First of two parts
I am part of the generation that benefited from the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
I know only of living in freedom and democracy. I know only of a free press and a mother who wrote for broadsheets and political tabloids ala Pinoy Times and Isyu. I grew up with political talk shows hosted by Randy David and Louie Beltran, Dong Puno and Jullie Yap Daza, all of whom dared critique government and the state of the nation.
I grew up with writers who could write what they pleased, no matter how political.
But also I grew up in the State University in the 1990s. I met people who were later disappeared, captured while doing work in the provinces, jailed on trumped up charges, illegally detained without the benefit of a lawyer or phone call to family.
I started going to rallies during Ramos’s government, I was part of EDSA Dos during Erap’s government, I started blogging during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime, I started writing this column under Noynoy Aquino’s government.
Do I write without fear? Of course not. But I also know that it’s entirely possible that I’m not seen as a threat, that I’m that token critic that government likes to hold up for all the world to see, so they can say: Look! we’re not mad at critics! There’s freedom in this country!
The promise of EDSA1986
But that’s the thing: there is freedom in this country. That was the promise of EDSA1986 after all. It was the promise of freedom from a dictator, the promise of getting back our democratic rights to free speech, assembly, and press.
To me, this is what we celebrate every year, regardless of whether government makes a big deal about it or not. We celebrate that in 1986, people came out to the streets to defy the dictatorship, and no one organization can take credit for it. We celebrate that 30 years ago, Filipinos dared leave their homes and go out to the streets, knowing full well that tanks could mow them over, or that the dictator could order them dispersed – as violently as they had known it to happen.
Thirty years since EDSA1986 though, so many have taken to questioning its importance and value, without realizing that it makes us complicit in EDSA’s forgetting. Because you can complain about a younger generation not knowing enough to actually care about EDSA1986; but do we help at all by refusing to work with the facts about EDSA, by refusing to actually ask the questions that are important to its understanding?
Case in point: Malacañang celebrated EDSA30 with President Fidel V. Ramos, but Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was nowhere in sight, and neither were Senator Gringo Honasan and Vice President Jojo Binay.
Malacañang is not alone in this re-writing of history. The Marcoses have been going all out trying to discredit what was achieved by EDSA1986. And yet there are also the re-writers of history who become unlikely Marcos allies, including the militant Left and mainstream media, who question EDSA1986 for promises it did not make, and demanding that it be more than it ever set out to be.
In the process of questioning EDSA1986 beyond all that it sought to do, the millennial who couldn’t care less about it, is given even less reason to care. After all: if the sectors we are supposed to trust cannot get its act – or its national history – together, why even imagine any given event to be important at all?
The boycott and #EDSA1986
Every year, what I’ve found worth celebrating in fact, is not just the freedom and democracy that I enjoy; but also the fact of the boycott pre-EDSA. To me, this was people power, too, when Filipinos did civil disobedience like it has not done again. Sure Cory was the one who called for it. But it was the people who made it happen. A day after the boycott:
“Crony banks, corporations, and media were hit hard by the boycott. Deposit withdrawals were reportedly heavy not only in the seven banks in Cory’s boycott list but also in banks either partly or wholly owned by known Marcos cronies. Nestle pulled out its ads from government TV Channel 4 and newspaper Bulletin Today. San Miguel-A shares went down to as low as P11.50 per share, while B shares went down to P14.50 per.
“The financial fiasco extended to the beverage industry. Beer quaffers suddenly shifted to gin or hard drinks. Restaurants, eateries and cafes refused to serve San Miguel beer as well as Coca Cola, Sprite and Royal True Orange. A small number also stopped drinking Pepsi Cola, Seven-Up and Mirinda, thinking that these softdrinks were also under the control of a crony.” (EDSARevolution.com, Before EDSA)
Five days after the call for a boycott, there was:
“<…> a total of P1.78 billion in withdrawals from crony banks and the Philippine National Bank, Security Bank & Trust Company, Republic Planters Bank, and Traders Royal Bank. The first to get their money out of the crony banks were groups belonging to the clergy; in Union Bank, the clergy represented at least 12 % of its deposit base. As a result, deposit upsurges were recorded in Bank of the Philippine Islands, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, and Citibank. Bulletin Today, the country’s largest circulated newspaper (circulation 350,000) trailed the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Malaya, and The Manila Times. Rustan’s department store was empty; most of its customers moved over to SM Shoemart, Anson’s, and Robinson’s.” (EDSARevolution.com, Before EDSA)
The build-up to the four days of EDSA1986 included this boycott. There is no understanding the importance of EDSA1986, without acknowledging how people power was able to take down these companies and corporations. It was a take down that was set to continue, had the dictator and his family not left Malacañang, four days into EDSA.
This is what I know about EDSA1986. It was about regaining freedom and democracy, but also it was about a united people revealing awesome powers. And this is what makes me hopeful about nation. EDSA1986 allows me to believe that at some point, when it is most important, Filipinos will know to do people power again, and this time around it will demand not the superficial shifts from one leader to another, but will demand that systems change, enough to finally change Filipino lives as well.
That should be our promise to EDSA1986 though, not the other way around.
Next column: Martial Law, EDSA1986, and post-EDSA Philippines, and the question of what has since happened.