I cannot claim personal significance on the EDSA People Power Revolution, which took place nearly six years before I was born. My parents could’ve joined the protests during those fateful days in February 1986, but they didn’t; my mother was explicitly ordered by my grandfather to stay home for her own safety. Interestingly, my grandfather was actually a police officer working in Quezon City then. As to why I haven’t heard of any story yet about what he did in those days, I just assume that there really is none—that he simply stayed out of trouble, which would be in theme with all the other stories my mother has told me about him.
That’s no reason for me to ignore history, however. No one in my extended family suffered human rights violations under Martial Law, but that either means we were lucky, or that they were just apathetic enough that they were never a concern for the offenders. I cannot blame them. I can’t tell what I would’ve done myself if I lived back then. But now, the essays, stories, and films on the subject collectively paint a picture of an era that should’ve incited more anger and more protests from everyone who had a conscience.
This is how I see it: it was a time of unrestrained, vulgar corruption, of a goverment devolved into a system that served the few at the grave expense of the many. It started with the diagnosis that Philippine society was in a crisis of mediocrity and disorder. The answer was iron-fisted rule—Martial Law—which looked promising with the initial drop in crime rates and a seemingly pacified population. The system, nationalistic in intent, collapsed on itself, however, and soon became a bureaucracy of self-serving schemes. Those who were brave enough to speak out against the widespread and patent acts of social injustice were imprisoned, tortured, or killed in the name of peace and order. Those who simply accepted the public affairs were still affected in other ways: towards the end of the Marcos regime, the economy has plunged and unemployment levels have reached shocking heights.
With mounting political tension, economic crisis, and public unrest, a revolution became inevitable. But it is especially because of how it came about that the EDSA Revolution is now worthy of special commemoration. It was not the bloody conflict that political revolutions everywhere have become associated with. It looked like, more than anything else, a fiesta. We have the now-iconic images of flowers and rosaries stopping tanks and soldiers. There was singing and chanting. There was the “laban” sign, and there was yellow, everywhere.
It was a romantic, miraculous climax to an equally dramatic era of struggle. It deserves every word of its commemoration by the government as a special holiday:
…the EDSA People Power Revolution, which restored and ushered political, social and economic reforms in the country, serves as an inspiration to Filipinos everywhere as a nation and as a people…
The chapter in the life of this nation that the EDSA Revolution started is by no means finished. The more critical observers have said much about the People Power Revolution being an event significant only for, and limited to, “Imperial Manila”; that the fact that it was repeated in 2001 shows it as a symptom of the Filipinos’ aversion to institutional mechanisms; and that it has not lead to a meaningful change in the country’s power structure and merely passed the thrones from the old elites to new ones.
These may all be true, and we have to admire their critical attitude, but they’re missing a point: that the EDSA People Power Revolution is, first and foremost, a reminder for us that we are capable of admirable feats as a people, and that we should never let injustice prevail for too long. Everything else will follow eventually.