With the risk of betraying my age here, I was wee little toddler when the first People Power Revolution of 1986 happened. As such, I have no recollection of what happened during those historic 4 days in February save from what I eventually read in history books, in school, and the stories my mom who was there told me.
As such, I must admit I have no idea what it was like for the millions who flocked to EDSA despite the danger that loomed, who only had hope and prayers as their weapons against tanks and guns. Instead, what I feel about it is frustration and cynicism, that it was an opportunity wasted by those same people. Now some of them have the gall to generalize that those who are supporting the son of the president who was overthrown 30 years ago are “zombies” and “retards.” While others have made the symbols of unity and freedom in 1986 become symbols of divisive politics in 2016.
With such mixed sentiments, I needed to be reminded myself of what made the People Power Revolution a defining moment for the country. I needed to understand too why we failed to follow through the ideals the revolution wanted to put in place. And the best way for me to do this is to take a walk right along the great historic avenue that is EDSA where it all happened in 1986, a walk along the EDSA 86 Trail.
Starting At The Station and the Twin Camps
I started my walk alighting at the Line 3 Station known as Santolan Station. Actually I refuse to call the station as such since the area is not in Santolan (the one in Pasig where the Line 2 Station is the real Santolan) and it refers to a road formerly known as Santolan Road which better known today as Col. Boni Serrano Avenue. But I digress. It’s one of those times I appreciate that the station has a pedestrian walkway on top of it to better appreciate the view of EDSA and all its traffic-laden glory.
In February 1986 though, the view was quite different as the wide thoroughfare was filled with people who voluntarily went to support and protect then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile whose office was at Camp Aguinaldo and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos whose office was at Camp Crame as Ramos also oversaw the Philippine Constabulary, the precursor to today’s Philippine National Police. Earlier on February 22, Enrile and Ramos announced that they were withdrawing their support to President Ferdinand Marcos, denounced the corruption and abuse of his regime, and declared that Corazon Aquino, the widow of slain Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., was the true winner of the snap elections held days earlier in February 7 and not Marcos.
Given the superior strength of the military still loyal to Marcos, there was palpable fear among the many in EDSA but remained steadfast. The gameplan was simple, form a human barricade that would block the soldiers coming in from the south in Fort Bonifacio and persuade them to join the growing resistance against the Marcos regime. That human barricade grew in number, filling that stretch of EDSA from around Camps Crame and Aguinaldo all the way to the intersection with Ortigas Avenue at least until February 25, when Aquino took her oath as President of the Philippines and Marcos eventually fled to Hawaii later that day.
Today, things around Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo are mostly quiet, save for some news that happens in those place once in a while, while the crowds that filled EDSA in those four days in February are now replaced by volumes of vehicles that choke this thoroughfare almost every single day, not to mention a mass transit line right in the middle of it.
Walking along EDSA, the Monuments of People Power
This part of EDSA from Boni Serrano to Ortigas is at least a study of contrasts. Save for the presence of Camp Crame, the southbound side of this stretch is mostly a commercial zone, comprising mainly of car dealerships, especially those of the so-called luxury car brands, mostly low-rise commercial buildings, (possible height restrictions due to their proximity to the two camps) a restaurant and a government office.
The northbound side is dominated by the presence of Camp Aguinaldo and a high-scale village which provides for a more leisurely walk, or for biking with a presence of a bike lane there. The walk along Camp Aguinaldo itself was pleasant more or less with the wide sidewalks, though you will not see much of the military facility save for the wall that has become a mural of artworks done by the pupils of a nearby school.
At the southwestern end of Camp Aguinaldo, at the intersection of EDSA and White Plains Avenue stands the People Power Monument done by sculptor Ed Castrillo in 1993. There is nothing much to say about the sculpture other than the prominent presence of what I think is Inang Bayan or Motherland and the people around her in raised arms for freedom. And if you’ve seen an Ed Castrillo sculpture, you’ve probably seen them all. (just saying, which may be good or bad depending on your viewpoint)
Alongside the monument standsa solitary monument of a man representing Ninoy Aquino, whichshould not be a surprise. After all, no matter how morbid the event was, it was his assassination that triggered the events that led to the revolution that we commemorate today.
White Plains Avenue serve as the boundary the military and the residential area along this stretch of EDSA. And from there up to the intersection along Ortigas Avenue, at the area of the high-scale residential village, the sidewalk has become narrower. One can be tempted to make up a metaphor for all this.
The Crazy EDSA-Ortigas Avenue Intersection
Finally, I was at the intersection of EDSA and Ortigas Avenue and right across is the EDSA Shrine. It is interesting to note that with the shrine and bigger complex behind it that is Robinsons Galleria, this particular area has managed to put two things that many Filipinos are fond with together make them blend together as good as halo-halo: Catholicism and commerce.
To go there, you would have to climb up and cross one of the most complex and most crazy footbridge network at the EDSA-Ortigas Avenue Intersection, with multiple “exits,” parts where you have to go down and up to accommodate the existing flyover network, and an exit which is spiral staircase. Speaking of flyover, above the footbridge is the EDSA-Ortigas Avenue flyover which is another crazy and complex network in itself which does not seem to do much in easing traffic as flyovers were originally built for.
There is also a metaphor that can be ascribed here which may help explain why the Revolution of 1986 has yet to realize the hopes and aspirations of the people first expressed there in EDSA. For one reason or another, we complicated matters that should be simple. We did not take the future into account as we were just focused on short-term band-aid solutions rather than long-term sustaining ones. We still had that mentality that excluded some members of our society who deserve something better as well. To me at least, this darned intersection represented the failure of the People Power Revolution. It achieved the short-term goal of ousting Marcos but it did not know how to achieve its long-term goals, something that critics say was not even thought about in the first place when the revolution began.
Ending at the EDSA Shrine
My walk of the EDSA 86 trail ended right at the EDSA Shrine, the structure built specially in commemoration of the People Power Revolution, also known as the “Miracle of EDSA.” I have written about the shrine before so I won’t be talking much about it here. While the revolution is itself an effort of different groups, faiths, and social classes, there is little doubt that People Power was primarily an effort of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. After all, it was a Catholic media entity, Radio Veritas, that first broadcasted the events of the revolution and the people flocked to EDSA at the prodding of the then Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin.
Despite not being a Catholic, I still have good regard for Catholic structures, most especially in this case of the EDSA Shrine. Other than the People Power Monument, it is one of the few places in this part of the historic EDSA corridor of 1986 that serves to remind the people of the struggle and the triumph People Power brought to the country. That despite of all the crap we are seeing today, that we have become cynical to believe that the “Spirit of EDSA 1986” has failed us, we are reminded to be hopeful and not lose the passion and love for the country that was expressed in 1986. The challenge now really is to not only learn and understand what People Power is all about but to figure out for ourselves the best way for us to move forward and progress while not losing those lessons the events of February 1986 has taught us.