Even though tomorrow’s commemoration of the 1986 People Power Revolution might be subdued as what has been happening these past few years, it’s my firm belief that never shall the EDSA spirit be lost on Filipinos.
Indeed, no matter how that shining period in our nation’s history is observed, whether ceremonies are superb or simple and quiet, there will always be in each one of us the capacity to unite, sacrifice, rise up, and risk death for love of country.
Those four days in 1986 –February 22 to 25 – gave our country one of its proudest moments as international news headlines bannered the “bloodless revolution that surprised the world” and honored the courage of common folks and religious people to confront advancing tanks and troops, armed only with prayers, flowers, and food.
It certainly was a shining period when Filipinos of all ages and from all walks of life stood their ground on that vast stretch of highway between Camps Aguinaldo and Crame to protect a small group of mutineers breaking away from the regime of a dictator.
Even without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or basic text messaging then, the EDSA crowd quickly swelled into amazing numbers as people responded to the call of then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin to gather at EDSA.
I played my own small part in that uprising as I helped organize and rally the people who took strategic positions to block troop movements targeting the mutineers at EDSA. For me, that point in my life was a culmination of the years I devoted to the collective struggle of fighting a dictatorship, beginning at age 17 as a student activist who was nearly hit by bullets that killed three people by my side during violent rallies in the 1970s.
What drove many of us to EDSA was the same ability of Filipinos to unite and rise in the face of daunting odds, that same willingness to sacrifice and stand our ground as proven many times in the past — from the time Lapu Lapu fought Magellan, to the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule, the Philippine-American War, and the resistance against Japanese invaders.
The euphoria of the EDSA uprising that ousted a dictatorship brought so much hope then for our country’s future. Yet three and a half decades after that historic event, the promise of significant and positive change is still being awaited. And many are asking why the EDSA spirit seems to have lost its luster over the years. What has happened — or not happened — since 1986 that failed expectations for genuine change?
Rampant corruption, grinding poverty, homelessness, hunger, and many other ills continue to plague our country. With the continuing grip on the economy by a few individuals and families, some say that what transpired in 1986 was merely “changing of the guard with a different faction of the ruling classes taking power by riding on the wave of the anti-dictatorship movement.”
Many lament that the freedoms regained in 1986 failed to achieve what ought to really matter most — freedom from hunger and poverty. But those who don’t see EDSA as a failure truly believe it accomplished what it was all about — toppling a dictatorship.
Indeed, the promise of EDSA was the restoration of democracy and basic freedoms denied the people during the reign of the one-man rule under a martial law regime. Many believe it would be unrealistic to say that EDSA also promised good governance; excellence in governance simply cannot be attained overnight — it has to be a work in progress.
But that same spirit of EDSA which bonded Filipinos towards the pursuit of a common goal can always be tapped. The opportunity exists to make good use of people power to relentlessly pursue the degree of excellence in governance that could bring about more equitable distribution of wealth and an end to worsening poverty. We Filipinos can start to unite, organize, and mobilize a nationwide movement that will raise our level of political maturity with the aim of enabling our voters to choose the best qualified national and local leaders to further improve the governance of our country by 2022 and beyond.
Also, that same EDSA spirit can now be tapped to effectively address the raging coronavirus pandemic which is the most daunting challenge facing our country today. Everyone strictly following basic health and safety protocols like social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing face masks/face shields can go a long way in keeping COVID-19 at bay while awaiting vaccines.
And when vaccine rollout is finally happening in our country, trusting in scientific experts is key. The EDSA spirit should drive a sense of community in us towards the ultimate goal of achieving the so-called herd immunity. Our individual actions driven and sustained by that sense of community would help us ultimately achieve victory over the coronavirus that has inflicted so much misery.
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