Revolutionary Cheek

Businessday Magazine 20 February 1987

When the revolution that freaked Ferdinand out was raging, what struck and frustrated me most was the inadequacy, the sketchiness, the falseness even, of information being churned out at the time. Things were happening so fast – as though life were on fast-forward mode – it was humanly and technologically impossible for print and broadcast media to cover and report it all.

Daily newspapers rendered nothing but snippets, fragments, slices of the revolution, mostly from and about the rebels and barricaders in and around Camps Crame and Aguinaldo. The few items there were about the Marcoses and Vers were very thin, mostly official press releases, or based on Marcos’s televised press conferences which we’d already seen but told us next to nothing about goings-on behind the scenes. Worse, different reports, sometimes within the same newspaper, would provide different data on the same events. After the revolution the papers were, of course, awash with the affair.There were personality profiles, and the first-person accounts; the social commentaries, political analyses and opinion pieces, all attempting to digest the reality of the people power phenomenon and its national and global implications; materials on the fallen regime and its greed, on the new leadership and its chosen few; and plenty more about a presidential daughter and her showbiz aspirations, on ex-detainees and torture, on Reformists and a snake called Tiffany, among other trivia.

Some yielded heretofore unpublished information about the four days, but, again, these were fragmented and had to be carefully sifted from what were often rather emotional renditions of events. Like the news reports during the revolt, these tended to neglect journalistic details like when, where, who, why, how, etc.

What I was looking for – some chronological retelling of the four days, blow-by-blow and event-by-event, as the revolution unfolded not just in the Enrile-Ramos camps and the people’s barricades but also in Malacañang Palace, the White House, the US Embassy, Clark Air Base, the Archbishop’s Palace, the contemplative nuns’ convents, and wherever else something was happening – I didn’t find.

Both local and foreign weekly magazines tried, but their accounts were only slightly more enlightening and some were just as uninformed or misinformed as accounts published earlier.

By this time I was deep into note-taking, combing throughevery newspaper and magazine that came my way, sifting, lifting historical from hysterical data, with an eye towards pieceing these into a chronology that would reflect the multi-events unfolding parallel-ly / synchronously on different fronts throughout the four days. A tedious task. Newswriters tended not to indicate what time, clock-wise, things happened or were observed to happen. It isn’t clear, for instance, what time Cardinal Sin made his first call to the public over Radio Veritas. I didn’t know where to place it – before Butz Aquino’s first call or after. Around nine o’clock, said several accounts. After Butz’s call, said another. Butz called after ten, said one. The Cardinal called late in the night, said yet another.

I was constantly rearrranging and refining my sequence of events. Especially as I began taking in new data from the snap books. I’d find that I had placed one event too early, another too late; or mistaken three Marcos presscons for one – thanks to a reporter who didn’t bother to specify so, just summarized / lumped together pronouncements from three consecutive presscons into a report on the latest from Marcos.

Not that the snap books were that much more particular about times and spaces. Only books do have more pages, and so contain more details. But the rush to cater to a captive world market saw writers, editors, publishers rehasing for the books the same angles already extensively covered by dailies and weeklies. There was no time to backtrack and double-check, to confirm what what was generally assumed, much less to unearth something new. The race was on.

People Power by Patricio R. Mamot was the first substantial effort to hit the stands (a month or so after the revolution). In seven chapters – The People Power Phenomenon, Prayer Power, Enrile and Ramos, The Reform AFP Movement, The Media Blitz, Cebu Calling, and Malacañang – Mamot recounts the events of the four days through a stream of quotes from both published and unpublished reports. Inevitably, the chronologies overlap. Too, Mamot’s narrative reeks of the euphoria and ecstasy that overwhelmed print media in the wake of Marcos’s departure. Mushy going.

Quijano de Manila’s Quarter of the Tiger Moon is much breezier reading,naturally. Taking the February event a day at a time, Nick Joaquin renders “a panoramic view that shifts from palace to street corner, and from ministry office to barricade,” daring, as he goes, to synthesize the whole with the nooning tiger moon.

People Power edited by Monina Allarey-Mercado, is a compilation of first-person accounts, again, still, by participants partial to Cory and the Reformists. There is a loose chronology, arranged by the day if not strictly by the time of day. Eyewitnesses wax euphoric, rhapsodize, on the EDSA miracle. State of the heart. Praise the Lord.

And then came Breakaway, Cecilio T. Arillo’s inside story. It recounts the events of the four days from the point of view of the military camps and installations and fronts and in the Malacañang complex. A new angle. With close-ups of loyalists-turned-rebels (though still at arm’s length of the Marcoses and Vers). And with a different version of a certain sequence of events. Fascinating, if grating, reading. But then Arillo is not the storyteller De Manila is.

In October, Veritas Extras I and II hit the streets a week apart. “Coup!” by Alfred McCoy, Marian Wilkinson, and Gwen Robinson confirmed Breakaway’s scenarios (differences in time data notwithstanding) though focused on the Reformist plot, American intervention, and how Marcos “actually ordered his tanks to fire.” Sensational rather than thorough. But like Breakaway, a mine of military info. Rounded my chronology considerably. Enough to say enough. To only skim through other books, just to make certain I hadn’t missed a rare perspective.

Otherwise it made sense to dare declare the above-reviewed publications representative of literature issued February 1986 through February 1987. Then to dare say that my chronology tells a more complete story than any other. And finally to conclude that the whole story has yet to be told.