In late February 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the now famous Edsa Revolution, also known to some as People Power Revolution that happened in Manila. This pivotal event happened days after what was called “Snap Election” on February 7th called by then president Ferdinand Marcos after more than 20 years since enforcing Martial Law in the country. A week after Election Day, Marcos was declared the victor by the Commission on Election (Comelec) with staff knowing the election was rigged. A day later Comelec staff walked out of the commission’s office in protest as seen in news footage aired around the country. This would later provoke civilians, top officers of the armed forces, and even members of the clergy to rally amongst supporters of the opposing party called Laban for change (the word laban is the Tagalog word for fight) – a revolution was brewing in Manila. The gathering of all if not most of these people happened a week later at one of the busiest streets of Quezon City called Edsa Boulevard hence the name Edsa Revolution.
The election of February 1986 was only seven weeks before my 11th birthday. I remember as a child living in the north side of Quezon City, our school was closed during the week of the Elections because our classroom were being used as election precincts. According to my mother who went to my school to vote, hundreds maybe even thousands of people showed up to perform their civic duty to select the next leader of our country. My father didn’t say much about the atmosphere of the precinct but he shared the same reaction as my mother. My parent certainly didn’t tell us children who they voted for. My mother at the time was about four months pregnant of my youngest brother. I don’t remember what transpired later that day but I do remember our entire household glued to the television watching footage of other precincts in the country. They were just as crowded and busy as our school my mother thought. The following week, we returned to school seeing a big and complete mess with debris of blank ballots and pamphlets distributed to voters at the very last minute dumped all over the school grounds and some of our classrooms. The next few days the entire country was at the edge waiting for results of the election. Then footage of Comelec staff walkout was shown in the news. There was a number of staff seen walking out of the Comelec office in front of their colleagues because they discovered the computers used to count the ballots were manipulated to announce Marcos as the winner the day before. To everyone else, this was a clear sign of corruption. Then in the news, I heard the names of top military officers mentioned frequently over the next few days. These men were once in service of Marcos’ government but judging from recent events, they have clearly changed their position. In the next few days, people were still talking about the election, the rigging of the ballots and what the potential events that could happen with top military officers involved. My parents did not discuss goings on at home but everyone sure is talking particularly the faculty and administration at our school. Some was definitely brewing.
The next few days were a blur then one day it was announced on television that all schools from elementary to colleges and universities in Metropolitan Manila are closed. Closed! Why? In some parts of Manila the streets were filled with people from the night before and never left. These people were civilians and high ranking military officers that have started a rally with supporters of Partido Laban. As a ten-year old girl not knowing much about the world let alone politics I immediately thought this could be the beginnings of a war. My pregnant mother in clear distress (or perhaps it’s the hormones) immediately went to my father and said “We’ve got to stock up on food and water.” Metropolitan Manila was in an uproar. That afternoon, my parents with our white Volkwagen Beetle as our family car came home from the warehouse store with cases of canned goods and more than a dozen one-gallon containers of drinking water. That whole day the entire household were diligently watching and following the events around the city.
There were no television stations airing regular programming that day. All TV stations, at least in Manila, were broadcasting these rallies. I remember watching the news seeing not just news anchors, TV correspondents and politicians on the air. I remember watching actors, film directors, musicians, singers, even leaders of the Catholic Church inviting people to join the “revolution” in various parts of the city particularly in Edsa. Why they chose to do it in Edsa Boulevard, I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t remember how they manage to end up there. By this time there were thousands of people in participation and soldiers loyal to Marcos sent to places like Edsa with tanks and rifles to subdue protestors if they turn violent. These celebrities were not just inviting people to participate but those who wants to join are encouraged to wear white shirts – white believing it is the color of peace. These celebrities also asked people if they manage to get to Edsa to waive a white handkerchief up in the air as a sign they are there with peaceful means practicing their civil rights and have no intention of harming anyone. They just want their voices heard and they want the authorities to listen. None of the civilians were reported to have brought any weapons of any kind at all, instead most brought flowers – yes, flowers which they then gave to Marcos’ soldiers. Though this part of the story may sound like a hippy-trippy drama, somehow the soldiers did not act violently against any civilian.
Suddenly on the morning of February 25th, Corazon Aquino the presidential candidate for Partido Laban was sworn in as president of the Philippines. An hour later that same morning, Ferdinand Marcos was sworn in as president.
All of this went on for about four days until the night the Marcoses and their loyal staff were evacuated from the presidential palace, Malacañang by helicopter to Honolulu where the stayed in exile until 1991. Soon after the evacuation, people stormed Malacañang Palace, some ransacked offices and others found Imelda’s massive collection of designer clothes, shoes and fine jewelry. This evacuation and ‘looting’ was covered by every TV station in the country. This marked the end of the Marcos regime in the Philippines.
When the events came to a close, it was reported that no civilian, soldier even politician were hurt or killed during the revolution. My parents were relieved the revolution was over. None of the members of our household dared join the commotion in the city. The events we saw all in television. My parents did not allow any of us leave the house during the four days of uproar in fear that we might get hurt or worst killed. Some might think this is cowardly, but others see it simply for our own protection.
During the last four days we ate leftovers in the fridge before hitting what my parents bought from the warehouse store. My mother estimated that our food supply then would last about a month considering we portion our food effectively. Thankfully, we didn’t end up doing all those things. As a child, I was quite relieved there was no war or violence that happened during these events. I would not want to go through that. Granted we lived closer to the suburbs, you can never be sure how events like this will spread and suddenly turn at your door.
The following week school resumed again. I honestly cannot recall if my classmates ever talked about their own experience or perspective about the revolution. But one thing was certain. The Edsa Revolution was a bloodless revolution and that very small yet important fact was reported all over the world. I remember my teachers then was very proud announcing this to class.
Today, Edsa Boulevard remains the busiest and one of the most congested streets in Quezon City with the light rail train (LRT) running above it amidst the big shopping malls in the area. A different generation crowds Edsa Boulevard now, half of which were not yet born then. They could only hear stories about this in their history lessons in their classroom. They will never feel the emotions my generation went through during those four pivotal days not knowing what could have happened.
P.S. I apologize if I have not photos for this post. This is purely a memoir of a pivotal event in Philippines.Google+