One of the regular members of our Thursday Lunch Group is former Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, acclaimed as an EDSA Revolt hero while a colonel in the active military service.
Our Thursday Lunch Group is now a 20-year-old institution, having begun in 2003, first on a Friday, until one of our now deceased members, a brilliant Muslim congressman, requested that we move it to a Thursday because Friday was a solemn day in their religion.
We would discuss anything under the sun over some two to three hours of a sumptuous lunch hosted by a generous businessman and curated by a creative advertising executive who always makes sure we have the best food on the table.
I do not have permission to name the regulars of the Thursday Group, some of them having made highly successful careers in politics, business and other endeavors.
Just before lunch was served, Sen. Greg, along with a TV and movie director, and I were reminiscing about the historic four days that started February 22 and culminated in the swearing-in of Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel at the Club Filipino as president and vice-president on February 25.
Later on that same day, Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. and his family left Malacanang, brought by helicopters to the Clark Air Base, and thence flown by the US Air Force to Hawaii.
I had my own story to tell of those dangerous four days, as I was active in the opposition campaign for the Cory-Doy ticket during the snap elections, and even before that, in the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections where a third of parliament was won by UNIDO candidates, of which I was a deputy secretary-general.
It was at this point that Sen. Greg said maybe the TV and movie director could come up with a film about the impact on ordinary people’s lives of historic events like EDSA.
“We always describe history from the point of view of leaders, of major players. Why not about ordinary Filipinos who may have participated in these events, even as mere spectators, but whose lives may have changed, for better or worse, after these epochal events?” mused Sen. Greg, the “Gringo” hero of EDSA.
We cut off our recollections when the other members of the Thursday Group arrived, and after the exchange of usual pleasantries, the lunch from Chef J Gamboa of El Cirkulo was served.
Seated beside another colonel, Medal of Valor awardee Ariel Querubin, I wondered if February 25 was declared a holiday, to which Querubin noted that since the 25th was a Saturday, there would perhaps be no special holiday.
Later Thursday evening, a news bulletin from Malacanang declared Friday the 24th a special holiday to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the EDSA event.
The announcement came a tad too late, and the DOLE was supposed to announce the holiday for the private sector even when their Thursday office hours had ceased.
Even the proclamation of the special holiday, first bandied “holiday economics” as reason, and then as afterthought, added the historical significance of EDSA should be maintained.
Anyway, it was politically correct on the part of Malacanang to declare a special holiday, even if for obvious reasons, the President could not take part in commemorative events. Hying off to the warm embrace of his fellow Ilocanos was quite understandable.
Missed during the Ilocos Norte festivities was Sen. Imee Marcos, who, after stating she could not commemorate a date that she disdains, came up with a very appropriate statement: “For beyond the lesson of people power … or even the endless clash of elites, to me the truth of EDSA is that we owe millions of Filipinos still living in squalor and insecurity, ignorance and hunger – the promise of change.”
That was right on the dot.
As Sen. Gringo told this writer, history must not be about leaders and players, it should be about people.
Still, while the Aquino family declared the spirit of EDSA is alive, some of those who trooped to the shrine last Saturday morning mouthed the same demands, that “rhetoric (referring to the call for unity and reconciliation of the president) won’t matter if there is no act of repentance for the sins of the Marcos regime,” and decried “efforts to revise our history.”
The divisiveness continues.
Still and all, the victors, in this case the politically-resurrected Marcos family, must pursue the call for unity and reconciliation.
Yet it must not be a reconciliation among the major players, the self-proclaimed leaders, or what Senadora Imee calls the endlessly clashing “elites.”
It must be a realization that whether it was the long night of the Marcos rule, or the faded glow of the EDSA people power revolution, the plight of the teeming millions of Filipino poor remain the same.
That is why there is this “sayang” feeling about EDSA.
Cory Aquino, in her determination to restore the forms and institutions of democratic space, got the people to ratify a flawed Constitution, almost without reading and with very little public debate, in which her own vice-president, Doy Laurel, cited many errors and contradictions later to support its ratification reluctantly for the sake of “unity.”
The flaws have exacted wages upon our suffering poor, enlarging them at the expense of what has become a powerless middle class.
The political elites have become monstrous dynasts, political parties have become mere flags of convenience for their ambition and greed, and in tandem with the oligarchs and syndicates who finance them, control fully the levers of power where the poor multiply in endless misery.
Which is why EDSA’s “debt” to the people for the last 37 years and counting, must be repaid with the first step—revisiting the Constitution of 1987, correcting its flaws and contradictions, and coming up with a political structure that makes good governance possible and political leaders responsible.
It is right that Congress seems minded to legislate a convention for the purpose, rather than a constituent assembly among themselves.
But it is better that, heeding the advice of the respected CJ Reynato Puno, we guard against proxies of the dynasts monopolizing the convention through lopsided elections.
Until and unless we accept that however well the intentions of its framers may have been, the 1987 Constitution, just like its 1973 predecessor, has not served the ends of real democracy well—that of providing equal opportunity under a regime of good governance.
Otherwise, we will continue to wallow in what Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr observed:
“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” Or, “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
That is what EDSA has meant to the majority of our people. That is what is so “sayang” about it.