I was in Grade 2 when Malacañang got toppled over by multitudes of people praying, singing and hoping for change. My father, a Nationalist, dragged the innocent me to the people-filled roads of EDSA wanting me to savour the power of the people, their gods and their prayer beads. Father whispered to me that we were in a Revolution.
The roads were closed from Guadalupe, so we walked all the way to Santolan. It was an easy trip. We were not alone. There were hundreds of people on their work clothes and office casuals who were marching with us.
The color was Yellow.
But by the time we reached Mandaluyong Crossing, my feet gave up. My father lifted me and let me sit on his shoulders. For the first time, I saw the world of EDSA on that February night in ’86.
There were tanks, yes. And soldiers with guns. They were sitting on the their tanks, while some where on the roads, joining men and eating, and drinking, and chatting with them. “Kelangan na ng pagbabago!” my father shouted to me. And so we joined the multitudes of people.
Had my father done something like that at this day and age, he would have had online bashers for bringing a young kid to a place where violence could easily erupt.
But it was a holy night! The air was cold, and the crowds so cheerfully accommodating. As National Artist Nick Joaquin wrote, “the crowd that was expected to dwindle seemed to swell instead…One reason for the eager turn-out: it was such a beautiful night. The moon almost full made the ambience so lucid some people claimed they could read by its light. The air so crisp and brisk it was a delight to be out of doors. Nobody was being pompous or heroic about this camp-out on ground threatened with bombardment. The priests and nuns and the pious were here from obedience; the other adults were simply anti-Marcos; for most of the young (myself included) all this was just a lark.”
At some point during the night, my father let me sit on a pavement and I watched him join a huddle of young men and women. They talked about Marcos, and about Cory. For me, it was only Red against Yellow.
Red was bad. Yellow was hope.
We stayed for the night and stayed until the end of the 25th. That, I remember so well. It was a Tuesday, and classes has been suspended since Monday. We were there when the mindful chanting of prayers turned into deafening cheers when my Father told me, “Umalis na si Marcos sa Malacañang!”
It was around 6:30 pm.
There were tears and more tears. It was still too big for me at that time, but the look at my father’s eyes was priceless. And I will never forget what he did to me after that.
The Yellow won. The Yellow lost, eventually. As time took its turn, it proved to the Nation that it can only do so much. But if bringing freedom, peace and democracy; and that look in my father’s eyes is how you measure a triumph – that was, in itself, already more than enough.
The 38 year-old in me sees the 1986 triumph in EDSA as a miracle. An overnight miracle, given to a People who have been longing for change after 20 years of darkness. Light dawned on the morning of February 26, 1986.
Mordor has fallen.
What happened after that, or even years later, is another matter.
But what matters more is that we are still enjoying the light until now.
Joaquin was right when he said that it was the hour of truth at the barricades under the Tiger Moon. On that night, “every defender of the native honor can not but insist that we have offered them – not astonishment – but the usual. What we offered was the customary, the accustomed, the habitual, the ordinary; the wonted, the normal. In short, we acted then as we should have acted on the first day Mr. Marcos, way back in 1972, placed his boot around our neck!”
What worries me is that today, we only look back at EDSA as a distant memory, tainted by everything that came after. Having another Aquino in Malacañang today, makes the memory grow colder, too, by the day.
Today, we have another Marcos aiming to set his foot again in the halls of Malacañang. A frightening omen brought about by our People’s value to forgive and forget.
For my friends and students who just simply can’t believe that Marcos, Imelda and their cronies were that cruel when he was in power, just think about the vast resources of literature and media that has been published and produced during a time when publication was no easy thing. Just think about it. Letting another Marcos set foot on the seat of power only goes to show how our forgiving selves could be our next funeral.
Aside from Marcos Jr., we have a also humored Marcos daughter in line for the highest position.
And then there’s the Davao-mayor aiming to bring peace through military rule if he becomes president. C’mon, you guys! Are we really asking for another set of nightmares? Really?
As an art-blogger and activist, I appreciate one ballet company in the Philippines who takes the task this year to remember that magical moment in our history. Ballet Manila recalls this triumph against decades of corruption in their production of REBEL. This remembering opens today. Can’t wait.
I just hope my father’s here with me to celebrate, and remember and cheer.
But for today, let me just remember my Father’s eyes when he cheered, shouted and sang on that February night, with his eyes, brimming with tears as he embraced me for the first time, since I can remember.
Sandali ‘atang nakalimutang bakla ako.
That, I remember and will never forget.
Joaquin, N., et al. (1986). The quartet of the tiger moon: Scenes from the people-power apocalypse. Manila: Book Stop.
Santiago, A. S. (2013). Edsa uno: Narrative and analysis with notes on dos & tres. Mandaluyong: Stuart-Santiago Publishing.