People Power at Twenty

Bandwagoning again, goodness… But, then…

It’s funny how I reacted to the articles on the First People Power that have been coming out of PDI. Ha, ha: they actually bring a tear or more to my eyes.

I belong to the generation who fought on the Second People Power. And before. I can still remember those days of the Resign-Impeach-Oust (RIO) Initiatives against Erap. All those meetings. All those street actions and forums. More meetings. More actions, some of them really big ones like the Impeachain, the Jericho March (and its near-disastrous security lapse by yours truly that allowed those damned NDs to overrun the K2Y positions, grr), and the first gathering at EDSA on November.

Even those of us who were at the forefront of the RIO and the Second People Power still stand in awe of those who made the First possible. Men and women like Dinky Soliman, Butch Abad and Jovy Salonga were our idols, men and women who literally faced the guns and goons of a dictatorship and won.

Yet, I think we who stood against Erap, and tried to maintain what little sanity (and security) could be maintained in a crowd of up to a million in those days of the PP2, can appreciate what went on in the First. In fact, I think it was also the answer of my generation to our elders’, that, yes, we can make a difference, too.

Still, PP1 awes me. True, I had a cannon barrel facing me squarely during the Second, but I knew there was little to no intent of its use, at least immediately. So when I see pix or vidcaps of those people who literally stood against those tanks in the First… awe is the least thing I would feel. These were ordinary people. These were the kind of people you meet everyday on the streets or at work. These were people who didn’t have an ounce of training for operations in the public sphere, not the people who usually waved flags or shouted slogans. How many of those standing on EDSA in 1986 were part of the First Quarter Storm? How many of them, at least before 1983, participated in rallies and other actions against the dictator?

Yet they were there. For four glorious days the people we call “ordinary” flocked to EDSA and stopped the tanks and heavily-armed troops. They came there not with red-colored flags but with rosaries and packets of food and drinks that they eagerly shared with the soldiers they came to stop and could have rolled over them anytime. They came not to shout slogans but to pray and talk with the soldiers, and to peacefully demand a change in government.

Now, People Power is twenty years. All I can remember of that date was my parents debating on whether they would get my grandparents from Manila and bring them to us at Muntinlupa. I was too young then, to appreciate what was happening, and I can’t recall my parents telling me things like “malaya na tayo, anak,” after Marcos left. And growing up with a grandmother who’s a Blue Lady can really screw up your appreciation for the Martial Law years and People Power. Add to that one’s distressing memories of the Blackout Years (imagine being one of the first families in your community with a PC – this was 1990, okay? – and not being to use it with impunity because there’s no electricity for, say, half the day), and things really get kind of muddled.

But, yes, I can appreciate it now; after all, I’ve been serving as part of Civil Society since the formation of the UCSC in 1998. And I wish that the government could’ve done a better celebration of this landmark date. Or if government won’t, maybe CivSoc should. Proper remembrances of dates like this are important to the rebuilding of a nation. People need to properly remember what happened and why it happened. We need these stories to remind us of a time when we were better. Or rather a time when the Filipino acted the way the should. Filipinos need to remember how and why the First People Power happened, because we just might find in the experiences of those four days the answers for many of the questions we’ve been asking since the Second.

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