Stalking EDSA — History writing itself


By October 1986, I had sifted through four snap books: People Power by Patricio Mamot, The Quartet of the Tiger Moon by Quijano de Manila, People Power: An Eyewitness History edited by Monina Allarey-Mercado, and  Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Four Day Revolution by Cecilio T. Arillo. The last gave me pause.  A journalist known to be an Enrile man, Arillo had new stories of goings-on inside the rebel camps and in Fort Bonifacio and the Palace, and even, of how, before the defection, the Reformists had planned to take action and prevent a Marcos inauguration, practically contradicting, in a convoluted way, Enrile’s denial of the aborted coup plot that Marcos had accused him of from the first night of EDSA. Surely the publication had Enrile’s stamp of approval or Arillo wouldn’t have dared?

Next thing I knew, sometime in mid-October, the Catholic newsweekly Veritas hit the streets screaming “COUP! The Real Story Behind the February Revolt” (Part I), and a week or so later “The Shadow War: The Inside Story That Was Never Reported By Media” (Part II), written by Alfred W. McCoy, Marian Wilkinson, and Gwen Robinson based on interviews with key participants in the military, both rebel and loyalist, that actually confirmed Arillo’s stories. As it turned out, Marcos had been telling the truth, and Enrile had lied all through the four days (and after) about the aborted coup plot. It was my first eureka! moment. The armed rebel force did not fall onto Cory’s lap like a gift from heaven just when she needed it most (as I romantically thought when I heard of the defection that Saturday afternoon); rather, a whole week before, the very night that the Batasan proclaimed Marcos winner, and while the Cory camp was preparing for the giant protest rally in Luneta the next day, the Enrile-Honasan camp was plotting a coup d’etat, and a few days later (Thursday the 20th it is said), as Cory’s crony boycott campaign was picking up, the Reformists set the action for Sunday February 23, 2 AM: clearly a bid to beat Cory in a race to Malacañang and, possibly, to negotiate an end to the boycott, which must have been freaking out the cronies, Enrile among them.

Suddenly the EDSA story was not just about the four days but also about the six days preceding, starting with the Luneta rally that galvanized the people into non-violent revolutionary mode.  Suddenly EDSA was not just about Cory vs. Marcos, it was also about Cory vs. Enrile.

Just a month later, in November 1986, Cory sacked Enrile as Defense Minister for plotting a coup to unseat her. I thought maybe it was time to pitch in with my research on EDSA, remind that back in February, this EDSA hero defected not to support but to preempt Cory, and failed.

My chronology-in-progress was writing itself, literally. From the start, as I moved from handwritten notes to typewritten pages, I would arrange the data (quoted info on events / developments) in chronological order; quite tentatively, to be sure, as most accounts tended to be vague about the exact time things happened. With every new draft, as new data came in, I would re-arrange my sequence of events, segment after segment of cited info, putting off for later the writing of a narrative. But later it didn’t make sense to put anything in my own words that was already said perfectly, and knowingly, by people who were there, wherever, and I wasn’t.  Also the sequence-guide format seemed to work, making for easy reading – I was also coming from the discipline of writing scripts for documentary films (mostly cause-oriented) where the idea is to let the material itself (visuals, testimonies) tell the story with minimal narration. Besides, if I were to write a long narrative essay instead, it would no longer be just a chronology, and a chronology was all I was prepared to stake my name on at the time. So what I did was to write a short essay to intro the chronology early in ’87 and send it all to friend Leah Makabenta, then editor of the weekly Business Day Magazine, hoping she could use it in the run-up to the 1st anniversary. To my great joy the essay “Revolutionary Cheek,” along with Day One of the chronology, as is, saw print on the 20th of February. I can’t remember now (nor does Leah) if Days Two to Four saw print in subsequent issues, but I do remember not getting feedback of any kind.

Those were confused and chaotic times. One coup attempt after another: three in ’86 (counting the first that led instead to EDSA) and four in ’87. I remember rumors forever floating of a coup coming, lightning trips to Cherry grocery, hoarding toilet paper and canned goods. Even if the Freedom Constitution got a resounding YES in the February referendum, and 22 of her senatorial candidates won in the May elections (Enrile and Joseph Estrada were the two other winners), Cory had lost points over the Mendiola Massacre in January.  She also lost hearts and minds when she decided to honor all Marcos debts and to keep her options open on the U.S. military bases. I must have been quite disillusioned by the time August 28 rolled around because I remember writing a piece about Gringo Honasan making my day that got published in the Chronicle lifestyle section, thanks to editor Iskho Lopez (friend from U.P. basement days when he wrote for The Collegian, now with Malacañang’s press office) – Gringo was the hunk of the moment, says he – which scandalized loyal Coryistas no end. A moment of weakness for swashbuckling ways when all else seemed to fail. LOL. It wasn’t as if the Reformists had declared themselves anti-US Bases or anti-IMF-WorldBank; and it wasn’t as if I approved of Enrile replacing Cory.

Next: The FVR turn