From The Archives

Reminiscing the Prowess: The EDSA Revolution

Words by Jeremy C. Viado and Abigail T. Bengwayan

NOTE: This is an archived story originally published on UPLB Perspective Vol 25 Issue 8.

“…ang laya mo ay babantayan, Pilipinas kong hirang.”

Words rust, but not in the context of fighting for what is and will be left of life. Proven true of this circumstance is the 1986 EDSA Revolution – the event marked by the undying prowess of people power, where people from all walks of life stood firm against the attempted embrace of oppression and tyranny. Yet it is undeniable that it is still an existing enigma. 

Vivid recollections of the EDSA scenario include the human walls “built: to resist the tanks supposedly meant to tie the people down, fists that shot through the air, either clasping rosaries or flashing the “laban” sign.

The sea of freedom fighters flooding EDSA during what Quijano de Manila discloses as the “Quarter of the Tiger Moon” toiled the scorching heat, survived the tumult, and chose not to feel the pain physically brought about the people chose to taste the bitter risks of what mattered most to them, of what need there was to take into their hands the realization of human rights.

They chose to battle for Freedom.

Four days and a tenfold of struggle

The genesis of the EDSA revolution took place on January 22 of 1986. At this point, Cory Aquino’s civil-disobedience campaign against Marcos-crony business called out for a boycott. Rumors were spreading that none of the embassies participating in the strike was to be represented at the supposed inauguration and proclamation of Marcos as the triumphant candidate in the February 7 presidential polls.

Marcos on the other hand was not shamefaced at the global snub he now faced: the boycott of his inaugural. He released twelve million pesos for hauling in people to “turn the park into a sea of Marcos cheerers.”

Marcos desperately wanted to turn the “international opinion” on his side. He sent off some officials to the United States and Europe to supposedly “apprise” their governments of the real “political score”.  Since the “score: that Marcos referred to was denounced by the Philippine Catholic bishops as fraudulent, he went to the extent of sending two envoys to the Vatican to convince them that the polls had not been “unholy”. However, all these sending off was really intended to find Marcos a good exile abroad. Hence, the politics of greed.

Rounding up help

Marcos had plans to eliminate top opposition leaders. He had gone as far as planning the liquidation of then Armed Forces of the Philippines Lieutenant General Fidel Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile after which their assassination will be falsely accused to the communists.

Enrile withdrew his support of Marcos as soon as this information reached his hands. At this point, he and Ramos joined forces at Camp Aguinaldo. “I’ll be all the way!” was Ramos’ eager reply.

Like the song from the musical Lean goes “tayo’y naririto pinagkaisa ng pakikiisa.”

At 3 p.m., Enrile was at Camp Aguinaldo notifying the media of his decision through a press conference and then breaking out the armaments. Then, he called Colonel Gringo Honasan to deploy the fully armed troops, not only around Camp Aguinaldo but around Camp Crame as well.

This event triggered the beginning of the epic vigil on the highway during those four white nights of the tigermoon.

Unholy Sunday

Unholy was the hour that began Sunday’s battle of broadcasts. At one o’clock a.m., Marcos appeared on TV to present another alleged assassin threatening his life: Major Saulito Arumin.

Obviously offering another loophole, Marcos then declared that no evidence linked Enrile and Ramos to the plot and he asked both to “listen to reason and stop this stupidity.” He said that the armed forces were solid behind him, but “I’d rather talk than shoot.”

An hour later Enrile went on air to dismiss Marcos’ statements as a “bunch of bull” and simply laughed at Marcos’s supposed means of crushing the rebellion.

Asking his comrades-in-arms to join forces with Ramos and Enrile was Captain John Andrews of the Air Force. His appeal was aired via Radio Veritas, whereas he declared that now was “the time to stand up against tyranny.”

Come daylight, the whole stretch of Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame was already blocked by [civilian] people.

Later, Marcos said that he did not want to shed [Filipino] blood. Whatever was the truth, the consensus was that the strongman acted weak behind his bold words.

Later during the day, multitudes were “galvanized” upon knowing that tanks were headed towards the twin camps. Unfortunately, a stream of seven tanks and a contingent of two marine battalions were so headed up the highway.

Then, what seemed to be the overwhelming feature of the event – when viewed from the eyes of the today’s nonchalant youth, was the hoars of people fashioned in “kapit-bisig” strongly opposing the intended entry of the tanks.

The assault fizzled out because of the people. The tanks and the troops were peacefully stopped by the people.

Meanwhile, the “battle” at EDSA was progressing; the Camp Crame gate was festooned with banners, the guardhouse a blend of civilians and soldiers with yellow bands tied about their heads. The crowd went around, urging people to mass up the highway, further fortifying the established “people power.”

History was happening so fast, people from all of life’s strategic walks had their own share of experience – their own share in the struggle. As UST professor Elena Roco recalls, “thousands of people running towards the danger, not from it!”

“Selling the drama”

Monday morning was met with bad news and of good news which later turned out to be a hoax.

Radio reports claims [sic] that the Marcoses have already fled the country to Guam. Ramos and Enrile celebrated with the myriad of people that has [sic] grown amass the gates of Camp Crame, while a number of Sikorsky helicopters and other more troops defect to the rebel side. Cory Aquino goes on air, asking the people to be “magnanimous in their victory.” But victory was not yet at hand.

An increasingly agitated Ferdinand Marcos goes on air and dispels the rumors of flight from the country. He pledges not to resign and threatens to use small arms fire to crush the growing rebellion.

Upon hearing the news, the rebel troops moved and invaded the government-controlled Channel 4 – cutting and humiliating Marcos in a live broadcast. Firefights were triggered but the people bravely secured the place, stopping the armed conflict between the loyalist forces and that of Ramos’. At high noon, Enrile announces the provisional government under Cory Aquino. However, loyalist troops made revenge by seizing the privately-owned Channel 7.

Later that day, Marcos was asked to “resign in order to avoid violence” by the US government, as the White House was continuously monitoring the developments with profound interest. Defiant to the end, Marcos airs his determination to fight “to the last drop of blood.”

Meanwhile, the people continue to gather at the barricades as Cory plans to formalize her government on Tuesday morning.

Ousting a dictator

As the morning unfolds the final day of the revolt, Loyalist snipers were spotted nearby the Aquinos home But the soldiers were ousted by the rebel troops and with the ‘people power’ standing by to further weaken the enemy forces.

At high noon, Marcos was inaugurated at Malacañang Attended by his loyal followers, the event was aired by the government-controlled TV stations 2, 9 and 13. Unfortunately, rebel soldiers captured the said stations soonafter [sic]. Without his ‘pet’ media, Marcos finally loses his disillusioned power. He desperately tried his last trick to lure Enrile over his side but to no avail.

Finally, through negotiations with the rebels of a safe passage, the Marcoses alongside Ver fled to Guam en-route to Hawaii aboard American helicopters. The thousands of Aquino supporters opened the gates of Malacañang Palace as they converged triumphantly against the Marcos loyalists. The crowd gathered to pray while others chanted “Cory! Cory! Cory!” as they joyfully celebrate their hard-fought but peaceful ‘liberation.’

The ‘revolution’ is over for now.

Unanswered Questions

After this historical event, there still lies questions of its triumph. Has the supposed “revolution” left things, if not trademarks of significant social political and economic reform? If there is, present societal chaos might have taken the backseat.

But the existing argument is that the said EDSA revolution is not a revolution after all but is instead only a “reform,” while some even call it just a “revolt” The present condition of the society and the government today reflects no significant changes after the event.

Maybe because every rose has its thorn? It is inevitable, the fact that the presidency of Ramos and the seat of Enrile in today’s bureaucracy is basically due to the “balimbing” syndrome.

During Ramos’ term as President, he never spoke a word regarding the long-standing mystery of the Ninoy Aquino assassination, with whom the critical public assumes he knows of. His administration’s proposal to extend the terms of office gave birth to the possibility of Charter Change and Constitutional Convention: a launchpad for the change of government, or even Martial Law.

Today, the historic stage of the most peaceful revolt in world history looms under the towering flights of ‘high-leveled highways. ‘ It hides under the shadows of flyovers creeping within the soul of Manila’s thousands of squatters, street children, scavengers and prostitutes.

Along the sidewalks, statues and monuments were set to remind people of the past fight to regain democracy. But these deadstones only seem to leave people amazed but not moved of the artists’ work. And where are the people who once led the masses to revolt?

They who changed the course of our nation’s history are now enjoying themselves either in power or luxury. They who united the people against tyrannical rule are simply contented with what they have already done not minding that there are still a lot that has to be done. The same problem lurks our nation.

IS the “revolutionary” spirit still alive in the minds of the people? Or is it now just hiding underneath the fly-overs and flying railways towering the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue? [P]

UPLB Perspective is the official student publication of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, established in 1973. It is the first campus publication established under Martial Law in the Philippines.

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