EDSA discourse 2010: history & “ideology”

the discourse on EDSA has levelled up, about time.   as recently as february 2009 we were still arguing about when to correctly celebrate it, on the 22nd or the 23rd or the 25th, if at all.   at least today we’re arguing about EDSA’s significance, if any,  in our lives and in our future, though maybe only because we have national elections coming up and the unico hijo of cory and ninoy is a presidential candidate running on “people power”, and the unico hijo of meldy and ferdie the ousted one is a senatorial candidate running on windmills, lol, maybe more like, on hot air, still insisting that marcos is the hero ’cause he did not order his soldiersto shoot, that’s why EDSA was bloodless, haha, yeah, tell that to the marines led by the late general artemio tadiar ;))

so yes, a lot of stories and opinions have been shared, which is good.   except that of course these days everyone’s story and opinion is colored by his/her political agenda, or who s/he’s rooting, or not rooting for, in the may elections.   noynoy supporters tend to rave still about EDSA (ballsy still thinks it was a miracle, and restyo tends to agree, why am i not surprised), while bongbong supporters today and marcos supporters of yore tend still to dismiss it as a failure, and the left continues to point to the first quarter storm as the true context of EDSA.

so this from sparks’ The Politics of Owning and Remembering EDSA is a valid observation.

A monopoly on history is a monopoly of power. A monopoly of telling the narrative can only match the writer’s ideological standpoint. What really happened in EDSA? Who were the protagonists? The bad guys? Those who chose to sit on the sidelines? What was the context in which the event happened? Was it planned or spontaneous? What were the events that led to it?

…The view from the left is not the same from the right. The view from the top cannot be the same as that from the bottom. What is not contested is that the People Power revolution was good. This is probably why so many camps seek to co-opt EDSA to suit their own purposes today. Co-opting EDSA endows one with magic/legitimising properties. Co-opting EDSA allows one to be morally right. And so it seems, rarely do we ‘remember’ in an entirely objective manner. On such a momentous event as the People Power revolution, the politics of remembering is rife.

true, the ideology thing.   though mine in february ’86 was more like a school of thought, the same as carl jung’s, the physicist-psychoanalyst who was into archetypes and also into astrology, which gives one a distinct take on unusual events, a sense of cycles and recurrence, and the significance of beginnings.   in occult / astrological thought, the birth moment, the beginning of a new cycle, is more meaningful than others, and holds the key to the future.   said jung: “whatever is born or done this moment of time, has the qualities of this moment of time.”   this was the thought that kept running around in my head as the four days unfolded, culminating in cory’s oathtaking and rapturously climaxing when marcos fled.   EDSA as birth moment, a new pattern set, of people breaking out of the old and trying out new ways of being and behaving — forcing leaders to change too — and winning.    even when EDSA was being dismissed as a failure early in the cory presidency because everyone just reverted to the old ways, i just kept going with my research, knowing (as surely as night follows day) that, the pattern having been set, it is bound to recur, sooner or later, and the better we know, the clearer we are about, what worked and what didn’t the first time, the more likely we are, next time, to do better and to sustain the energy beyond four days.

and true, “rarely do we ‘remember’ in an objective manner,” worse, we remember only so much, wittingly or unwittingly, which was precisely the problem back in 1986 post-EDSA when the newly liberated media were full of stories of the uprising.

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 which 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 personality profiles, first-person accounts; social commentaries, political analyses and opinion pieces, all attempting to digest the reality of the people power phenomenon and its national and global implications; the fallen regime and its greed, 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.

Only some of these yielded new information about the four days, and, again, these were in bits and pieces and had to be carefully sifted from what were often rather emotional renditions of events. Like the news reports during the four days, 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. 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 April I was deep into note-taking, combing through every newspaper and magazine that came my way, sifting, lifting, historical from hysterical data, carefully noting my sources to satisfy the most sungit of scholars, with an eye towards piecing 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, specially 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 and just 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 rehashing 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.

all in all it took a decade of research (on and off between other jobs),pouncing on every new book, local and foreign, and jumping at every opportunity to interview key and not-so-key figures, like fvr and joe almonte, cory and eggie, sonny razon and tony abaya, rosemarie arenas and freddie aguilar, among others.   unfortunately enrile declined when eggie denied him editing privileges, while irene marcos araneta is said to have been extremely put out by my draft chronology; it was not an entirely filipino operation, she insisted, consistent with mother imelda’s and brother bongbong’s press releases to the effect that the marcoses left the philippines against their will, kidnapped by the americans in a cia operation.

in truth, i only meant to do the spadework, sift the historical from the hysterical, left right and center, conflicting data included, organize it all according to time and space, and offer the material as a tentative framework for filipino historians to confirm or deny, analyze and synthesize.   i expected that eventually, inevitably, someone from the academe would take over the job of explaining EDSA.   instead, I found myself stuck with it.   too soon no one cared how EDSA happened.   too soon EDSA was being dubbed a failure in revolution for not ushering in deep-seated social and political change.   worse, the key figures (cory, fvr, enrile, cardinal sin, the marcos family) were super-secretive with the press about what went on behind the scenes and slow to elaborate on certain twists and turns in the four-day drama.

it took the weekly magazine veritas all of eight months to scoop the news (“Coup!” by alfred mccoy et al, october ’86) that ferdinand marcos had been telling the truth back in feb 22/ /day one when he accused defectors enrile and ramos of an aborted coup plot—something the “snap books” of mid-’86 laughed at and which enrile consistently denied for the next 14 years, admitting it only in feb 2000 (scooped by philippine star).

it took the inquirer four years to scoop the news that upon cory’s return from cebu on day two, she sent a message to camp crame asking enrile and ramos to come and meet with her (and they came and they met) in her sister’s house in nearby wack wack, greenhills.

meanwhile, unlike enrile and butz aquino who were quick to render first-person accounts to local and foreign media, fidel ramos waited five whole years to tell (me) his story, and i suppose only because my draft chronology was on the ball (he kept referring to it during his account) and great presidential campaign material.   but he evaded questions on his relationship with the enrile-RAM faction before, during, and after EDSA, and on negotiations with aquino at the height of the stand-off in EDSA.   in the end, he did not release my manuscript for publication.   hindi kasi siya ang bida?

similarly, in an interview arranged for me by publisher eggie apostol in 1995, cory was evasive about the substance of her midnight talks with enrile and ramos that turned out to be one-on-ones (surprise, surprise!) because the dynamic duo could not be away from the rebel camp at the same time.   the same dynamic duo that split up soon after, neither now caring much about EDSA.   writes luis teodoro:

Fidel V. Ramos … has disparaged People Power for the image of political instability its exercise presents to the world and foreign investors.

As for Juan Ponce Enrile … he’s long written off EDSA as an anomaly because it led to Corazon Aquino’s, rather than to his, assuming the Presidency.

The bottom line for these … worthies is that, having benefitted from People Power, no one else should, henceforth — a view that’s both self-serving as well as based on fears that what put them in power can remove them (or could have), and that People Power can go ”too far” if encouraged.

One can appreciate their apprehension. Suppose People Power actually put someone in power other than a member of the handful of families that have been in power in this country since 1946? What if People Power actually changed something?

so really, enrile might even be telling the truth when he says he knows a lot more about EDSA than has been revealed.   maybe he even knows something about what a commenter to my post ninoy’s killers claims: that the americans offered to keep marcos in power in exchange for his tons and tons of gold bars, what a story.   but even if true, people power would have knocked them out anyway.


  1. William Russell Sobrepena

    Thank you for your efforts in sifting through the rubble of our brief history at EDSA, as well as, your thought-provoking discourse. On February 21-22, 1986, I was with the late senator Manuel P. Manahan in Caba, La Union, who then instructed me to stay in La Union and prepare for a potential “civil war” in Luzon. Meanwhile, senator Manahan drove back to Manila to try to meet with then minister Juan Ponce Enrile, then chief of staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, and then presidential candidate Corazon C. Aquino.

    Fast forward to EDSA 2 in 2001. I was with former president Fidel V. Ramos, as we walked from the NAIA domestic terminal to EDSA and Ortigas Ave. Read the book of Ramos, “The Continuing Revolution.”


  2. @ w.r.sobrepena : potential “civil war” in luzon… la union, the north, was marcos country then, right? more loyalists than coryistas or reformmists? what kind of preparations did you make? what kind of news were you getting about EDSA, and how, if any?

  3. manuel ;) akala ko nagawa ko na yon with Himagsikan, but yes i keep getting the message that i have to do it in english too. i have a draft that’s almost done, nasingitan lang ng isa pang book project on my lola’s memoirs that’s also almost done. maybe i should stop blogging muna para matapos na pareho ;))

  4. nice read angela! and all these opinions on who owns edsa, it’s failures and/or its gains and all are really fun to read, like what you have just wrote about bongbong that it was a failure – nah – we were able to kick out a despot, no failure there.

    much has been written about EDSA including its countours but i still have yet to read though an article or an opinion about “Who ruined EDSA?” hehehe

  5. thanks, reynz ;)) and good question, who ruined EDSA? kung tutuusin everyobdy was responsible. the people for making bitaw agad, trusting the new leaders to look out for the people’s interests. and the new leaders for going back to the old tricks once in power. and the church for selling the “miracle” angle. and the media… and the military… hehe i could go on and on….

  6. LeopoldoRoy Barrit

    Revisit, please. @angela, please revisit what EDSA meant to the Ilokanos and to Ilokandia all this time. I’m asking because you must know–and, I hope you will be candid and courageous, forgive me for saying so. Thank you.

  7. @leopoldoroy ;) sa totoo lang, i didn’t come across any material on what EDSA meant to the ilokanos and to ilokandia, except that if marcos had managed to get to paoay instead of being hijacked to hawaii, then EDSA would have turned out differently. but yes, i got a sense of how devastated ilokanos were because they loved and believed in marcos so, after all marcos really took care of ilokandia during his watch. i would welcome any material, if you have any, maybe even your own thoughts on paper, and i’d make sure it gets into my final book on edsa if and when it gets done.