PRESIDENT BS Aquino The Last, I mean The Third, rejects moving the date of celebrating a legal holiday that had once made possible a long weekend. However, he doesn’t mind celebrating a historic event in a place with a tenuous link to that event, like moving the commemoration of EDSA 1 to Cebu City.
EDSA, of course, is in EDSA, not in Cebu City, unless our president wants to rewrite history. Cebu City was the place where Cory Aquino hid while Juan Ponce Enrile, Fidel Ramos, Gringo Honasan and others were in Camp Aguinaldo declaring that they no longer recognized the government led by President Ferdinand Marcos.
Malacañang’s bright boys must have a dim view of EDSA I if it believes that Cebu City’s giving sanctuary to Cory was enough reason to make it the center of this year’s commemoration of that historic event.
Commemorating EDSA 1 in the wrong place is not the only anomaly. The date of the commemoration, February 25, is also wrong. It was on February 25, 1986 that Cory Aquino was sworn in as president at the Club Filipino in San Juan. It was also the day when Marcos and his family flew (were flown?) out of the country. On that day, it was very easy to be brave because victory was certain. On that day, the nation was merely reaping the fruits of the defiance initiated by those in Aguinaldo.
I believe that February 22 has a stronger claim to be named EDSA Day despite Cory’s absence. It was on February 22, 1986 that JPE, FVR and a small group of reformist groups withdrew their support for Marcos and made Camp Aguinaldo their base. They were all ready to die in the face of superior forces of the dictatorship. They refused to cower in fright in a safe sanctuary. It was also the first day that Jaime Cardinal Sin called on all freedom-loving Filipinos to go to Camp Aguinaldo. Definitely, danger was greatest and greater strength of conviction was needed on the very first day, February 22.
Historians always give greater importance to the initial act of defiance that had rallied a nation than to the date of eventual victory. We celebrate Independence Day on June 12 but it wasn’t until July 4, 1946 that we became a sovereign nation. The United States considers July 4, 1776, as its first Independence Day and yet it was not until Oct. 19, 1781 that the Americans finally defeated the British soldiers with the surrender of Gen. Charles Cornwallis to Gen. George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia.
France celebrates Bastille Day as its Independence Day, to commemorate the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. If the French were like the Filipinos on EDSA, they would celebrate their Independence Day on September 22, the day in 1792 when the First French Republic was founded.
Ah, but neither the place nor the date could make the commemoration of EDSA 1 truly meaningful if it has become meaningless to the people. The government may change the venue and date of the celebration and very few but those with a sense of history will complain. In 1986, the Philippines was the toast of the whole world. It was a time to be proud just to be a Filipino. Now, 28 years later, EDSA 1 no longer evokes a strong sense of national pride. The so-called “Spirit of EDSA 1” evaporated from the national consciousness just a few years after the event.
It was initially called “EDSA People Power Revolution” but the last three words have since been deleted—and for good reason. A revolution is supposed to result in a quick radical transformation or reformation of society, which EDSA has failed to achieve.
After the ouster of Marcos, corruption, poverty, forced disappearances, killing of press people, and many other ills decried during martial law regime still persist and may have even grown worse.
A few years after EDSA, a key player, Gringo Honasan led a series of coup attempts against the Cory Aquino administration for what he called “betrayal of EDSA.”
Honasan, now a senator, still has to participate in the official commemoration of EDSA.
“What’s there to celebrate?” he once told me.
Vice President Jejomar Binay maintains that the success of EDSA 1 is only half the battle.
“The other half is for the people to remain vigilant in protecting the democracy the nation has won and to keep its memory from fading,” he said.
This may take a lot of doing, considering the growing frustration of the people. I wouldn’t be surprised if their frustration could lead to another EDSA.