the radical significance of EDSA

over @ :) blogger ilda who was either too young or not around yet in 1986 asks valid questions about EDSA One.

If an Edsa Denial group were to emerge today, their job will be easy. Aside from Ninoy Aquino’s statue on Ayala Avenue, his image on the 500-peso bill, and the Edsa “Shrine” at the corner of Ortigas Avenue, evidence of any legacy left by the 1986 “revolution” in Philippine society is becoming harder and harder to come by. What constitutes evidence that the Edsa Revolution did happen? What was the result of this event? Where is the country now in terms of economic stability and security — that “progress” that seemed so within our reach amidst the euphoria of 1986?

i’d say it’s pretty much like the 1896 revolution inspired by rizal and led by bonifacio, we (i) believe it happened because the history books (and my lola’s memoirs) say so, even if it only saw us eventually being handed over by one colonizer to another for some $20 million.   in the case of the EDSA revolution, most of my parents’ and my generation and our eldest kids’ saw it happen, that stunning non-violent change from dictatorship to democracy, even if it turned out to be just one elite group taking over from another.

just the same neither revolution was a waste of lives or effort.   i happen to be immersed in floro c. quibuyen’s A Nation Aborted — Rizal, American Hegemony, and Philippine Nationalism [Ateneo Press, 1990] for a book i’m writing on my lola’s memoirs, and this sums up pretty well what was so great about that armed revolution even if neither rizal nor bonifacio lived long enough to see it:

Summarizing the revolutionary gains of 1898, the Jesuit historian Horacio de la Costa writes: “For a few brief months, over a large area of the Islands, Filipinos were free.” The victories clearly indicate that the Revolution against the Spanish regime had been successful, and that an independent nation-state would have grown had not the Americans arrived to nip it in the bud. As Cesar Majul lamented, “The Revolution was a child that was not allowed to grow.” Herein lies the tragedy of the nation. But the tragic course of the Revolution had begun much earlier in the failure of Bonifacio and Aguinaldo in 1897 to forge a united leadership. [254]

The year 1898 marked the heyday of the Revolution, when the historic bloc that Rizal and Bonfiacio had dreamt of was finally formed.Ilustrado colleagues of Rizal who were initialy lukewarm to the movementof Bonifacio, fearing that it was ill-prepared and ill-organized, now enlisted in Aguinaldo’s army. A number of ilustrados, among them Antonio Luna, came home from Europe to join the Revolution. Apolinario Mabini, who had earlier refused to join Bonifacio’s Katipunan became, in 12 June 1898, Aguinaldo’s personal adviser (and ghost-writer in Spanish), and then, albeit briefly during the Philippine-American War, the prime minister in the revolutionary government. Throughout Luzon and the Visayas, practically all revolutionary units were organized, directed, and led by the local ilustrados, prominent members of the principalia, and even the native clergy. What Elias had hoped for in the Noli became a reality in the Revolution of 1898. (254-255)

as for EDSA, well, it was a completely different genre of revolution.   here’s an excerpt from my intro to the Chronology posted actually meant for the english edition of Himagsikan sa EDSA–Walang Himala! that’s almost done but not quite.

Beamed worldwide from EDSA by satellite TV for all the world to witness, the dramatic People Power Revolution that non-violently ousted entrenched Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos from power into exile was the first of its kind and deserves serious study, never mind that it “failed,” as critics and cynics love to point out, to usher in social and political change. But before the failure came the success: the people stopped the tanks and Marcos fled, what a coup! no mean feat! how on earth did that happen?

Many still think the ouster was orchestrated by the Americans. As many others still insist that it was a miracle, an act of God. Not to be outshone, the military rebels claim credit for the uprising: had they not defected, there would have been no EDSA. Altogether the effect, deliberate or not, is to diminish the People’s role in that unexpected triumph, to insinuate that the People acted as mere puppets of some higher power.

Contrary to Marcos propaganda, the Americans were not responsible for the EDSA Revolution. Ronald Reagan’s trouble-shooter Philip Habib knew that something was brewing but he failed to get a handle on it. The Ramos-Enrile defection (Day 1) caught the Americans napping, People Power (Day 2) knocked them out. It was already Day 3—the battle was practically won—when the Americans intervened in earnest, and only in the matter of Marcos’s escape. Intelligence reports from the CIA may have helped the rebels during the four days but if the Americans had completely stayed out of it, EDSA would have happened anyway and it would have ended more decisively.

Neither were the military rebels responsible for EDSA. Their defection only served as catalyst for the display of People Power. Remove the reformists and some other agitators would have come along. At the time, Cory’s boycott campaign versus Marcos-crony businesses was starting to peak and the business community was beginning to hurt. Had the reformist military not defected, Big Business would have had to make a move to force Marcos to step down for the sake of the economy. The reformists would have fallen in line eventually, and People Power would have stolen the show just as stunningly, just in time to render moot Marcos’s inauguration. If anything, the military defectors owed their lives and status, post-EDSA, to the People who not only saved their lives but also prevailed upon Cory to avail of their armed services.

Neither was EDSA a miracle, beyond human understanding. There is a rational cause-and-effect explanation, unfortunately kept hidden from the public, for everything that happened during those four days, from the Enrile-Ramos defection to the Marcos-Ver escape. Walang himala! No sick were healed, no water turned into wine, the sun did not dance, and the Marian apparition is all in the Cardinal’s mind. EDSA was about ordinary people in great numbers who dared to confront, unarmed, the military might of the dictator and discovered in the process their mind-boggling powers when united by a common goal. Walang himala. The task of removing the dictator was well within the people’s natural human powers.

In fact, EDSA was wrought by People Power, which was made flesh by the martial law regime when it jailed, and then made a martyr of, opposition leader Beningno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. EDSA was the climactic and final chapter of the fierce rivalry between Marcos and Ninoy which saw the widow Cory rising triumphant on a glorious wave of People Power. Also, EDSA is a sublime, if controversial, chapter in the Filipino people’s continuing struggle for freedom which inspired the world but proved an empty victory at home. As in the aftermath of the 1896 Revolution, the masses in 1986 went home empty-handed, the spoils pre-empted by old peninsulares and new ilustrados. Nonetheless it was sublime, and the Four Days (and preceding events, to some extent) bear recalling and scrutinizing, if only for lessons in non-violent warfare and the dynamics of People Power.

like 1898, 1986 saw the rare “historic bloc” formed, this time unarmed, masses of poor, middle class, and rich coming together with one goal in mind: the ouster of marcos.   the action climaxed in EDSA on day 2, a cool sunday afternoon, when a sea of people stood in the path of tanks that had orders from marcos to ram through! and general tadiar and his men, instead, bowed to the will of the people.   that was the end of marcos.   the message of EDSA is simple: to effect CHANGE without bloodshed, the filipino majority only need to unite and rally behind a common cause.

the catch is, we have to unite, rally, behind a common cause.   to unite thus, we have to be adequately informed on issues.   in ’86 it was possible to unite against marcos after more than 13 years of martial rule and disappearances and salvagings and crony capitalism, and after more than two years since ninoy’s assassination, and only because there emerged the brave mosquito press that defied censorship rules and spread the word about the conjugal dictatorship, the hidden wealth, the profligate shopping, the fake war medals, the human rights violations, the behest loans, the failing economy, his kidney problem, at kung ano ano pa, which was critical in building up and unifying and mobilizing the anti-marcos movement behind ninoy’s widow when the dictator finally was pressed into calling snap elections.

in 2001 edsa dos succeeded in replacing erap with gma largely because of the free media’s exposes of the presidential mansions and mistresses and then eventually because of the nationally televised impeachment trial over some two months, replayed over and over at night and on weekends, until the second envelope issue triggered the walkout that brought the students massing in edsa, not knowing that behind the scenes the arroyos were plotting with the generals.   and because that’s all we rallied behind — the ouster of erap — that’s all we got.

since then every call for people power has failed.   the so-called edsa tres because the crowds, not knowing better, turned violent, and so the military didn’t hesitate to disperse them.    the post-garci oust-gloria rallies because, well, the people are a little more sophisticated: kung wala naman tayong ipapalit na matino, what’s the point.   indeed.

so it’s not as manolo quezon alias the explainer suggests, that EDSA is no longer significant, no longer relevant to these times.    EDSA will never lose its significance, not in a humane world where non-violence should rule.   invoking EDSA is not helping noynoy’s candidacy only because EDSA is all about CHANGE and a noynoy presidency, so far, promises only small change.

the media are the key to CHANGE.   an informed media would make all the difference.   popular print and broadcast journalists who will find the time to read and to think critically and write and talk about EDSA, and about the economic, environmental, health, and education issues that hound us, so that the public can have a better sense of the options open to us, would make all the difference.

enough of talkshow hosts who don’t read the right books *lol* who expect to be spoonfed by pundits who don’t read the right books either *lol* worse , who can’t be bothered to read yet dare talk about it.   google it man lang, guys!

enough of the wowowee idiocracy!

vote with y/our remote!


  1. Those anti-pinoys would bash anything pinoy hence the name. The brilliance is that they relate Philippine politics to wowowee, probably like relating American politics to Jerry Springer. Of course they are not to make a metaphor of it but to just destroy the show as a Filipino show. I never heard of them say anything positive about Filipinos which is a bias in itself.

  2. @mlq3 ;) ooops, did i mishear? i thought i heard you ask if maybe times have changed and so edsa no longer inspires, or something to that effect. maybe i was reading between the lines and incorrectly, sorry about that.

  3. Hmm, Manolo, seems angela is right; I remember reading the same thing. You shouldn’t back-pedal, though, because it’s a valid point. EDSA was very relevant to the moment and conditions in which it occurred. It’s significance now, I think, is to help people realize that it never was some sort of packaged construct that can be pulled out, dusted off, and used again. Or to put it another way, the more-or-less spontaneous response to the moment is better than trying to do the same thing again in circumstances that can never even approximate, let alone be identical to, the circumstances of the original.

  4. Buko-nuts & chopsuey

    On the relevance of EDSA/1896 Revolution:
    Drawing a historical parallelism between these two events cannot be escaped since they were “sublimely” successful in its goal to end the tyranny of “despotic” regimes. unfortunately, both failed to bring home the bacon of societal change because the eventual leading elites could not resist the clerical influence on secular policies that is off-tangent with the moral values blindly accepted by herded faithfuls. while we had both achieved political emancipation, religous bigotry, hypocracy and superstitious belief hang tied the economic and social mobility of the marginalied poor leading to a political system adopted perfecetly in form but superficial in substance. As Sen. Arturo Tolentino has once said, our legal jurisprudence, which lawyers believed to be the great equalizier, is patterned after a Western style of democracy that suits an economic structure of equal men where the rule of law prevails. today, despite the spirit of change which EDSA I is being rehearsed, one significant monument we shall always appreciate is what Tita cory has done for the average Filipino is the restoration of the “freedom of speech and expression. This an area which unfortunately our educated elites have abused and committed the sin by “omission” by the powerful tri-media (both private and public) becaused they failed to elevate the political maturity and objectivity in projecting what the powerless sector needs to addressed by our government bureaucracy.

    That is why, we have this ‘wowowee idiotcrcracy and this pseudo-nationalist group who called themselves anti-pinoy to make noise for nothing concrete and palpable effect to the marginalied poor.

  5. benk i did point out the ways have to change and people can’t try to recreate it -one reason 2005 onwards failed was trying to manufacture a people power moment. but then i also said it (people power) has its own dynamics which also have to be present and also led to failure in 05 onwards -including a broader public consensus to try to keep things within institutional arenas.

  6. Corruption within the Philippines may regretably always be there unless we wholly change each and every aspect in our government. Don’t get me inappropriate but the Marcos’ as opposed to the Arroyo regime has produced a lot more improvement. Anticipating a better future with the Aquino direction.

  7. I was just researching on EDSA for school work.. I dont know if you would take it under or even give a proper glance to my own comment but I hope that you would take in a brief consideration.. You are right though it has a significance of non-violence, not only that it had remove the reign of Marcus from us.. but still Marcus’s family still has political power.. care to research on it if you wish or it spikes your interest.. Nothing has changed actually except those two biggest ways…. think it through thought who followed Marcus and did nothing else except change him.. Hope you enjoyed my boredom of speech ^_^

  8. It is understandable to be proud of EDSA 1986. But we did not do it first. The Portuguese had their Carnation Revolution in 1975 while the Iranians toppled the Shah in 1979. The grandfather of non-violent resistance is Gandhi and he inspired the Indian struggle against British colonialism before the Second World War. Martin Luther King was in turn inspired by Gandhi, among others, to lead the civil rights struggle in the United States during the 1960s.