Whenever I write about the 1986 EDSA Revolution, I tend to underscore one thing: I am part of the generation that grew up after it all happened. At the time, I was seven months old. Suffice to say, I wasn’t in EDSA. I have no EDSA story to tell.
Yet if anything it is my generation that was taught the most about EDSA. It was my generation that reaped what was sowed on the streets on those four days, and the years that led to it. We were the first generation of Filipinos that grew up with no living memory of what it’s like to not be under the iron hand of Asia’s most infamous – and venerated – dictator.
My teachers and professors all shared an impression of Marcos that somehow stuck: an articulate man commanding of so much respect whose intentions for a “mandate for greatness” was marked by human flaws, like the thirst for power and the desire for great personal gain. He was “the greatest president the Philippines could have ever had,” if not for a catalog of reasons that included, among other things, Martial Law.
Like many others my age, I lived my life as a citizen of the Philippines in the shadows of the public history of Marcos, and in the light of those who overthrew him from the seat power and tried – tried their best and darndest – to make a democratic society work. And years – and presidents – have passed and we somehow have this thought that maybe it was better during Marcos’ time, what with graft and corruption at a high, and public confidence in institutions and officials at a low.
Could we use a return to the time of Marcos? I’m not so sure of that: all I know of Marcos are the portrayals of curtailed freedom and the excesses of his family and cronies in the history books. I never got to live under Marcos while he loomed powerfully and mightily over the nation. I did live during a time where somehow, our collective conscience triumphed and we overthrew Asia’s strongman to live by ideals higher than ourselves. And when this collective conscience stumbled under the weight of lost memories and a recalcitrant attitude to the lessons of the past, it’s our generation that suffered the most. We woke up, I think, to the graft and corruption and incompetence that pervades our society today. So much so that without that great sense of remembering, we grow up to take it for granted and lose our ideals. Or rather, the ideals of those who fought for EDSA and fought – died, for that matter – for the Filipino.
This is why I choose to remember EDSA; not because I want to open up old wounds, but because I want to know how those wounds came to be, that when the time comes for my generation would lead the nation, we would not suffer in the same way or even in worse ways. I choose to remember EDSA because for better or for worse, what was fought for in the streets at the time are the things and ideals that were taught to us to be what we should strive for. I choose to remember EDSA not because I want to revise that history, but because I want to revisit it: that only from knowing and remembering from the experiences of those in the streets who chose to depose Marcos and stand for freedom and justice and the power of the people will I know of – and value – the freedoms that I enjoy today. And when you do not remember – when you forget – you will end up making the same mistakes.
Sure, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and blue skies in February 25, 1986, but it sure isn’t the same today, what with all the animus that makes us enemies and everyone else making every reason to show why we failed when once we did succeed. Or calling it all a failure when those who say the same do not remember, or perhaps did not learn from all those who risked life and limb in the bloodless revolt of EDSA 1986.
My EDSA story is one learned from books, from classrooms, from the stories told all over me as I grew up, 26 years after it all happened. I remember EDSA because I have no story to tell, but the stuff of legend that grew from the flowers and rosaries and the human chains at EDSA then means one thing: that my generation will, one day, have a defining moment.
We will have, one day, a story to tell. We can only hope that when we tell that story, it won’t be forgotten this fast.