History in the making

History, as they say, is written by the victors.

Thirty-one years ago, Filipinos gathered on a street called EDSA to protect a couple of coup plotters and their men from the then president of the Republic of the Philippines and his army. They came in response to a call from the then Archbishop of Manila called Cardinal Sin if you can believe it. The rest as they say is history.

Of course, things could have been very different. The order to attack could have been given. An itchy finger could have sparked a firefight. The armored personnel carriers could have breached the thin hollowblock walls of Camp Aguinaldo, and helicopters could have fired upon the people gathered in the streets. Instead, a thin line of rosaries and flowers held back an unstoppable force. Believe what you will but that street is called Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (epifany of the saints) and it was a moment you can describe as a modern day miracle. You can say it was a moment touched by God.

That moment was not about a dead former senator, or his widow. It was not about their family against another. It was about a dictator and his ouster from power. The revolution itself was unintended. It all started with a coup d’etat that never got off, for intentions we will never know. Then the power of the people took over, and the dictator left or was taken out of the country. Make no mistake, the revolution succeeded. The dictator was gone.

After the victory, when the euphoria has been spent, we realize that we have changed little from where we were 31 years ago and ask, has God abandoned us? The truth is that while God can help us along the way, much of getting where we want to go depends on the decisions we make in every single moment of every single day.

Fast forward to 2017 and, horror of horrors, we find that the wheel has turned 360-degrees. Sitting as president is one who identifies closely with the former president ousted from power 31 years ago. The dictator has been buried in a place for men of honor and honored men. Blood runs in the streets. Policemen are abusing their power, and the government’s critics are being hunted. If history is written by the victors, then the victor in the last presidential election has decided to turn things on its head and rewrite history. There’s anger in the streets, and celebrating the victory that was the EDSA Revolution has taken on a new importance. It has become an inspiration.

True, there is a new victor in the seat of power but history is continuously being written, and if the people persists in the struggle, then perhaps victory can once again be achieved. However the struggle ends, history itself will roll on. What will be written, however, is largely up to us…


EDSA Forgotten

EDSA, that long stretch of a highway from Pasay to Caloocan formerly known as Highway 54 has long been the bane of drivers. To drive through it is to contend with a maddening mix of buses, jeepneys, trucks of all shapes and sizes, a swarm of motorcycles whose riders think they are immortals, and the occasional fool of a pedestrian streaking across with reckless abandon.

There was a time, however, that EDSA was more than just a hellish highway you had to endure going to and from any point of Metropolitan Manila. There was a time when EDSA, an acronym for the name of a historian after whom the highway was named, Epifanio Delos Santos, lived up to its name.

For a few days in 1986, EDSA was the setting for one of those astonishing moments in history when human flesh and blood stood against helicopters, tanks and guns…and won. A moment that cracked the iron grip of a dictator and ended his rule. An epiphany of the saints if you will. A moment that well symbolized the Philippines, long deemed the Sick Man of Asia, full of hope and promise.

That moment has come and gone. We look back to that brief time of glory, of hope, and wonder where has it all gone? What have we made of it?

These days, there have been encouraging news reports of how the Philippines have begun to shrug the title of Sick Man of Asia. Econonomically, they say, the Philippines have outperformed its neighbors. Even China. Under any measure, that is an achievement and we Filipinos should celebrate it. But even to this bright spot in our history, there is still darkness around.

Think about it, the problems this country is facing now has always been the same problems it was coping with since the 70s, and some say even earlier when the Philippines was at its brightest as the Pearl of the Orient. Even now we face a communist insurgency, a Muslim separatist movement (albeit under different names now), poverty and corruption and all these have been around for the last 40 years. Even the economic gains this country has achieved is criticized for failing to be inclusive. Whatever development that has occurred has not trickled down to the masses. Worse, like Philippine politics itself, it is all anchored on personalities. In this case, the President. Unfortunately, his term ends in a year or so. What then?

The challenges facing the country has always been the same because we have never fixed the system that the Spanish and the American conquerors perpetuated long before we achieved what independence we were able to bargain for. In this context, the EDSA Revolution is just one among the many acts of bravery the Filipinos showed throughout its history but it has achieved little for the Filipinos themselves. The worst part is that we have no one to blame but our selves for no one has done more to perpetuate these challenges than we Filipinos. The worst part of it is that the people we ousted in EDSA are now back in power. How’s that for a slap on the face?

EDSA, the moment, came and went and now we only have the old decaying structure we have come to curse on a daily basis…