EDSA 35 years hence

"It could have been our nation’s moral reset."


Thirty-five years have gone by since crowds of millions converged on EDSA to end more than two decades of Marcos rule in the country.

I have always called it what I personally believed it to be – a revolution.

Whatever side of the political divide one stands, one cannot deny the historical fact that the fateful events in 1986 has changed forever the course of our country’s destiny.

EDSA has proved that a peaceful revolution is possible – and that the power of the people is greater than the people in power.

It will always be remembered as a defining crossroad in our history that shaped our democracy - but without the bloodshed and violence of war.

Sadly, 35 years hence, the mighty optimism that the revolution has ignited now seems to be a tiny flickering spark.

The “boomers” who made EDSA happen seem to pin this fault on our generation. That our country’s millennials have forgotten its significance. That we have missed its lessons from past mistakes that seem to have been repeated again and again.

Worst, they blame us for historical revisionism.

A generation of digital natives is perhaps the most difficult to persuade by mere online propaganda. That would be easier than identifying a fake Facebook profile or a fake news post. We do know what it means to fact check – half truths included.

They say we failed EDSA.

But let me say it in the strongest terms possible – you did.

The generation of “boomers” who made it happen betrayed it.

Not the politicians, not the soldiers, not the businessmen.

But the everyday Filipino who cared no more – not after the political euphoria, the drama on the streets of Manila, the attention we got from the rest of the world.

We went back to our unending bickering, pulling each other down for the sake of our own selfish interests.

We failed to institute the political reforms we bannered in the years leading to EDSA, and instead allowed the oligarchy that ruled the votes to make a comeback.

Not only that, we practically neutered our political party system – with political turncoats shifting allegiances with every electoral exercise.

We failed the armed forces by delaying until recently its modernization, forgetting the toil on our soldiers’ morale caused by using military equipment from the Second World War.

We called them the heroes of EDSA, but we denied them the welfare and well-being they deserve even if every day they risk their own lives to keep our nation safe.

We failed to restrain corrupt businesses, and refused to reward corporate citizenship by turning a blind eye to the moneyed who find it more convenient to bribe their way out – or way up.

Instead, our hardworking professionals have left our shores to find employment overseas, giving their best to other countries, just because their own failed to provide them with the opportunity that they wish they had here at home.

Our generation of millennials saw this – and despite the many years of highlighting the EDSA revolution in our history classrooms – our youth understand who betrayed what.

It is the politicians who conveniently changed political colors thereafter, but it is also the voters who were easily swayed by money or fear and who made it easy for unscrupulous people to win every post-EDSA election.

It is the soldiers who staged one coup after another, derailing what could have been a promising momentum for national growth – but also the rebels and those who exploit the unlearned peasants and beset the peace in the countryside, long oblivious that the communist armed struggle is but a lost cause.

It is the big businessmen who at the first opportunity went back to “business as usual,” replacing the so-called Marcos cronies with one of their own, yet continuing to exploit the legal contours of business to their favor and according to their flavor.

But greater responsibility must be impugned on the Filipino who thoughtlessly stands by the sidelines, practically abandoning the duties of citizenship yet adamantly demands the rights that come with it.

EDSA could have been our nation’s moral reset. That is how millennials were taught in school – that proverbial battle between the good and the bad. But that is not what they see happening in the media – in our politics and business – in our society as a whole. The inconvenient truth is nothing much has changed.

It seems to our generation that the “boomers” never really learned.

Just when our generation began to take a more open perspective of the past, allowing both sides of the narrative, including the aftermath that ensued, the “boomers” pass the buck of living the EDSA legacy to a generation not even born yet by then, demanding us to own its story – but bereft of the promised gains and supposed glory, instead leaving us with just bitter anger and past hurts.

EDSA should have been about the people, not politics. It should have pointed us toward potential progress, and not a polarized past. It could have been a powerful story of what Filipinos can be if we pool together our strengths for a worthy cause.

EDSA remains but a promise unfulfilled. It should have brought our country together, and not perpetuate the pain of a nation divided.

Unfortunately, it falls upon our generation to see the promise of EDSA realized, but not through the jaded lens of an era long bygone, but through a more discerning perspective of the present.

It is true that a people who tends to forget the lessons of its past is bound to repeat its mistakes. But shouldn’t the greater onus of responsibility be on those who were supposed to teach its lessons but themselves have betrayed its principles and failed to live up to its promise?

It is not that we are ignorant or that we care less. It is not us who have forgotten EDSA. It is the generation before us who have rendered it irrelevant. It is they who have failed our nation.

It would be utterly unfair to our generation – a majority of which were born before the EDSA revolution nor fully aware of its surrounding historical minutiae – to appreciate its significance when those who lived through it has succumbed towards becoming a broken nation shamelessly polarized by politics, to the might of business selfishly blinded by profit, to the scourge of governance utterly exploited by the corrupt and towards being a society endlessly plagued by poverty.

You failed EDSA, not us. You betrayed its legacy by abandoning the hard road of change. You desecrated the memory of those who died in the name of freedom and justice. You failed it by refusing to live up to the demands of citizenship once you reclaimed its privileges. You forgot the lessons of EDSA and made us lose faith in its grace.

More than a revolution, we need a rebirth. More than division, solidarity. More than be just a people, we must be a nation.

Topics: EDSA revolution , historical revisionism , Ferdinand Marcos , Politics
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