Everyone knows the story.
Once upon a time in the mythical land of the Philippines, the Filipinos breathed a sigh of relief with the hope that peace would finally endure, as the Second World War reached its end. Then, the evil, self-proclaimed king Ferdinand Marcos ruled over the kingdom. The Philippines have found themselves at the mercy of the sinister magic of one Western nation that, with the powers of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, legitimized the leadership of the Marcosian kingdom. As the malevolent king paraded with her equally malevolent queen in their castle, abuses and attacks, and political power plays brewed.
Then, hope returned on February 25, 1987, 20-years after it was taken. The “battleground” was the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, where the people marched towards Malacañang Palace, as the palace guards went against their master. Marcos fled in a helicopter to Hawaii, while the fairest maiden in the land, then Corazon “Cory” Aquino took place as the benevolent ruler of her new kingdom and the “Mother of Democracy.”
To this day, Filipinos remember the time when a battle was fought without much blood shed. The People Power Revolution, as it is known now, will always be looked at by the country and even the rest of the world as the Filipinos’ ultimate triumph over evil. And why should the people not care about this historic event? It had all of the makings of a classic fairy tale. The type that parents tell their children before bedtime as a reminder on how light would always and inevitably shine in a world filled with darkness. Perhaps that is the reason as to why we treat it as such.
Truth be told, we shouldn’t.
Fairy tales are ideal, and the world as we know it is far from one. Look outside of your windows, and see that peace has not been fully restored, and evil has not been completely vanquished. Look to historical records and behold how many crises and tragedies have transpired since Aquino took over the throne room, including economic decline and prevalent corruption. This is not to say that we should look at the day with utmost disgust, rather we must reframe it in a way that allows us to see all aspects of the story, and not as the gospel.
One reason is that, generally speaking, we have unwittingly taken a poisonous virtue that has been plaguing us even now. In James Fallows’s “A Damaged Culture,” we see that even though Aquino was the logical answer to most of the people’s prayers, she was only one from a very limited perspective. In a way, Fallows asked the question: what more could she have brought to the table other than carrying a rather prolific name and ravaging the reputation of an already obvious devil in the details? It should be noted that while Aquino being president did help weaken the grasp of Marcos’ persistent loyalists, her term did not do much to lessen or eradicate it as the issue has been in existence even before her and Marcos’s time.
Simply put, Aquino entering office led us to carry over the practice of choosing based on either association or face-value appeal. Former president and Manila mayor Joseph Estrada, who was ousted on corruption charges in 2001, Sen. Manny Paquiao, who entered office without any prior experience, and actor Sen. Bong Revilla all come to mind when discussing this point. Aquino is hardly to blame for any of these implications, and while this was hardly the first time something similar occured. We have to educate the people who carried this mindset without some degree of self-awareness, and continue to integrate into our culture. The times dictated their standards for voting, but times change, and so should everyone’s understanding issues and the people who run for office.
Another reason is that history tends to shift its focus only on the major characters. While it is not anybody’s fault in particular, we have to again recognize the need for us to understand the social conditions behind our standards and work to rectify it. It was not so long ago when Cory Aquino was flocked with tributes left and right at the time of her impending death. Not long after, her image is imprinted into the Philippines’s 500-peso bill. Whenever anybody would inquire about the People Power Revolution, the surnames “Aquino” and “Marcos” would almost always come into mind. Years later, it can be interpreted that the “people” in “People Power Revolution” is becoming less and less relevant. While there are some tributes made to other people involved in the event, it remains a rarity.
“History is written by the victors.” Such was a sentiment that was echoed in one history class, and is one that remains mostly true to this day. To this day, only a handful would write or honor other people who do not share any of the aforementioned surnames. For people like Salvador “Doy” Laurel, former United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO) head who initially ran for presidency before Aquino joined the race, or Cebu’s Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who banded much of the Catholic Church to join.
Lastly, by treating the whole scenario as if it was a fairy tale that has been passed-on to generations of listeners and storytellers, the meaning changes. Some misuse this one event in our massive history as something to talk about rather than to learn from. Some often use it as an excuse to further promote the typical “Filipino resilience.” Some still strive to maintain what the original EDSA Revolution stood for. Similar to most tales of the same genre, parents tell fairy tales to children as a form of entertainment. In the case of the People Power Revolution, people tend to constantly suggest organizing another similar endeavor without even understanding the context.
The 1987 version, considered by many as the only genuine, was meant to dispose of a tyrannical dictatorship. Another came in 2001, wherein the masses attempted to pressure Estrada towards impeachment for his crimes. Years after, countless politicians, especially during the 2016 elections have threatened the use of an EDSA Revolution to make a political statement. Eventually, all attempts at imitation merely ended-up either being a mild footnote in history by not making that much of an impact to the status quo, or by becoming overly sensationalized moments in time.
It goes without saying that the People Power Revolution remains to be a milestone that deserves attention and respect from everyone who has ever walked the face of the planet. However, what else can be said about the importance of this event on a national level other than students can learn from this aside from the historical facts that have been told in class time and again? In the years to come, the students can put this entire event under a microscope so that they may reframe the people’s fairy tale. [P]
Words by Reuben Pio Martinez
Illustration by Jandelle Cruz