One brief shining moment that was known as People Power

I was there 25 years ago with a contingent of UP Law students that manned the barricades. We were in the night shift. I was with a paralegal quick reaction team that was directed to go to Malacañang when news filtered in that people were looting the palace. What we were supposed to do as paralegals, I can’t remember. What I remember was that I was driving, the streets were on fire (abandoned bonfires? molotov cocktails?) and we turned back.

Despite the attempts to drum up interest in the 25th anniversary of the EDSA People Power, I was unmoved. Although I will always feel a certain amount of pride in being part of the historic moment that threw out a dictator, I have no illusions. For some people, booting out Marcos was the only purpose of People Power; I was hoping for more. I was hoping for real change. And I was disappointed. Perhaps, I should have known better than to expect real change when the people who replaced Marcos were all part of the same elite that has maintained the lopsided economic power distribution in the country.

I had no love nor admiration for Ninoy Aquino and I took no part in the mass actions that followed his death. I did not go to his wake, I did not join his funeral march. I agree with F. Sionil Jose who wrote:

Ninoy Aquino was a politician, a skilled opportunist. He returned not so much because he was needed here but because Marcos was very ill; he knew that it was time for him to return and fill the vacuum of leadership if Marcos died or was displaced by political mass action, Ninoy was the anointed successor; he had charisma, a vast following, friends in the Army, and a political machine. He had miscalculated. He was courageous, but that courage was opportunism, too. True heroism is selfless. He was murdered, not martyred.

It was only after the COMELEC officials walked out while tabulating that results of the 1986 snap elections that I took notice of Cory Aquino, her growing influence, aware that she was at the right place at the perfect time to boot out Marcos. She was serendipity personified and I was not oblivious to it. For one shining moment, we had a chance for real change and greatness, Cory blew it and the country stood by and let her because, after Marcos, anything sounded better.

Where are we now? We have a president who shares the same surname as the man who got murdered in his attempt to capture the presidency and the woman who thwarted genuine agrarian reform by allowing the law to be amended so that the family-owned hacienda could be exempted from expropriation. Our current president was elected not because he was qualified but because his campaign was hinged on the memory of his parents whose only lasting contribution to history was to be against a hated dictator and to be hated right back by him.

So, no, I did not go on a nostalgic trip down memory lane these last days. And, yesterday, 25 years after Marcos fled the country, we were in the movie house watching Unknown. Fitting, I must say, because after 25 years, where this country’s heading is still unknown. The Philippines is still a boat without a rudder. Twenty-five years after People Power, it is still unknown who the real patriots and statesmen are, and who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. We’re still a poor country and we’re still being duped by politicians and their handlers. Political dynasties and cronyism are very much alive and kicking.

What was there to celebrate? Marcos’ widow tried to win the presidency, lost twice, but managed to win a seat in Congress. If anyone thought that the Marcos influence was limited their home provinces of Imelda (Leyte) and the late dictator (Ilocos), the 2010 senatorial elections proved that wrong when Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. placed seventh in the senatorial elections. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2016, the presidential race is a three-cornered fight among Marcos, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. What a nightmare.

Was there at least something I learned from People Power? Oh, yes.

1. Most Filipinos have a short memory.

2. Most Filipinos don’t know their political history.

3. Most Filipinos are blindly forgiving.

That said, why don’t just I write about Unknown? Sure, the plot is preposterous — a Middle Eastern prince financing a biotech project to grow corn faster and anywhere and giving the unpatented formula to the world for FREE. But the pace and performances are so great that the film is riveting and enjoyable nonetheless. And the best part? What was unknown for most of the film became known during the last 20 minutes. At least, there’s a happy ending and a clear closure. Can’t say the same about the reality of this country. But then again, that’s what separates reality from fiction. And at least I can tell the difference.