The call for People Power Revolution
I was really disturbed to learn that young people did not realize the significance of the People Power Revolution especially the remark of Xiao Chua, educator and historian, that their knowledge regarding the event was superficial and had no depth. In one of the columns I read that my teacher Dr. Serena Diokno suggested that it would be helpful to have people who experienced the event to share their insights.
Well, I had been part of the experience; and I have told my students about the big rally in Osmeña Blvd. and the appearance of Juan Ponce Enrile over television as we were having dinner. I also told them about hearing the sound of the tanks coming closer, making my heart beat really faster.
Both Edicio de la Torre and Xiao Chua said the Edsa events should not be viewed only for the week it happened. Xiao Chua said we should look back to the struggle beginning with the First Quarter Storm. I think Edicio de la Torre looked even farther back. His point was the response of that week happened because of many “rehearsals”—the many struggles in our history wherein people challenged tyranny. I compared this to the elegant ballet dancer who seemed to perform with ease but behind the magnificent performance was hours of painstaking practice. Before EDSA there was the record-breaking attendance in Ninoy’s burial; joining the burial procession was an act of commitment to freedom and democracy.
Of course, we cannot appreciate the value of EDSA and the democratic space we acquired if we do not recall the horrors of the Martial Law period. Maybe those who were arrested and tortured or those who were abducted then killed and their loved ones suffered the most. But the islands was one big prison and all of a sudden friends disappeared and one had to be creative about looking for ways to locate them. My friend who was assisting young people and workers with their cases thought of bringing the victim’s child around the camps to locate the victim who might hear his child’s voice and inform them of his presence.
Many things were forbidden. Upon the declaration of Martial Law, people came under suspicion because of reading materials in their possession. There was an atmosphere of mistrust because the state had agents. Then there was betrayal and deep penetration agents. They were not searching for drug lords or gambling lords or smugglers but for people with deep convictions and great commitment to make our country a better place.
Amidst the horror, I encountered many unforgettable people of great courage and self-sacrifice. I was awed by the simplicity in lifestyle that many young people chose.
In the midst of repression many still continued the work of building authentic independence and democracy. Various efforts to expose the truth in the face of suppression were artistically implemented. So it was not surprising that with a call to combat dictatorship forces there was an overwhelming response. A massive united force faced the tanks. Support came even from faraway Cebu. In St. Theresa’s College a group of graduates, Teresang Makabayan, were preparing supplies to provide for the people massed in EDSA.
The great energy of unity and faith stopped the tanks. The deterioration of support ended the dictatorship. Now people complain that not much difference exists between the pre-EDSA and post-EDSA days. For those who had actually experienced martial law, the democratic space created has been very clear. But the building of genuine democratic institutions continues and we all need to take part in the construction.
Let us not leave everything to those brave, persevering and loving Filipinos who stood to stop the tanks. As an enduring writer once wrote: EDSA provided the hope, the promise. Let us draw lessons, inspiration and energy from that glorious moment. The call for people power continues.
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Let me end February, arts month, with this beautiful, at the same time instructive poem by Erlinda Kintanar-Alburo of Women in the Literary Arts.
Penpen de Sarapen, Pildi ang Pabilin
Si Dodong Dikoy ug si Agaw Pepe
Nangatkat sa camachile mora’g tabili
Kay magpahudyong sila og bakukang
Tingali hangtud ang bulan mosubang.
Si Day Marian sad diay ug si Gaw Fely
Maglung-ag-lung-ag kuno sila’g camote
Kay natuman na ang sugo pagpanilhig
Manghagdaw ron sila’g sugnod sa kamalig
Nganong di man ni Dong Dikoy sulayan
Ang luto-luto kay siya man tay pilia’g sud-an
Ug nganong di man pakatkaton si Day Marian
Nga siya may atong kampiyon sa dagandagan?
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