Stalking EDSA — Coming out


Late October, I was bracing myself for a final stretch of sustained work, taking in Bosworth and the latest from Enrile (even if only for the endnotes), when Elmer Ordoñez emailed and gave me something else to think about.  An invitation to speak as panelist in Philippine PEN’s conference come December, endorsed by PEN Chair Bien Lumbera; I could speak on Enrile’s memoir if I wanted, in a panel on social commentary. The overall theme: The Writer as Public Intellectual. I had no such illusion. But the writer as social commentator, yes, and the opportunity to speak out on history and memoirs and truth-telling proved irresistible. It was a different kind of writing, of course, an essay for reading out loud.  It was a first for me, as it was a first foray into literati territory.  Butterflies aside, I had a blast, thank you!

The new year 2013 was all about getting the final manuscript done ASAP, I needed to move on. The February anniversary was special though. The Palace communications office tweeted the events of the four days as they unfolded, based on my “compiled timeline,” hashtag #EDSA27.  Never mind “compiled,” it was acknowledgement enough from the seat of government.  Also, anniversary stories yielded Rene Saguisag’s first-ever account of being “Present at the Creation,” a speech he gave in a Club Filipino affair, excerpts of which were published in his Manila Times column.  I introduced myself via email to ask for a copy of the whole speech; next thing we knew, he was writing me a blurb.

As with Revo Routes, published independently with the help of family, I was loath to give up my EDSA Uno copyright, no matter how temporarily, or to deal with a publisher (or editor, maybe lawyers) whose concerns might be different from mine. (I missed Eggie.) Just the same, in March I sent a PDF of the EDSA Uno manuscript to the head of a publishing house who had asked me about it once and to whom I had promised first dibs – I was being optimistic, maybe I could swing a rare deal, get it distributed nationwide at a reasonable price  – but the reply was quick (two hours and twenty-six minutes): “Serious inventory problems … not open to new submissions this year.”  Fine. I would do it myself, just put it out there, the universe would provide.

The challenge of indie publishing is not so much the cost – family and friends helped defray some of that – as it is the compulsion to come up with something perfect.  It’s a stressful creative process, working with book and cover designers, making choices and decisions about how the book would look, inside and out, no-turning-back. For the cover I had always wanted to use the artwork by Butch aka Godofredo U. Stuart Jr. posted on’s “EDSA Works”: graphic illustrations of EDSA 86, Edsa Dos, and Edsa Tres that captured the similarities and differences, simply and starkly, in three frames. Joel and Katrina  didn’t think it could happen, ‘twould be such a crowded cover; and if I wanted EDSA Uno more prominent, as it should be, then how small would Dos and Tres get.  But Mervin Malonzo, he who came up with the Revo Routes cover of Elias straddling the crocodile from just photos of the sculpture, surprised us yet again; he liked it that I was specific about what I wanted and he had no problem tweaking tweaking tweaking, and it was quite a trip for me and the kids, seeing the cover morph in accord with a shared aesthetic.

In July we finally went to press.  We were thinking an August 21 launch in memory of Ninoy’s assassination but then the Inquirer broke the Php10-Billion pork barrel kickback scandal, and August saw multisectoral protests rocking the nation complete with a million-people march in the works.  Suddenly I didn’t want to call attention to EDSA Uno the book. Those were testy times. The President had enough problems.  Anyway, who would have the time to read.  We had a small September launch instead, more a matter of ritual than pomp, an excuse to celebrate with close family and friends, finally I was done with EDSA!

The next one is for a historian to write; or historians from different schools of thought, para masaya.  I’m coming from a serious review by a young professor who wishes I had done more with the material, stuff a social scientist would do, such as set my reading of the four days in the context of some academic theory or intellectual framework, go beyond my pagninilay-nilay kind of socio-political commentary.  It’s like saying I should have written EDSA Uno for the academics and not for the reading public. And, oh, how he derides, scorns, mocks the very idea that Halley’s Comet, solar flares, and the sun-moon alignment could have had any kind of connection, other than illogical and miraculous, to things happening here on earth, as though human life were free of biophysical influences and, alone among living things, impervious to cosmic cycles and revolutions.

I thank the heavens that otherwise 2014 has been upbeat (even if the Palace moved the EDSA celebration to Cebu).  February 21 I attended my first pocket lectures symposium, also the first-ever symposium on the EDSA Revolution, presented by the Philippine Historical Association and the GSIS Museo ng Sining; I was asked to say a few words to a roomful of future history teachers. February 22 I had my first sit-down with a book club (Flips Flipping Pages) of young people who had actually read my book and loved it and were eager to help spread the word – children’s books? comics? – even, who dared hope that the pork barrel scandal might resurrect the spirit of EDSA Uno. In mid-May came the invitation to contribute to this anthology, another first for this non-academic, and in truth I’m beginning to feel like EDSA is now stalking me. ***