Today, the country commemorates the anniversary of what is considered to be the one of the first nonviolent revolutions that has occurred in the history of humankind. I am referring to of course to the first People Power or EDSA Revolution, the four-day uprising which culminated this day in 1986 when the authoritarian rule of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos ended and a more democratic government was inaugurated with Pres. Corazon Aquino, widow of the assassinated anti-Marcos figure Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., at the helm.
The revolution would not have been possible without the efforts spearheaded by the Catholic Church at that time, particularly the efforts of the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin who called on the people to support then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces vice chief Fidel Ramos who had earlier withdrawn support from the Marcos government and have barricaded themselves inside Camp Crame along EDSA. Thus, while the People Power Revolution is considered a multi-sectoral effort, it was in a way apt that it would be the Catholic Church who would spearhead the effort of building a structure to commemorate this event.
It was decided that the structure which would rise along part of EDSA would be a shrine dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus as the “Our Lady of Peace,” since the event was a “peaceful revolution” that was believed to have been made possible in part by her. It was officially named the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of EDSA, but it became more popularly known as the EDSA Shrine.
The shrine would consist of two levels, the ground level which would house the main church and two chapels and the second level where halls would be built for shrine activities, as well as where the carillon bells and the Stations of the Cross would be placed.
The shrine itself is a collaborative effort of many artists: Francisco Mañosa (the architect behind the Coconut Palace) did the architectural design; Napoleon Abueva did the sculptures of the shrine’s Stations of the Cross as well as the marble altar; Ramon Orlina did the glass cross sculpture at the altar; sculptor Manny Casal did a sculpture of 3 men (representing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao) holding a cauldron over their shoulders called the “Flame of Freedom;” Eduardo Castrillo did the glass ceiling art and sculpture at the shrine’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel; Ben Alano painted a wall mural depicting the life of San Lorenzo Ruiz at the chapel dedicated to the saint; Nemi Miranda (AKA Nemiranda) and other Angono artists created the murals depicting the events of People Power; and artist Virginia Ty-Navarro did what is perhaps the most identifiable landmark of the shrine, the massive bronze sculpture of Mary, Queen of Peace at the structure’s apex.
Construction of the shrine would be completed in 1989 though its opening faced some delay due to a coup attempt in November that year which was eventually thwarted. The shrine officially opened its doors on December 15, coinciding with the first day of the Simbang Gabi Christmas tradition of Filipino Catholics.
Over the years, the imposing presence of EDSA Shrine, especially that of the sculpture on top of it, was dwarfed somehow with the rise of a shopping mall next door and the construction of the EDSA-Ortigas Avenue flyover during the 1990s. There was also the construction of the Line 3 mass transit system whose tracks would have originally been built near the shrine itself but were diverted to the opposite side instead. But if there was any concern about the literal and figurative “dwarfing” of EDSA Shrine with these developments, it can be supposed that the occurrence of the second People Power Revolution (AKA EDSA Dos) in January 2001 allayed those fears as the shrine itself became the focal point of the protests against the perceived corruption of the administration of Pres. Joseph Estrada, which included the events of January 21 in which then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took her oath as president in the shrine. As such, the shrine commemorated the events of that time with the addition of the murals depicting them courtesy of Nemiranda.
Religious matters aside, the EDSA Shrine is perhaps the most important landmark to have risen in the metropolis in the country’s post-EDSA 1 history as it serves as a reminder of the achievement of what Philippine democracy has given not only in the country but elsewhere around the world as well. That being said, it also serves as a reminder that even after almost 30 years (at this time of writing, of course) much still needs to be done to fulfill the goals People Power aimed to achieve that remains unfulfilled.
Acknowledgements as well to the EDSA Shrine website at edsashrine.com