EDSA 38 Years On: Remembering Revolution in the Shadow of Today

When I was thirteen, the Philippines pulsed with a faint but growing desire for freedom under the suffocating grip of the Marcos regime. My world, once defined by childhood, now expanded to include an awareness of struggle and resistance. Hidden books by authors like Primitivo Mijares, Ricardo Manapat, and Raymond Bonner revealed truths the streets of Manila dared not speak. They illuminated my young mind, guiding me through the shadows of oppression toward a quest to reclaim my nation.

Thirty-eight years after EDSA, echoes of that moment still ring—the clamor of voices demanding dignity and freedom. In the cycle of history, I now see power lost and won again. The Marcoses, once ousted, are back, their legacy a complex thread in the ever-evolving story of the Philippines. Imelda's deliberate absence from her son's campaign and simmering tensions with Rodrigo Duterte further complicate our current political landscape.

What does the legacy of EDSA mean? Was it simply a moment of defiance, or does its spirit guide us still, calling for a brighter future?

Preludes to Revolution

Before the world focused on Manila, the Philippines suffered under Ferdinand Marcos's ambition. Martial law in 1972 brought a chilling silence punctuated by dissent. Figures like Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and Corazon Aquino emerged as symbols of resistance, intertwined with the military's fracturing loyalty and the people's burgeoning will.

Cardinal Sin's pleas on Radio Veritas became a rallying cry during the People Power Revolution in 1986. He urged the Filipino people toward a pivotal moment with words of prayer and peace. The revolution was about more than a political shift; it was a testament to the power of faith and unity in deciding a nation's fate. The true heroes were the figures we remember and the countless Filipinos whose voices finally rose together.

EDSA's Enduring Pulse

After the revolution, the Philippines navigated the turbulent transition from dictatorship to democracy. As President, Corazon Aquino faced the daunting task of dismantling Marcos's systems and laying the foundations of a people-centered government. Her administration sought to create a constitution that reflected the values of justice, liberty, and democracy.

But EDSA's impact didn't vanish. It became a reminder of the power of unity—a lesson for all Filipinos who dream of a better tomorrow. However, the road was never smooth. The thrill of victory faded, replaced by the realities of governing a nation trying to find itself after years of turmoil. Old problems like corruption, poverty, and inequality lingered.

Still, the EDSA spirit persisted, a beacon of hope in a country navigating political shifts. The revolution taught us freedom is worth fighting for but must be constantly defended. Today, as we grapple with echoes of the past, the revolution's true legacy lies in reminding us of the people's power – a power every generation must claim to ensure justice, equality, and freedom.

In 2024, the Philippines faces another turning point. There's a push for constitutional change under the guise of economic reform, but many believe it conceals a desire for unchecked power and endless wealth by those already in authority. If it succeeds, the change won't mean just economic transformation but a threat to the democracy that the EDSA uprising fought so hard to build. This struggle shows us the fight for the nation's soul is never truly over.

Marcoses and the Malleable Nature of Memory

Filipinos are forgiving, tend to forget easily, and allow themselves to be swayed. These traits influence how we remember — or forget — history. The Marcoses' return to power isn't just a quirk of fate; it reflects on our national memory that seems to fade with time.

Once exiled, the family of Ferdinand Marcos, marked by martial law and abuse, has clawed its way back to the heart of Philippine politics. His son, Bongbong Marcos, now walks the corridors of power, aided by a nation quick to move past the shadows of its history.

This return is a dance of acceptance and amnesia. It showcases forgiveness but also reveals a collective forgetting of a time when tyranny reigned.  This amnesia allows history to be reshaped, heroes painted as villains, and vice versa. The Marcoses, once reviled, are now reconsidered, their legacy open to manipulation by public opinion and political strategy.

This return is also a lesson in the fragility of democracy. The Philippines stands at a crossroads, its future shaped by how we remember the past. The resurgence of the Marcos name isn't just political; it's a mirror reflecting on our capacity to forgive, the dangers of forgetting, and the power our memories hold over our future as a nation.

The Marcos family's notoriety includes being listed by Guinness World Records for the biggest government theft ever – an estimated $5-10 billion. This record, though removed,  solidified the perception of corruption during the Marcos era. Bongbong was an adult by this time,  benefiting from his parents' ill-gotten wealth. This casts doubt on his ability to separate himself from his family's legacy and raises valid concerns about the future of the Philippines.

Bongbong's response, "I am not my father," seeks to create distance, but it doesn't address the regime that shaped his political career and from which he continues to benefit.

Echoes of EDSA in Charter Change

EDSA taught us the importance of democracy, transparency, and rebuilding institutions. These ideals become the lens through which we must examine the current pushes for charter change and initiatives like PIRMA.

Allegations of vote-buying and abuses during the PIRMA campaign recall issues the EDSA Revolution sought to address. The People's Initiative is designed to allow citizens to directly participate in governance, embodying the spirit of EDSA. However, its execution, fraught with controversies, reminds us how the struggle to uphold EDSA values never truly ends.

Calls for constitutional change, especially via methods that appear to bypass regular democratic processes, reflect a desire for a government that represents the people's will. But the integrity of these processes is vital. EDSA taught us the importance of moral leadership, accountability, and collective action in shaping the destiny of our country. We must judge the current administration against the principles EDSA upheld.

As long as charter change attempts appear suspicious, democratic ideals seem threatened. This highlights the need for vigilance and active citizen participation. EDSA's relevance becomes even clearer in such times, reminding us that our freedom and democracy depend on constant defense.

Safeguarding the 1987 constitution isn't just about preserving a document but upholding the freedoms and principles that document protects. As long as processes around changing it are considered dubious, our constitution, democracy, and freedom remain secure.

Public Perception and Battling Disinformation

Whether you lived through the People Power Revolution or simply stand for the ideals of democracy, the importance of EDSA should be clear. Yet, when I spoke to sixteen-year-olds about EDSA, many had never heard of it. Their lukewarm reactions highlight a generational gap in understanding this event.

Even without the intentional distortions of revisionists, signs of public forgetting are clear. This tendency, perhaps part of our culture, to forgive and forget makes preserving EDSA's memory even more challenging. If a moment so crucial to our identity fades, the battle to keep its legacy alive will be even harder.

Troll farms and organized disinformation campaigns are formidable forces today, trying to rewrite the Marcos era. Using distortion, hero-worship, and attacks on critics, they flood platforms with pro-Marcos rhetoric. Research and journalism have exposed these networks, revealing their deep influence on our collective memory. Their goal isn't simply distortion; it's paving the way for a Marcos political resurgence, breaking down trust in credible information, and rewriting a national narrative in their favor.

Bongbong Marcos, reflecting on EDSA's anniversary, positions it as an interruption to his father's supposed vision of development. He speaks of "missed opportunities" while ignoring the abuses of martial law.  The current administration's downplaying of the EDSA anniversary signals an attempt to decrease its importance.

This battle over the memory of EDSA underlines the importance of engaging critically with history. As we face waves of disinformation, educators, journalists, and everyone must seek the truth and preserve the People Power Revolution's legacy.  History isn't just about the past; it's a dialogue shaping who we are as a nation. History isn't just the past. It's a fight we wage every day.

A Litmus Test We Failed: The 2022 Elections

The 2022 election tested how well we learned EDSA's lessons.  If we truly understood them, the Marcos name wouldn't sway in Malacañang. Yet here we are. A team tirelessly crafted a palatable image for Bongbong as an underdog, a persona that resonates with many Filipinos.

But unity, as a central campaign theme, proved fleeting post-election. Duterte and Marcos now find themselves at odds, echoing past conflicts when unity meant more than empty words. EDSA wasn't about personal gain but a selfless, unified struggle for the country's soul.

Despite offering morally sound guidance, Robredo's voice often seemed drowned out by carefully constructed opposition narratives.  Proof that the public is easily swayed by constructed images over inconvenient truths.

In fairness, Marcos Jr. speaks with a disarming charm that mirrors what many desire in their leaders. But the true measure of his leadership, the clear distinction from his parents' legacy, remains to be seen. His time in office offers an opportunity to step out from those long shadows and to prove that he will let his actions, not simply words, define him.

As Duterte now opposes Marcos, with Sara Duterte positioned precariously between them, we see history repeating itself. Like the brief unity of Robredo within Duterte's cabinet that ultimately shattered, these shifting allegiances and conflicting goals cast doubts on any promises of unity made.

We stand in the shadow of EDSA. Its lessons seem forgotten when judged against the consequences of recent elections. Failing to elect leaders who embody the values of EDSA reveals our amnesia, a dangerous drift away from ideals that once unified a nation.

But remembering isn't enough. It's time to embody EDSA's teachings. Our leader's campaign for unity shouldn't just be lip service; we should demand that they deliver it through their actions. Beyond images and promises during elections, the well-being of the Filipino people must be the true, unwavering goal.

Ultimately, EDSA's legacy in our elections demands that we wield our collective power with wisdom – a reminder that history isn't simply events but a constant struggle fought daily for a fairer, more democratic society.

Hope and History: A Reflection on EDSA's Legacy and the Future's Uncertain Path

From whispers of change and the quiet courage found in hidden books, my journey began amidst the oppressive weight of a dictatorship. Now, decades after EDSA, as I turn fifty, history's cycle turns again. Marcos's name, once exiled, now commands the halls of power, challenging the legacy of that monumental uprising.

The election revealed a drift away from EDSA's hard-learned lessons. Marcos Jr., with his claims of unity and progress, tapped into a collective yearning. Yet, the true impact of his rule, set against his family's past, remains to be seen. Though coming late, these reflections underscore the urgency we must reclaim EDSA's enduring relevance.

The promise of unity dangled by both Marcos and Duterte resonated deeply with the nation. Unfortunately, its fragility is bare, highlighting the complex dance between past grievances and present realities.

This journey, from a young boy's awakening to a man's troubled contemplation, reveals the power of memory. The spirit of EDSA, with its call for democracy and justice, still has the potential to illuminate our path. It beckons us toward a future shaped by its ideals and guided by lessons learned.

With Marcos now in power, the only hope remains that history doesn't repeat itself. The possibility that his past behavior could predict his future casts a long, uncertain shadow over our nation. It remains to be seen whether he can or will, rise above his inheritance.

Let me be clear: this mix of hope and trepidation is where our future hangs in the balance. I choose to hold onto hope, knowing that vigilance and unwavering demands for democracy are the only way to ensure that the legacy of EDSA lives on.


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