Monday, February 28, 2011
I was at EDSA, too
“Who do you think you are -- Gabriela Silang?” my husband snapped, as his eyes swept me over from teased head to 5'1", 98-lb frame to size-4-1/2 feet, when I woke him early and told him we HAD to go to EDSA that Saturday morning 25 years ago.
I hardly slept the night before. I kept vigil with what was happening out there with my ears glued to Radio Veritas. I kept track of the events that stockpiled within hours, ringing if faintly the death knell of a hated regime.
I heard the incredible turns of events unfolding -- blow by blow:
Ramos holing inside Camp Crame. Enrile at nearby Camp Aguinaldo. Both men grimly proclaiming they were ready to die with their ideals intact. FM’s cabinet men coming forward – one by one – publicly resigning from their posts, emphatically renouncing their boss. Butch Aquino imploring the public to join the crowd amassing, nay, snowballing, at EDSA to safeguard the camps and those who sought refuge there. Cardinal Sin urging his flock to leave home and make a stand as a Christian duty.
How could I have slept? For the first time, the dream seemed possible – our liberation from the dictatorship, the end of martial rule, the stop to crony capitalism, massive corruption, the killing of political dissenters (and their disappearances), and other human rights crimes ad infinitum.
(Why I had the radio on that night -- I who hardly ever turned on the set except to find out what was the exact radio time so I could adjust my watch or our clocks – I still cannot explain. My best guess is that Providence wearied of my ambivalence and [divinely] intervened.)
My husband was, of course right. I was no Gabriela Silang. No one would call me feisty, the pipsqueak that I am. I knew deep down I was a mouse, a mouse that wanted to roar, but a mouse just the same. I have this tiny heart that goes out to the poor and the oppressed, but my ass, oh my ass -- it had remained firmly fence-seated and inert and comfortable and very safe.
Ideologically, you might describe me as left of center but as the Marcos rule increasingly strangled not just the economy but also the national psyche, I had veered leftwards more and more. I had also grown more and more restless with my do-nothing ideology.
Months before, I had begun to walk my talk as I joined yellow-confetti rallies and parades in Cubao and Makati as well as the boycott against crony companies.
Still when my husband flatly refused to accompany me to EDSA that Saturday, Feb. 22, 1986, I did little beyond mutter limply about “history in the making and here we are cooling our butts.” Still then a young(ish), unliberated woman, I felt I had no choice but to stay put and vicariously join the crowds by staying tuned to Radio Veritas.
The following morning, Sunday, it was my husband’s turn to wake me with unaccustomed urgency. “Let’s go,” he said. “And bring sandwiches for the soldiers (who were guarding the camps 24/7 and presumably were unfed).
As I was spreading mayo and inserting sweet ham on slices of loaf bread, my husband added: " Don’t forget towels."
Towels? I asked, uncomprehending. Yes, towels, wet towels -- he repeated. It seemed soldiers – those who had not yet defected – were throwing tear gas bombs at the crowds to disperse them.
My home was unfortunately and constantly short of towels. But I had dozens of gauge diapers (well laundered and well bleached after months of use by my then three-year old Bunso). I got them out from the cabinet and force-pressed them inside an overnight bag. My husband lugged a jug of water in case the diapers needed wetting. On the way to where the action was, we bought packs of biscuits and tetra juices.
We arrived to a fiesta atmosphere at EDSA. We met no tanks, no tear gas brigades, no Marcos soldiers creating mayhem. Only people smiling and laughing, and sharing their baon of food and drinks, and listening to transistors, and trading the latest bulletins on which military contingent or which general had defected and which were still steadfastly on the way to the camps to destroy Crame and Aguinaldo and scare away the crowds. There was tension, too, of course, as bang-bang military action was constantly half-expected. But in the meantime, the people seemed bent to savor the unusual -- uhm uhm -- oneness. In that huge picnic that randomly bloomed on the highway, the often divisive Pinoys seemed at last about to pull their act together.
Fast food chains were giving away Styrofoam packs of meals. Soft drink companies kept drinks flowing. We walked past the crowds to hew close to the camp’s gates and fences to find soldiers who didn't look hungry -- just bored and sleepy. I forced on them the sandwiches I prepared anyway.
Then a priest said mass, happily very near where we chose to stay. When the final “go in peace” blessings were given, there was a mild commotion. And I saw Fidel Ramos executing his now famous triumphant leap. Some people in the crowd followed his cue and jumped too. Others broke into clapping. But the elation was premature … it was all a rumor … the news that Marcos had fled.
We went back that night to camp out with a group of neighbors with whom we hitched a ride. The fiesta spirit prevailed at least in our part of EDSA (the Green Meadows area). The towels … I mean, the diapers .. didn’t have to be steeped in water and distributed. There were no bombs – teargas or the more lethal kind. There were no tanks to stop with rosaries and white roses – though we women were given these -- just in case, the leaders said. After dinner, we rehearsed for how we women would take the front lines when the tanks appeared with our smiles and peace offerings and loud prayers. We were assured in the same breath that the menfolk would actually be leading the regiment from behind, ready to overtake the women should the soldiers prove serious in wiping us off the street.
I fidgeted as I waited for the tanks, fingering my white rose and beads. But by the time the sun rose, they had not rolled in. I was almost disappointed. It could have been my mouse-roaring moment. Tsk.
I tried to snatch some sleep on blankets we spread on the pavement. But it was cold outdoors, with summer weeks away. When I couldn't stand the chill, I'd rise to seek warmth from one of the smoldering bonfires. Just then, a queue of people began to form, at the end of which were steaming coffee and hot pandesal, courtesy of a congregation of nuns and priests. I joined the line, yawning, beginning to warm up.
We went back the following evening , Monday, with our eldest son, Ariel, then a teenager, in tow. Adrian, our next son, was imploring to be allowed to join, too. I shushed him with an assurance: tomorrow will be your turn. I was so sure it would be a long, long road show. I reckoned Marcos and family would dig in for many days.
But I was wrong. On Tuesday, there was no more reason to stay the night. By about 8 pm, the whole of EDSA exploded into cheering and dancing and singing. The dictator had truly and finally fled.
We walked home that night – feeling like we were stepping on air -- never imagining 25 years later the EDSA peaceful revolution we just took part in would be called a failed success.
Photo: from OFW News on Web