A university colleague posted the announcement on Facebook. There was to be a gathering the next morning at Fuente Osmeña circle, followed by a march going downtown to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
I slept in because Edsa Day, Monday was a nonworking holiday, but woke up to text messages from two good friends inviting me to the march. I would have stayed home, but the headache that attended my waking was subsiding, so I decided to head out.
When I was younger, people in Manila used to reenact the key moments of the peaceful uprising that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Former president Fidel Ramos would redo his iconic jump at news of Marcos’ departure. Civilians and members of the military would dramatize in street play their convergence on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. Crowds came to celebrate Edsa at the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace throughout the presidency of Corazon Aquino. You can check out videos of these joyful gatherings on YouTube.
I wonder why Cebuanos do not have festive celebrations of Edsa 1986 on February 25. Is it because we tire after celebrating Cebu City’s Charter Day on February 24? Whatever the reason, it is not enough for us to be low-key on Edsa Day.
Perhaps, when sanity returns to our land and history is read correctly once more (that Edsa 1986 ended a 20-year regime that presided over unspeakable murders, torture, enforced disappearances, and plunder), Edsa Day in Cebu can be more vibrant.
Perhaps, the journey of the late President Aquino from Mactan Cebu International Airport to Fuente Osmeña circle, to the Carmelite Monastery, to the former Magellan Hotel and back to the airport can be retraced each February 25.
She had been here to energize a nationwide civil disobedience campaign, a form of nonviolent protest of the snap elections of February 1986 where she ran against Marcos; polls that had been marred by violence and cheating, and pronounced non-credible by Filipino Catholic bishops, then headed by their conference president, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.
Perhaps, a monument can be erected at Fuente Osmeña in remembrance of Edsa 1986. Perhaps, Edsa-related markers can be installed at Cebu’s airport, near or in the Carmelite Monastery, and by what was Magellan Hotel.
The monuments and markers will continue to speak when our generation and the preceding one go to the grave, when no one alive in 1986 lives anymore, when the first Edsa Revolt goes the way of all civic commemorations, becoming part of a distant yet ever meaningful past.
I wanted to bring yellow roses to the march that seemed to me, sadly, to be the only public Edsa commemoration in Cebu in this time of irrational hatred for the emblematic yellow of the peaceful revolt.
The roses would call to mind the flowers that many who joined Edsa 1986 had given, as signs of peace, to soldiers who were still loyal to the dictator days before he and kin fled the country.
Looking out from the eastbound jeep that I rode, I could not see any flower vendors by the street. Perhaps they folded up by midmorning and I had missed them.
The march had paused outside the police camp on Osmeña Boulevard. I did not disembark there but rode farther east and stepped off the jeep near Santo Rosario church, hoping to buy yellow roses nearby. Unfortunately, the only roses the vendors sold were red.
Having failed to find flowers, I walked westward to the police camp, where marchers were already leaving. I was quite surprised to hear a remix of British singer Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” blaring out of loudspeakers by the camp’s gates.
When I found my friends, they told me that a commotion had erupted after the marchers were disrupted by loud music from conducting a short program at the gates. The playlist included “Budots” and part of the soundtrack to the cartoon show “Voltes V.”
According to news reports, some protesters began shaking the gate and tearing banners off it after their pleas for the music to be turned off went unheard. The gates also sustained some damage, prompting police to say they would sue the protesters for damage to property.
Is this what our remembrance of Edsa 1986 now boils down to? Do protesters now have to be agitated to the point of shaking gates to gain a hearing from the powerful behind them?
One wonders why popular and anime music were our good police force’s tracks of choice on Edsa Day.
Were there not other songs with which to remember the activism for freedom that often occurred at the police camp’s gates during the dictatorship?
Were there not more appropriate songs to play as background music, not distraction in remembrance of people who had been locked up in the camp during those dark days due to their principled resistance?
Have loudspeakers become weapons for drowning out voices raised in the exercise of constitutionally protected freedoms — of expression, of assembly, of petitioning the government for redress of grievances?
Many who joined the protest, according to a source of mine, had survived torture or were left behind by loved ones slain and disappeared in the wake of the dictatorship. It is providential that in spite of the trauma that marked their lives, they nevertheless took it upon themselves to confront government over causes of suffering today, from unabated bloodletting to the sorry plight of workers across our land.
It was a shame that as they commemorated a successful nonviolent action against tyranny, they encountered its sonic vestiges, hinged on some official’s facetious claim of a right to play deaf to the aggrieved.
Perhaps, when sanity returns to our land, a marker would be installed in honor of resistance to authoritarianism at the gates of the camp. For our democracy to be genuine, those gates should be — for public servants and the people who are their employers — sites of listening and of contact, not of deafened ears and of division.
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