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Preserving the story of the Philippines' 1986 people power revolt

Updated: Feb 25, 2023



By Diana G. Mendoza


Manila-- Is the memory of the Philippines' 1986 people power revolt fading?

This peaceful uprising of Filipinos who ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. put the Philippines high in the global handbook on how to end authoritarian rulers without bloodshed.


It is the 37th anniversary of the People Power Revolution, also known as the EDSA Revolt which refers to the stretch of the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Metro Manila where the historic uprising unfolded from Feb. 22 to 25, 1986.


Over two million Filipinos gathered in a civil disobedience movement that culminated in the Marcoses fleeing the country.


Filipinos who survived Marcos’ 21-year rule from 1965 to 1986, the martial law survivors, activists and civil society groups lined up anniversary activities meant to preserve the country's history.


The only difference now is that #EDSA37 is happening for the first time with another Marcos as president – the dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.


The activists criticized Marcos Jr.’s government over its silence as the anniversary approached, and the president’s opting to go to his father’s home province in Ilocos Norte to hold his own festival with Marcos loyalists. It was the same silent treatment last Sept. 21, the anniversary of his father’s imposition of martial law.


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But beyond maintaining their stance that the late dictator was responsible for thousands of killings, torture and disappearances and his family stole billions from the state coffers during his rule, these activists also face a throng of mostly young Filipinos who were not yet born during the dark martial law years.


Some of these impressionable young Filipinos, who are heavy users of social media and are susceptible to disinformation, were also part of the seven million first-time voters out of a total of 69 million voters in the May 2022 presidential elections won by Marcos Jr.


These millennials and Gen Z-ers aged between 18 and 38 also easily believe social media content created by Marcos Jr. supporters even years prior to 2022 that falsely portrayed that Marcos Sr.’s rule was the country’s “golden age.”


Apart from that, they were fed information that Marcos Sr. was the victim, and his strongest critic, the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr., who was gunned down upon his return from his US exile in 1983, was the perpetrator of violence.


Since 2016, the historical distortion has also added the Marcoses vs. Aquinos scuffle into the discussions, eclipsing the fact that the EDSA Revolt was about toppling the dictator and restoring democracy and freedom.


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As the groups gear up to remind every Filipino and the world of the importance of the people power revolt, and as students, workers, bikers and all who want to remember fill up the capital’s main thoroughfare, others will do their leafleting activities to share their stories and memories, participate in creating a mural and tapestry of dreams, do cultural presentations and film showings, apart from a Holy Mass at high noon.


#EDSA37 may be the first time that such an anniversary is held under a difficult political environment, but there will be no end to this effort of remembering and reminding about the lessons that remain valid and true today.



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