Last February 25 was the 28th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, also known as People Power I, in Philippine history. It happened from February 22 to 25, 1986. People gathered in the Epifanio De los Santos Avenue(EDSA) to topple the rule of then President, Ferdinand Marcos, dubbed a despot. The rest of the so-called civilized world hailed the event as a triumph of democracy, a glorious punch on totalitarianism. I was still in high school in the province, that time… Most Filipino bloggers have been born after that historic event, coincidentally. They have little or no idea what it was like to live under the Martial Law: an iron hand, so to speak…
My first serious blog talks about life 30 plus years ago, life as it was lived in a barrio – far away and almost forgotten. My siblings, my contemporaries and I, walked a lot – kilometers and kilometers of fields and unpaved roads. There was no tap water then, no electricity and very little money. It was a tough life, to say the least. It was a hunting and gathering kind of existence, just a little above. Well, our family had a concrete house – a proof, somehow, of a settled existence. We had clothes – hand-me-downs, ill-fitting ones, too worn out ones. Procuring rice was always a problem for us and eating fruits was a handy way to stave off hunger for the children, quite often. The stores in the area were few and literally, far between.
My siblings and I went to school, another difference, I suppose. We went to class, sometimes, with only avocados or ripe mangoes on our stomach; rice was costly. For lunch, rice and boiled native egg or rice and broiled dried herring. On certain days, it was rice and salt only. We made do… On weekends, we would cook bamboo shoots, banana shoots or banana heart in coconut milk, for our viands. These were staples, in our neck of the woods. We looked for mushrooms on the hills, on mornings of the rainy season. We gathered firewood, when freed from house chores and farm tasks. Ours was an agricultural community – rows and rows of rice and corn fields that saw peoples’ income flow in, only during harvest times.
It was a typical Third World scenario – of women balancing fruits and vegetables in woven bamboo containers over their heads (to catch the truck that would bring the produce to the towns and cities), of men on the way to or from the field (a machete or a cow in a leash, in hand) and, of children off to walk several kilometers (to run errands for their parents). It wasn’t Third World in my estimation then. Third World was a term I would only learn in college, at the state university in the metropolis. We knew there were things like Coca-Cola, Nescafe and Oreo biscuits, but we got to taste them rarely. When we did, it was at a rich relative’s house in the highway or at the town proper. We got to eat saltine crackers when sick – as a treat or a trick – to get well sooner, ahaha.
Martial Law was a term we heard from the adults. It meant people were expected to sleep earlier. Fathers and uncles who got drunk must sleep in the house of their drinking buddies and not be caught loitering in the streets. It meant a huge picture of the country’s president was hanging in every classroom. It meant, schoolchildren were to recite the Patriotic Oath (Pledge of Allegiance to the flag), after singing the country’s national anthem, during the flag ceremony. ML meant that we were to be fed Nutriban (a kind of unleavened bread) and Nutrinoodles during recess. Nutrifeeding was a project initiated by our famous First Lady, Imelda Marcos, to address malnutrition. Martial Law meant extension workers would be visiting the farms periodically – to give out seeds, piglets and advice to the farmers.
People were discouraged to talk about the government and the governance process during those years – 1972 to 1986 (Martial Law was officially lifted in 1981 but Pres. Marcos remained seated). Or, if necessary, conversations must be done in hush-hush tones. Government officials – from the provincial level down to the village level – were holding office permanently. As children, we did not know that things were so. We just knew that our town mayor was a man feared and deferred to and, he was in office since we were born and would be there indefinitely. To have him replaced was unthinkable. Government, for the people in my barrio, meant that every year, there would be vaccination at the village school. Also, the village chieftain must be informed of the birth of new children – so he could go to town and register their names at the municipal record office.
For most of the folks, life was simple, poor and almost unchanging. Dirt roads, bamboo bridges and improvised school houses were the norms, back then. At times, classes were held under the mango trees, true. Not having enough licensed teachers was also a constant problem in rural places, like ours. I also remember, there was a public artesian well – one for every 100 households – I think. Among the problems of our folks, water sourcing would stick to my mind, long after I have left the barrio. It loomed large, I guess, because agriculture was our folks’ livelihood. And, there was very little water. One could imagine, things were worse during the dry season. The queue in the artesian well was usually longer than the line of people buying breads, in the bakeries in town.
In college, years later, most of the professors would use the term underdevelopment, to describe the rural situation I just outlined. They would say, it was due to the lack of technology and know-how plus, the problem of access to facilities and services. Likewise, there was the question of justice – how the folks are marginalized from the trading opportunities, how the bulk of commerce circulates only in the centers and how lack of infrastructures, in effect, isolates those communities. There was corruption – at the macro or national level of government – how the folks’ benefits and cash transfers are being spirited away from the coffers, to line the private pockets of those in office… I did not understand most of these, back then. The professors could as well be talking in Greek, I would hardly know the difference.
Corazon Aquino would be ushered to the helm of power by the People Power event. She was the widow of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., the most vocal opposition leader during the Martial Law. Pres. Cory was the country’s first woman president and the first to address the U.S. Congress to report on how democracy has been restored, this side of the tropics. There, she pledged the restoration of the freedom of expression and assembly, as well as the freedom to trade, sans the cronyism that has been the practice, for almost two decades. President Aquino’s term of office would be plagued by instabilities and nine(9) coup d’etats. In an ironic twist of fate or, expectedly, she would be succeeded in office by a former general. Pres. Fidel Ramos was the country’s highest military officer, during the Martial Law. He was endorsed by Cory Aquino in the 1992 election.
A well-known action star, Joseph Estrada, would be elected president in 1998, to be removed from office two and a half years later, in an event known as People Power II. The Vice-President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, would take over the Presidency and become the second woman to occupy the highest office in the land. Gloria Arroyo is the daughter of the country’s former president, Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, the man from whom Pres. Marcos wrestled the highest seat in 1965. Pres. Arroyo would seek legitimacy in the next election, 2004 – a contested and questioned poll. Thus, Pres. GMA would stay in office for nine(9) years. In 2010, 24 years after the EDSA People Power, things would come full circle – Pres. Corazon Aquino’s only son would be elected president. Benigno Aquino III or Pres. Noynoy, would occupy the highest office, in a continuing bid to align the Philippines towards the democratic ideals and bring the Filipinos closer to progress.
Ten (10) years after People Power or, starting 1996, roads would be paved in our town, including the barrio where I come from. Thus, children would no longer walk kilometers and kilometers to and from school. Tap water connections have been installed in the area much earlier, as well as electricity. There would be telephone lines, beginning 2000 and by 2010, there would be internet connections. Most of the facilities absent during my childhood would noticeably be present. Curiously, by mid-1990s, all the rice and corn fields there would be gone. Infrastructures seem to have been provided by the government, but agriculture and folks’ livelihoods seem to have been sidetracked. Even with concrete roads, electricity and phone lines already, the people in our place remain generally poor and malnourished. It is still a rustic place – women still balance vegetable bins on their heads and the stores in the area, still few and far between.
I am unsure how EDSA People Power I has helped the people on the ground. Or, if many remember the event for what it was. People Power I was an attempt by the enlightened, the middle-class and the educated, to unseat a dictator and to widen the so-called democratic space of a struggling, developing country. Have things changed much in the Philippines? I really don’t know… I observe the children in our barrio and find that their ways are already different – from what people of my generation have known. They are less timid and are heavily influenced by what they see and hear on the television and the movies. Those kids are hardly aware of the 1986 event, so vivid in the minds of the Filipinos in their 50s. It was an affair that took place years, years ago – before they have been born. I also observe the children in the big city… Most of the city kids know EDSA as a highway, a busy one at that. In school, children across the country have been taught about the event. Yet, for them, People Power I was a street-party like activity that old folks – fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, grandpas and grandmas – went to.
Those four (4) days – people wore yellow shirts, yellow grafittis were thrown from the buildings in the metro and the celebration put into office, a Lady in Yellow. According to them, ‘Twas all yellow and merry. But all gone now. 🙂
Hello, people! I apologize to all of you for being gone for about six years, ahaha. My right hand has been injured… It is alright now. At least I can tackle typing painlessly, these days. I am so sorry for being absent without notice. I hope things have been well for you during the interim, my dear readers. Cheers and hugs! 🙂
By the way, this article was written before the injury, in early March. It was a post-EDSA anniversary musing, hoho. I was hesitant to have it published then – too sentimental, too personal and too mushy, ahaha. However, things are still a bit busy on this end. Thus, it has seen print. In the future, I might write another post on the same subject matter, employing a different approach and maybe, in a more serious tone. I beg your pardon.
So many things have happened, during my absence, hoho. For one, Pres. Barack Obama has been to the Philippines, yes. He delivered a speech and was wined, dined, photographed and fussed over, haha. I would have wanted to write about that. Maybe in the future, also… Am an Obama fan, is why, hahaha. 😉
It is already rainy season, over here. Typhoons have been all over the place! Very recently, there was typhoon Jose. Before him, it was typhoon Inday. Earlier, there was typhoon Henry. And prior, it was typhoon Glenda. That lady storm had a wide swath – exploring more than 10 provinces from the South to the North. It prided itself on having four (4) landfalls, uprooting hundred year-old trees and the eye of the storm, hitting the metro (Metro Manila) on the morning of July 16. Most of the towns hit are still without power two weeks after the devastation. The damage to properties was huge. However, human casualties was considerably low: 54. We must have learned some lessons from supertyphoon Yolanda, we hope… 🙂
Folks, this site is open for guest posting. Send your article to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you will be kind enough to oblige this blogger… ^_^ On this note, our next post will likely be from a fellow Filipina blogger. Hope you, guys, are keeping well. 🙂