his lecture, the entire auditorium cheered him with the exception of the Region I delegates for obvious reasons.
When news came that there were more than a million people in EDSA and that Channel 4 has been taken by the reformist soldiers from the loyalist soldiers, the audience applauded while the Ilocanos just kept mum in their seats.
When the church bells finally tolled on the night the Marcoses left Malacanang, the entire auditorium went wild as the delegates from Regions II to XII and NCR whooped it up while the delegates from the Ilocos region just kept quiet.
Despite the celebration of the moment, many were still apprehensive about the news regarding the dictator's plight; their alleged flight from Malacanang since reports were sketchy and it was the then Ministry of Education Culture and Sports Minister Jaime C. Laya himself, who confirmed to the delegates the real situation regarding the country’s leadership when he declared in his opening speech--
“This will be my first and last speech to you as your Minister of Education, Culture and Sports” or words to that effect.
Surprisingly, his pronouncement was greeted with silence but not for long as the place was rocked by a thunderous explosion of joy and happiness.
Amid the wild celebration, I saw the Ilocos delegation quietly shedding tears for their beloved Apo.
Let us not desecrate the memory of the original People Power Revolution and the heroes who shed their lives so that the Filipino people could be free again.
Let us preserve and honor their sacrifices by becoming good and responsible citizens.
Quo vadis, Gringo, Butz, et al?
Note: Where have all the 1986 People Power Revolution heroes gone?