Life-lessons from EDSA ’86


THE 1986 People Power or EDSA is an event all our own as it was too, for me in a personal way. Millions of Filipinos gathered at the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) February 22 to 25 “filling the capital’s main artery . . .and begin a new era marked by true freedom and democracy. The spirit of the movement was not contained in Manila, with pockets of dissent manifesting nationwide. It was a revolution marked by its peaceful means, led by a nation that stood united in its attainment of liberty.” <http://www.slide*>

EDSA accounts in hyperlinks show how uniformly felt and regarded the “people power” movement had been. “Unarmed Filipinos surprised the world with “demonstrating in an amazing way the power of active nonviolence, the power of truth and love, similar to what was seen in the Gandhian freedom struggle in India . . .” See more at:
< topics/society/ people-power-revolution-philippines#sthash.2sRMUfEF/F.ddpuf>

President Cory Aquino’s assumption into power “marked the restoration of democracy in the country. <> EDSA altered the course of our nation’s history; and “showcased to the world the remarkable strength and resolve of the Filipino people.” < nan-k12-4th-quarter-gradepnedsa>

Entering Xavier U campus 28th February morning. I was to learn a day later, many among us – friends, students, teachers — sat in borrowed space in neighboring houses where families, connected discretely to Radio Veritas, sat in vigil to hear June Keithley’s 14-hour non-stop broadcast on the miracle at EDSA – the bloodless revolution of soldiers with their tanks, Filipinos from all walks of life. . . nuns offering flowers, food, rosaries, crosses and images of the Blessed Virgin. < 8y3cT>

People Power was the talk of the town, of the world! In April, representing the American Studies Association of the Philippines (ASAP) – CdO chapter as its President, I went to Taipei for an International ASA Conference. Shortly on reaching my hotel, a message came: I was chosen to speak on behalf of the entire delegation. To date, I can’t remember how and what I said to the stalwarts of the ASA world. Seated in the evening with a retired Taiwanese justice and ASA officer, I asked him why it had to be me to speak for the entire delegation. In faltering English, he said “because you are a woman, a Filipino. Your President is a woman!” Not because I have a bloated ego that I mention this. It was not me who was honored. It was Cory’s reflected glory on me! But that was not what changed my life. It was a string of up and down events six years before EDSA, the answer of which stared before my face in early July ‘86.

Flashback: Writing my doctoral research at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City in 1980, I only realized too late that my literary bent was no match for the quantitative responses asked by the examining panel during my dissertation proposal. In fifteen minutes, I flanked the defence. But that was when blessings fell on me, unknown to me then. Dr. Lourdes R. Quisumbing, then graduate studies dean of dela Salle University and member of the proposal panel readily offered to be my adviser. With her, and her doting but firm stance, I completed my degree in due time.

Six years later, at EDSA’86, Dr. Q, as we fondly call her, was appointed the new Minister of Education! What does a mentee do in such a happy unexpected occasion? You’re right. I wired my mentor, the Minister, my congratulations pledging my help in whatever way I can.

Meanwhile, in the state colleges and universities (SCU’s), versions of EDSA were on-going. University constituents wanting their school heads out for various reasons recited classes in nearby parks abandoning their campuses until the new Education Minister, whilst her visit to XU for President Cory’s honorary degree, heard their voices. It was in this crisis in July 1986 that I found myself appointed by the Education Minister to leave Xavier U to be the Officer-in-Charge “to normalize campus operations” one after the other of two protesting SCU’s. Thus when our Mini-Critic Dr. Isagani Cruz arrived at Xavier U for a literature panel, he found himself whisked to the EDSA I was in. Those events found their way to his pen. I shall not deluge you with details of the aftermath. (I pledged my help, didn’t I?) Suffice it to say, the several SCU presidencies inherited from EDSA had lessons for me remembered to this day.

Here they are: One, whenever people need help, help them even in the dead of night without expecting some return. People in our universities are our greatest assets. Show, not merely say, let them feel, that you treasure them. Two, be fair to people so you won’t hesitate to ask for help in dire circumstances. Unexpected assistance secured me from legal actions. People helped me with solutions needed in my trouble-shooting assignments. Stripped of security guards hired by EDSA predecessors without the required government bidding, a former judge helped me request substitutes from the PNP. Three, be truthful, don’t flatter. Filipinos can smell deceit, a mere compliment from a sincere praise. If no good can be said, seek a grain of humanity in a person. Sans “bola” you gain the full trust of your staff and managing problems collegially would be more doable. Finally, one other precious learning is — not to curse the darkness. Under God’s sleeves is a surprise of a lifetime for you! Remember? I flanked my proposal defense!

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.


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  1. Big Lesson of EDSA, do not grab power from the legitimate elected official as let the history take it’s course, or else the curse of heaven will pour upon us!!?

  2. I’m living witness bro, that during Martial Law we are living in the province very peaceful and everybody observed laws, but nowadays it is very rampant of criminal who commit crimes without hesitation…in my conclusion it is better to live during that time than nowadays. God bless and save Philippines…

  3. Felix Sevidad on

    For me the 1986 Edsa event was a well planned by the oligarchs and the opposition’s they used money to buy the media for black propaganda as a result they have had convinced many people to join the plot to topple FM. If these oligarchs and opposition’s acted in good faith our country should now at least reaping a good harvest. In 30 years our country still in limbo
    Waiting for a Messiah to deliver us from the greed of these oligarchs and corrupt politicians that still running our country since Cory up to the present time poor Juan de la Cruz the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

    • That’s true bro, for me it’s a big mistake for us as an ordinary citizens who lives very peaceful during martial law times. God bless and save Philippines…

  4. reminder lang madam. its not millions. its not even a million. don’t distort history. its not because you are on the yellow side. please be responsible in what you are writing because as readers we are not stupid as you think.