Freedom and other ideas
Today my country marks the 28th anniversary of the peaceful revolution that overthrew the corrupt and murderous conjugal regime of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. I was in the second year of high school, busy with the affairs that occupy someone my age: the end of the school year, the promise of summer, and my burgeoning sexuality. But even then, self-absorbed as I was, I knew that there was something bigger than I ever imagined that was happening beyond the seemingly bucolic life that I had in Bulacan. I could sense the exhilaration of my elders, who viewed the unfolding events in EDSA with wonder and fascination and amazement. They didn’t think that such a thing was possible.
Fast forward to now and I am so far removed from my twelve year-old self–both in good and bad ways. Many summers have shaped me to be the man I am today. The years have ravaged me in painful and pleasurable ways. I have traveled far and wide and expanded my horizons. But upon coming back I realized that I am still the same. Insecure. Hungry for approval. And although I can see and feel that many things have changed in my country, I find it essentially the same. Corrupt. Hungry for heroes.
What happened to the promise of EDSA?
Many people wiser than I am have asked this question. The answers have been more eloquent than I will ever be. People tend to associate the EDSA revolution with many things. Too many, in fact, that it has become difficult for people to observe/ celebrate its anniversary because the so-called “promise of EDSA” has not been fulfilled. In my opinion, we should celebrate the anniversary of the EDSA for its sole achievement: the peaceful excision of a ruthless dictator.
This is something that we did very well. The ouster of the Marcos regime paved the way for us to recoup our losses and to establish reforms. However, our failure to make these reforms effect genuine change is not the failure of EDSA, but completely our own. With EDSA, we have been given a rare opportunity to clean the slate and start over but unfortunately, we squandered this opportunity.
So even if we changed presidents many times already, the country remains essentially the same: corruption is endemic in all levels of government, the gulf between the poor and the rich remains wide, among other things. Young people, upon whom our future is hinged, do not have a sense of history. The electorate continues to fool itself into thinking they can put idiots and thieves in office without consequence. Even the Church arrogantly ignores the separation of church and state, which is explicitly stated in the Constitution.
Revisionists dare to dilute the significance of the EDSA revolution and going to the extent of romanticizing life in the Marcos era as something much better that our life today. The audacity of those expressing these outrageous lies makes me cringe.
Still, I believe that all is not lost. I think, as long as there are Filipinos who will stand up for free speech, we have a chance. Those in government today seem to forget that the People Power Revolution was the greatest manifestation of our right to free speech and to assemble peacefully. Our politicians and officials need to be reminded that whatever power or privilege that they are enjoying right now, they owe not only from the people who voted for them, but also from those who, in 1986, risked their very lives to bring back democracy.