We need to talk about EDSA: 35 years after EDSA People Power Revolution

Published February 24, 2021, 6:49 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

•       The date February 25, 1986 still stands as a milestone in Philippine history.
•       From ‘A day of thanks’ as former President Corazon Aquino had declared its first anniversary, has Feb. 25 become only a holiday to many?
•       The 10th anniversary of the People Power in 1996 had a festive vibe –a helicopter flew by and dropped yellow confetti on the people, there was a parade and people were dancing to the beat of drums.
•       On the 30th anniversary in 2016, President Benigno C. Aquino III who was on his last year in office, led the celebration with military helicopters dropping yellow confetti, soldiers and military officers linking their arms as they marched behind a tank decorated with flowers.
•       In the first People Power Revolution anniversary under the Duterte Administration, the President’s message read by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said that the spirit of EDSA will continue to live on and he hoped that it will inspire heroism among Filipinos.
•       Last year, the program lasted only 12 minutes and the number of people who attended the commemorative event thinned down to about 1,000 due to the threat of COVID-19.

(officialgazette.gov.ph / FILE PHOTO)

From confetti to huge crowds, to loud and powerful chants.

The first EDSA People Power Revolution has always been a reminder of what the people can achieve when they work together towards a common goal.

But does the celebration have the same effect on people now? Or is the fervor now burning in only a few and the memory of 1986 reduced to a mere holiday?

The celebrations

“A day of thanks,” This was how former President Corazon Aquino described the first anniversary of the revolt that restored the hard-fought democracy and catapulted her to the highest seat of power.

Photos or videos of the first celebration of the EDSA People Power anniversary were impossible to find online. The earliest official video found online is the fourth-anniversary celebration uploaded by Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) on YouTube.

(officialgazette.gov.ph / FILE PHOTO)

In the video, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Filipinos of all ages flocked to the Mary Queen of Peace Shrine in EDSA to listen to what the lady in yellow had to say. The entire event was all yellow– streamers, balloons, banners, and even the buildings and the trees appeared to take that tint due to the strong light coming from the sun.

The 10th anniversary of the People Power in 1996 had a festive vibe. As seen on footage found on the Associated Press (AP) archives, a helicopter flew by and dropped yellow confetti on the people. There was a parade and people dancing to the beat of drums. But the 10th anniversary of EDSA was met with protests. Demonstrators waving yellow banners marched while demanding to roll-back oil prices.

The 15th anniversary of the revolution was a double celebration because it happened a month after the people ousted former President Joseph Estrada from Malacañang and replaced him with vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. However, footage from the AP Archive did not show much of the crowd that attended the celebration.

The 26th anniversary of the People Power went on with the usual “yellowness” especially since the president at the time was Benigno C. Aquino III, the son of democracy icons Ninoy and Cory. This time, the center of the celebration was at the People Power Monument and not the Mary Queen of Peace Shrine.

The Philippines marked the 30th anniversary of the revolution in 2016. Aquino, who was in his last year in office, led the celebration. The iconic yellow color was prevalent among the crowd who marched down EDSA towards the People Power Monument. The celebration went on with military helicopters dropping yellow confetti, soldiers and military officers linking their arms as they marched behind a tank decorated with flowers, and Philippine Air Force trainer planes staging a flyby.

The new administration

But as the change in the administration took place, so did the mood towards the EDSA People Power anniversary celebration.

President Duterte has skipped all People Power anniversary celebrations. Malacañang explained that the President’s absence had nothing to do with his closeness to the Marcoses and said he had a busy schedule.

The first People Power Revolution anniversary under the Duterte Administration clearly saw a division. Pro-Liberal Party people trooped to EDSA to celebrate the revolution while Duterte’s supporters staged a rally at the Quirino Grandstand.

In his message read by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, President Duterte said that the spirit of EDSA will continue to live on and hoped that it will inspire heroism among Filipinos. However, he said that no single party, ideology, religion, or individual could claim credit for what happened in 1986.

On the 33rd anniversary of the revolution, only representatives of different government agencies attended the event. Former President Fidel V. Ramos was not able to grace the celebration, prompting the organizers of the event to cancel the reenactment of the “salubong.” Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño said he was surprised by the turnout and pointed out that Metro Manila mayors did not attend, unlike the previous years.

Last year, the number of people who attended the commemorative event thinned down due to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Philippine National Police (PNP) estimated the number of participants to only 1,000. The program lasted only 12 minutes.

What’s happening?

Despite the number of participants dwindling down, Communications student Aeron Pantig thinks celebrating EDSA People Power is still important as it serves as a reminder that the fight for change does not stop.

“The country has still plenty of things to improve on that is why it is significant to keep the spirit of EDSA in the coming decades,” he said.

(officialgazette.gov.ph / FILE PHOTO)

“The anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution reminds us that it may be a grueling road, but freedom and change are worth fighting for,” he added.

Communications student Gabriel Tongco said that to remember EDSA People Power Revolution goes well beyond the customary celebration of historical events.

“I think they did well containing the fire. It continues to burn, but it’s certainly much lesser than what fueled the former revolution,” he said.

“Regardless, I like to think that such spirit lives on and that younger generations are still smart enough to see through current events, just as the old revolutionaries did,” he added.

Indeed, the date February 25, 1986 still stands as a milestone in Philippine history but it is up to the present and future generations to make sure that the effort exerted by over a million Filipinos 35 years ago will not go to waste.

EDSA did its part in reclaiming what once was lost. But like what Cory Aquino said, “It is now in the hands of the people to make that democracy work.”

 
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