Tag Archives: EDSA

A Warning to the Yellow Army

Dear Yellow Army:

You know who you are. You are the millions of yellow-clad supporters of a certain presidential candidate who cannot bear the face the fact that your candidate just might legitimately lose this election. Therefore, you are threatening to take to the streets in rabid protest against any election returns that are not in your favor, thereby making a complete mockery of Philippine politics.

I strongly warn you against taking this brash course of action.

After all, the Philippines is a democracy. There is no such thing as a monarchy or royal family. Thus, you simply cannot anoint the son of the Modern National Hero and the so-called “Saint of Democracy” as our next president, no matter how impressive his family legacy may be. No amount of self-righteousness can overrule a bona fide vote count.

Also, kindly refrain from using the prior surveys as proof that you candidate was cheated, in the case that he does actually lose. Those surveys only count the opinions of 3,000 people at a time. That’s the reason why we have elections – so that we can take account of the opinions of every single Filipino that chooses to include themselves in the political process.

This is not 1986. There is no overriding consensus within the Filipino people that would justify such a drastic course of action. People Power is not a brand name that can be used just by anyone, nor is its ownership passed by heredity. People Power belongs to all Filipinos, and any cheap attempt to re-create it in this instance would be sacrilege.

Quite frankly, I think your candidate will win the election anyway. However, just in case he does not, please don’t get any foolish ideas about starting EDSA 4. The mandate of the Filipino people is not with you this time.


23 Years After EDSA: A Reflection

We were exiles in our land — we, Filipinos, who are at home only in freedom — when Marcos destroyed the Republic fourteen years ago. Through courage and unity, through the power of the people, we are home again.

Twenty-three years ago tomorrow, President Corazon Aquino delivered these words of great hope and passion upon assuming the Philippines presidency in the wake of the 1986 People Power Revolution. The peaceful overthrow of the great tyrant, Ferdinand E. Marcos, sparked international curiosity and admiration. Oppressed peoples all over the world felt some of that same hope coursing through Filipino veins. When Aquino addressed a joint session of the United States Congress, the lawmakers, many clad in Aquino’s signature yellow, gave her a raucous ovation. TIME Magazine even named her 1986’s Person of the Year, writing that:

Whatever else happens in her rule, Aquino has already given her country a bright, and inviolate, memory. More important, she has also resuscitated its sense of identity and pride…. in February [1986], for a few extraordinary moments, the people of the Philippines proved their bravery to the world, and to themselves.

Twenty-three years later, EDSA One seems to be a distant memory. The great hope felt during that time is woefully absent from our hearts. The only stories found in international publications concerning the Philippines are about corruption, poverty, or Manny Pacquiao. The Philippines has once again been relegated to one of the “dustier corridors” of human consciousness.

Part of the blame lies with us. It seems that, caught up in the commotion of liberty and justice, we began to see freedom as an end rather than a means. After fifteen years of despotic rule, we were so enamored with our newfound freedom that we did not mind the responsibilities that freedom entails. Thus, the Philippines finds itself in an awkward adolescent phase, struggling to realize the potential instilled in itself by its rebirth twenty-three years ago. Once, a Filipino of great promise delivered this bold proclamation upon assuming a position of great power:

This nation can be great again. This I have said over and over…. This is your dream and mine. By your choice you have committed yourselves to it.

This proclamation came from none other than Marcos during his First Inaugural Address in 1965. Perhaps the biggest regret about Marcos should not be the wrongs he committed, but rather the good he could have done but did not. Before his Kurtzian transformation, Marcos seemed to possess the vision and sense of action that could have made the Philippines a premier Asian nation. That Marcos was consumed fully and totally by the heart of darkness is a sayang that stands alone in modern Philippine history.

In that same speech, Marcos claimed that the Filipino “had lost his soul.” This seems to be a thought shared by many – even Jose Rizal once said the Filipinos were “a people without a soul.” Yet truly, the Filipino does have a soul. It is a soul carved not from divine grace, but from oppression, disappointment, and injustice; it is a hearty soul, built to withstand the misfortunes so often thrown at it. It is a soul that makes the Filipino cynical by nature, but unquestionably durable; it is a soul that possesses infinite promise. With a tool as powerful as the Filipino soul at our disposal, we must take it upon ourselves to fulfill the greatness inherent in our nation and its people.

At the end of that First Inaugural Address, Marcos tasked the nation with this:

We must renew the vision of greatness for our country…. This is a vision that all of you share for our country’s future. It is a vision, which can, and should, engage the energies of the nation…. We must harness the wills and the hearts of all our people. We must find the secret chords, which turn ordinary men into heroes, mediocre fighters into champions…. Not one hero alone do I ask from you – but many; nay all, I ask all of you to be heroes of our nation…. Come then, let us march together towards the dream of greatness.

Thus is the challenge. Let us revive and fulfill this vision that Marcos identified, then subsequently destroyed. Only then will the legacy of the People Power Revolution be solidified– for then, the Filipino will truly be worthy of his freedom and his soul.

Mob Rule in the Philippines

Since President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the Philippines has been ruled by an unelected leader for 23 of the past 36 years – Marcos (1972-1986), Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2004). The past 36 years of Philippine “democracy” have been rife with controversy, scandal, and chaos. Stable democracy in the Philippines has largely been a myth.

In the Philippines, mob rule is the name of the game.

The EDSA Revolutions of 1986 and 2001 are two of the most important events in Philippine history. Both, particularly EDSA I in 1986, are hailed as glorious triumphs of democracy. In fact, neither were truly democratic.

EDSA I can be excused despite being non-democratic. There was no democratic process through which the people could choose their leaders. There was no alternative to revolution. The fact that the transition of power was largely bloodless and relatively peaceful is a large credit to the Filipinos of that time.

The problem with EDSA I is that it set a dangerous precedent for destabilization and instability in the Philippine political system. Despite its correctness at the time, EDSA I was still undeniably an exercise of mob mentality – the whims of the three million Filipinos standing along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue decided the course of a country populated by over 80 million, meaning that less than 5% of Filipinos decided to overthrow Marcos.

EDSA II has little in common with EDSA I other than the street on which the “revolution” was centered. EDSA II was the realization of all the dangers set in place by EDSA I, a complete breakdown of the due process of law and Democracy. In hindsight, EDSA II was a hasty exercise of mob rule. The overthrow of President Joseph Estrada – a properly-elected president – without even the completion of the Senate impeachment trial was questionable, despite the allegations of corruption.

The most damaging legacy of Marcos may be the severe disruption he did to the democratic process of the Philippines. The tumultuous thing we have here masquerading as “democracy” can hardly be called that. Without reliable elections and more political stability, the Philippines can never be a truly democratic country.

The rising uproar over the attempts of Administration-allied Congressmen to make a “Charter Change” (Cha-Cha), which may potentially extend their terms and that of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo beyond the 2010 term cap, calls forth all these memories of political instability in the Philippines. If Cha-Cha somehow is passed into law, public outrage coupled with the intense unpopularity of President Arroyo could very well result in yet another EDSA Revolution.

If this is the case, the road to mature democracy in the Philippines will only grow much longer.

Mabuhay Sa Maynila! (Welcome to Manila)

I arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport after a 15-hour aerial adventure spanning practically the entire width of the Pacific Ocean. The flight was long, but pleasant. I sat next to two very nice ladies – a Swiss retiree living in Baguio who spoke English with a Filipino accent, and a Filipina-Americana mom visiting her folks in Quezon City.

Once we hit the ground (two hours ahead of schedule), I realized that it was raining very hard, which is quite unusual for October in the Philippines. It was warm rain that did nothing to shield us from the stifling heat and humidity. I could feel the stickiness even while inside the airport as I walked through the usual checkpoints to baggage claim with my Lolas, who had traveled with me from San Francisco.

Baggage claim was a mad house. Swarms of Filipinos crowding around the claim belt. An armada of wheelchair-armed elderly folk waiting patiently behind. Servicemen talking, running around with bags. Not exactly the calm scene I am used to at American airports.

The waiting area outside of baggage claim was even crazier. Hundreds of people packed up against a fence, waiting for their friends and relatives to come out. Cars honking, speeding by the curb, more servicemen running around, lending a very useful hand. It was hot, sticky, and more chaotic than I expected it would be. So is Manila, I suppose. My bubbly Tita Florence picked me up and we headed off into the city.

Driving through Manila is like traveling across the entire spectrum of human existence. Going through the heart of Manila, we passed over dirty roads through squalid squatter areas, like the one flanking the Pasig River on the way to Roxas Blvd., the thoroughfare that runs through Manila itself. Dilapidated buildings and people stand forgotten on the side of the street. Driving on Roxas Blvd., the buildings gets less dirty, but are still dilapidated.

As we merge onto the thoroughfare that takes you through the heart of Metro Manila, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), the landscape starts to shift. Driving along under the rails of the MRT lightrail, we move through a new world, a new time. On your left you see Makati City, with its posh high-rises, elite neighborhoods, and multinational corporation headquarters. Makati is so clean and shiny that you can hardly believe it sits so close to the seedy stretches of Manila.

It’s easy to miss all these shifts if you happen to be driving the car, because it takes an extreme amount of attention and skill to avoid becoming scrap metal on the hectic streets of Metro Manila. The traffic early in the morning was not that bad, so I did not experience the legendary EDSA gridlock. I was not, however, spared much action. Cars cut sharply into the lane without warning. For no reason at all, automobiles flanked two lanes of traffic. People speed by, make dangerous turns, and blare their horns mercilessly. If a state of nature still truly exists on this world, it exists on the streets of Manila.

Continuing on EDSA through Mandaluyong towards Quezon City, you see skyscrapers, condominiums, and massive malls. The malls in particular can look so out of place at some sections, grandiose and immaculate on the side of dirty, muddy streets. Philippine malls are truly a sight to behold – they are so large and popular compared to even some of the premiere American malls. The great irony of some of the higher end malls is that the droves of people walking through the shops cannot afford anything – they are merely trying to escape the heat via the mall’s air conditioning system.

During the next few days I will be staying in a hotel before getting more permanently settled. The hotel is nice, with all the amenities you could possibly need and with the standard, super-attentive Filipino hospitality workers. From my room I have a wonderful view of Metro Manila, the sprawling metropolis filled with skyscrapers, homes, greenery, construction, destruction, squalor, and beauty. As I watch the cars and trains move by on EDSA, it is almost as if I am feeling the pulse of Manila, its hypertensive, irregular heart beat, through my eyes. This is a city pulsing with an immeasurable amount of possibility, where you can do anything, and anything can happen to you.

Manila is alive.