WELL, it’s the time of year again when we reminisce those four glorious days of February in 1986. Personally, it was the time of my own political awakening after going through my pubescent years under Martial Law in passive submission. As a growing up boy in my hometown of Silay City, I could still remember that my Lolo Estong was a staunch supporter of the Nacionalista Party. My late father was the Private Secretary of the late Mayor Natalio G. Velez.
Thus, it wasn’t hard to guess our family’s political leanings. But I was too young then to understand all those things. In my pubertal naiveté, I thought then that the Nacionalistas were the “good guys” and the Liberals were the “bad guys.” At least that was my impression whenever the old folks would talk at the dinner table especially during election time.
The Silay City that I grew up in during the 70’s was a rather laid back community. There was not much excitement, figuratively and politically speaking. In fact, I would even dare say that the Silaynons then were mostly apolitical, if not, apathetic to any political issue, least of all on a national scale. I could not even remember any Silaynon who had the gumption of uttering a dissenting voice against the Marcos regime.
Of course, there were some who took the path of revolution. But then again they were the exception rather than the rule. For most of my town mates, political discussions then were done in hushed tones in the privacy of their homes. But the Ninoy Aquino assassination in 1983 became the bolt of lightning that awakened some well-minded Silaynons from their lethargy. I was one of them. As my baptism of fire, I joined the group led by the late Virgilio Gaston who opposed the division of Negros Occidental into two provinces – Negros del Norte and Negros del Sur. Our slogan then was – “No kami sa Yes! Yes kami sa No!”
When the 1986 Snap Elections came, I joined the local Namfrel Chapter. I felt I had to contribute my little share in that monumental chapter in our nation’s history. In the tension-filled aftermath that followed after the Snap Elections, we joined the Victory Caravan that converged at the Bacolod City Public Plaza together with other contingents from other towns and cities. So there we were shouting an endless chanting of “Cory, Cory…” when along came the former Chief of Police of Bacolod City, the late Col. Gilfredo Geolingo Sr. raging and fuming mad.
Tension filled the air as the Police Chief angrily confronted the late Cong. Roming Guanzon and the late Bishop Antonio Fortich. When their discussion failed, a burst of automatic shots were suddenly fired in the air which had us scampering all over the plaza. I still remember me and my friends had to protect Mrs. Alice Gaston from the stampeding crowd. We all ended up at the Bacolod City Police Headquarters where the late Congressman and the late Bishop were brought after they were arrested at the plaza. And boy, did the chants of “Cory, Cory…” grow louder there.
The Four Days of February 1986 literally brought the entire country into a standstill. Even in Bacolod City, the main streets were practically empty as most of us remained glued to our radio sets listening to Bombo Radyo and the blow-by-blow accounts of their reporters on the field. There was not much we can do here, unlike in Manila where the action was. And so, I just remained fixed on the radio until the final word was broadcast that the Marcoses had left Malacañang almost midnight of the 25th. Then as if on cue, the Silay City Public Plaza, erupted in spontaneous jubilation as folks poured out of their homes and into the streets in one collective moment of euphoria. It was a scene replicated nationwide when the entire country let loose its suppressed and pent up longing for freedom. Finally, democracy! The feeling was indescribable.
Twenty-four years hence, the cynics are saying that Edsa 1 failed to live up to its lofty expectations. Why even no less than the unlamented dictator’s son, Bongbong Marcos, would have the gall and temerity to proclaim that Edsa 1 was a failure. I beg to disagree. The democratic spirit behind Edsa 1 was not a failure. Otherwise, the entire Marcos family would not have been able to come back home to the Philippines.
If that were not so, then Marcos Jr. would not be so free to speak with such effrontery against the Heroes of Edsa 1 who laid such a costly sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. It is precisely the reason why the People Power Revolution came into being - to serve as a reminder to all and sundry that the Filipino people have already unshackled themselves from the chains of apathy and indifference. And that any attempt to undermine the basic fiber of our democratic institutions will be thwarted. The great American patriot, Thomas Jefferson, once wrote: “Each generation has a right to choose for itself the form of government most promotive of its own happiness.”
Thus, Jefferson added, “that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute a new government.”
Let therefore the indomitable spirit of Edsa 1 live on.