MANY Filipinos, as well as foreign observers, are straining to understand why the spirit of EDSA and People Power has faded so drastically that it now takes a ton of effort to cajole a crowd into attending the official commemoration of the event.
The answer is not simply that there are many more among us who are skeptical of EDSA than those who are enthralled by it. More telling, we think the reason is that the EDSA commemoration has become confused and torn by warring objectives and personalities.
Some believe that one should go to the avenue on the historic dates of February to commemorate a special day. But others believe that people should assemble there instead to protest against the government, demonize President Marcos, and re-fight the battles that they have lost. And then there are those who think that EDSA is irrevocably married to the Aquino legacy or family brand.
Offended by the propaganda, some think an anti-EDSA commemoration would be a fitting change.
The essential purpose of commemorating an event has been lost because some have mistakenly loaded on the annual remembrance goals and objectives that are not validated by what our people truly feel or believe.
The official EDSA commemoration has also been distorted by incessant misrepresentation and false counts of the numbers who do attend.
Some have also foolishly made the EDSA remembrance a mock battle between the administration and its critics – leading to frenetic efforts by both sides to load the numbers on their respective ends, in order to claim an illusory victory.
These conflicting goals miss the point.
The poet John Greenleaf Whittier has written, “Each crisis brings its word and deed.”
The crisis hour in February 1986 brought the deed, but we still have not found the words to remember properly what happened.
While other peoples have had no problem recalling the great events in their history, including their civil wars, we Filipinos have perennially been tormented by the task of perpetuating EDSA.
EDSA or People Power has lost its luster because successive governments from President Corazon Aquino onwards have been unable to find the right approach to memorialize the event.
The first Aquino government, with a push from the Philippine Catholic Church, tried to foster the fable that what happened in February 1986 was a miracle. And yellow propagandists and hagiographers foisted the foolhardy scheme of elevating Cory to Catholic sainthood.
Other compatriots, who truly figured in the military revolt, have tried to expand and magnify the event, beyond what it could realistically bear.
Perhaps most unfortunate of all, some have sought to make EDSA a partisan in the nation’s politics. This misguidedly leads to a situation where every ruling administration is forced to manipulate the EDSA remembrance to serve its political objectives.
The 2017 commemoration of People Power was precisely disfigured by such conflicting objectives. While administration critics fanned talk about a new people power uprising on February 25 that would oust President Duterte, supporters of the administration trooped to the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park to do their own rally of support on the same day. And they swamped the paltry numbers at EDSA.
While politicians and partisans battled for media time and space, the event at EDSA faded from our memories and into the background.
The saddest irony is that EDSA, a real explosion of People Power, was relegated to the status of a false event like the Jabidah massacre, which never happened.