Manila—It has been 31 years but the story is still clear to anyone telling it: An enormous gathering of disillusioned Filipinos staged the People Power Revolution that toppled the 20-year presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, whose government people saw as corrupt and oppressive.
The People Power Revolution built up and culminated from February 22 to 25, 1986 on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, the main Metro Manila thoroughfare that gained worldwide attention as the site of the bloodless revolution.
Every year hence, February 25 has become a work and school holiday in the Philippines and a yearly commemoration is celebrated right at EDSA where the peaceful revolt was staged.
Images of this revolution where soldiers with guns received flowers from little girls and rosaries from nuns reverberated around the world and inspired a chain of events in countries facing the same political strife, although each country’s version of it had differing situations.
In Burma, the 8888 Uprising in that peaked on Aug. 8, 1988, began as a student movement and developed into a nationwide civil unrest to demand for democracy from the socialist state led by a one-party government. It saw the rise of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi but many lives were sacrificed.
In 1989 in China, protesters’ never-ending efforts to initiate democracy have their Tiananmen Square in Beijing where student-led protests were attacked and overpowered by Chinese troops who killed hundreds. In Romania, the revolution that overthrew a communist regime, also in 1989, led to a tragic sight: the dead bodies of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, who were both executed.
Again in 1989, nonviolent versions were the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia that led to the collapse of the communist regime. The events in Czechoslovakia were triggered by the fall of the Berlin Wall that formerly divided East and West Germany where millions of people demanding political change assembled and clambered onto the walls.
Images of German youth dancing and hugging each other atop the walls to celebrate their freedom, and later of people picking up pieces of the torn wall as keepsakes added to the most powerful illustrations of the world changing during that decade.
Succeeding revolutions continued to mount in Poland, Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, the Baltic states, Latin American countries such as Chile, South Africa, and the Philippines’ neighbors Taiwan and South Korea until the 1990s and 2000s.
This year, Filipinos staged the “Power of We,” a broad coalition of 50 civil society organizations who believed that Filipinos must again come together and make the memory of the revolution relevant because the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has authoritarian and dictatorial tendencies that challenge freedoms and does not respect the rule of law as shown in the last eight months.
The “Power of We” was set up by The Silent Majority, an online group that is part of the February 25 Coalition that traces its beginnings from the protests against the stealthy burial of Marcos in November last year at the heroes cemetery, which triggered lightning protests in Manila and a few key cities in the Philippines.
Party List Congressman Tom Villarin, who is one of the organizers, said Filipinos must rise up to a government that has similar undercurrents of the Marcos regime that was toppled by the 1986 revolt. “We are still the same Filipinos who fought a dictatorship 31 years ago,” he said.
Part of the commemoration was also the launch of the new annotated edition of the 1976 book, “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos,” which sparked Filipinos’ awareness of the Marcos regime. The book’s author, Primitivo Mijares, Marcos’ former chief propagandist who disappeared after defecting while doing the book, was tortured and killed by Marcos’ henchmen, who also kidnapped, tortured and killed his 16-year-old son at the time.
Defending freedom, fighting oppression and stopping murder were the underlying premises of this year’s rites by Filipinos who were angered by the president’s attempt to
mute the commemoration and make it a passing footnote by asking Filipinos to move on from the past.
Certainly, as the world changes with new threats, revolutions will always be inevitable.