Stalking EDSA

In 2014 Caroline Hau and J. Paul Manzanilla asked Katrina and me to write an essay each for the anthology Remembering / Rethinking EDSA (Anvil Publishing, 2016).  We have since published the two essays as a zine for #BLTX and, on this 31st anniversary, I am posting mine here (in 7 parts), and Katrina hers at


It started out as a sequence guide for a TV docu that Ishmael Bernal and Marilou Diaz-Abaya would direct and Jorge Arago would write in the vein of “the forces of Good versus the forces of Evil” a la Star Wars.  This was in March 1986 when it seemed a simple and straightforward story to tell: Marcos cheated in the snap elections, Cory launched a non-violent protest, Enrile and Ramos defected with a small military force, Marcos accused them of a coup aborted, Cardinal Sin called on the people to shield the rebel camps, Marcos’s soldiers disobeyed orders to ram tanks through a sea of praying people, and  two days later the dictator fled. A miracle? A military coup? A CIA operation?  As it turned out, none of the above.

The TV docu project was shelved, I’m not sure why, probably because TV was already awash with quickie EDSA features, although these were mostly still on euphoric mode and couldn’t be bothered with  what time of what day things happened, so I kept on with my timeline. I already had Freddie Aguilar’s story on tape, and I had a pile of old dailies and weekly magazines published from mid-February onward, mostly retrieved from the bodegas of family and friends, and when there was nothing better to do between writing gigs, I just kept going back to it, combing through every page of every news report, first-person account, and feature article related to the four days, sifting the historical from the hysterical, the hard data (who what where when how why) from the soft (ravings, divinings), and adding to my notes.  A quest for answers:  Was it really that easy, how could it have been so easy, to oust Marcos in a matter of four days?   Did Enrile and Ramos defect to support Cory because they woke up on Saturday, February 22, suddenly believing in her cause?  And did Marcos flee because he heard the voice of God in the people’s prayerful demand that he resign? I could accept the notion of a miracle, water turning into wine, or a villain turning over a new leaf, but I wanted to know how it happened, what did it take, when exactly was the moment of transformation?

It was also a joy to do, I must confess, researching something so new, so recent, so awesome a phenomenon about which little yet had been written. I was in Virgo heaven, sifting for nuggets, picking out from texts every bit of possibly valid information re the multiple convergent synchronous events of the four days, copying, quoting, word for word, careful to note every source and the date of publication.  Selective and subjective, yes, but objective, too, in the sense that I was a free agent, no one was paying me to do it, I was under no obligation to promote, protect, or put down anyone. I was interested in what went on with all of them during the four days: Cory and Butz, Enrile and Ramos, Honasan and RAM, Marcos and Imelda, Ver and the Marines, Tommy and Greggy, Reagan and Bosworth and Shultz, the Cardinal and the nuns, the people in EDSA, the people in Channel 4, the people in Mendiola, the people in the Palace. I had no agenda other than to fashion from the data a fully-documented chronology of the four-day revolt, a starting point for study and further research and rigorous thought by historians and other academics.

My own interest in EDSA was purely personal-political. The four days had been utterly amazing, people doing the unexpected, breaking away, breaking out, essaying new ways of thinking and behaving, and events swiftly progressing on multiple fronts as though life were on fast-forward mode. The astrologer in me sensed it as a wondrous birthing moment, a rise in individual and collective consciousness; the writer, as a story so awesome, it could only be the beginning of something great for nation, like a new politics. I was coming from two years of reading and writing for pioneer environmentalist Maximo “Junie” Kalaw’s journal Alternative Futures (1984-1986), getting updated on the widespread poverty, the failure of trickle-down economics, the environmental degradation, the dis-ease in our health and education systems, and tuning in to New Age holistic thought as the new paradigm (the whole is more than the sum of its parts, everything is interconnected) and sustainable development as the new advocacy.

I had such high hopes, but of course no one was prepared to make any kind of leap into uncharted territory, easier to slide back to pre-martial law ways and, even, dub EDSA a freak event, worse, a failure for not ushering in deep-seated change. This last always raised my eyebrows. It was post-EDSA that was the failure. EDSA itself was a spectacular success – we wanted Marcos ousted, and he was ousted, and non-violently to boot. How did it happen na nga? And what did we do right, what did we do wrong, can we make it happen again? Certainly a chronology of events was the essential task.

Next: Stalking EDSA — History writing itself