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My unforgettable People Power-EDSA I experience

MANILA, Philippines - I remember EDSA I still vividly and I think it will be etched in my mind forever. My involvement in that epochal episode of our country started several weeks before I and my son Manny III got physically present in that unforgettable drama.

Together with Colonel Mariano Santiago and ex-Congressman Antonio Aquino and many others I cannot recall anymore, we rushed to Channel 4 which was being fiercely defended by the Loyalist soldiers. An exchange of gunfire ensued between the separatist forces, then a lull. Newsmen and newshen of the TV station were allowed to exit through the main gate and an employee died due to a heart attack. We then entered the station and Col. Santiago asked the loyalist soldiers to surrender peacefully stating “we are all Filipinos”.

They were persuaded to lay down their guns, and I was assigned to broadcast what was happening at the rear Mother Ignacia St. gate of the government station via a land cruiser equipped with a mobile radio transceiver. There were so many people in the vicinity and since it was impossible for us to get out, I decided to park the car in a strategic place inside and aired reports to anchormen Johnny Midnight and the late Orly Punzalan. In the area roamed a lot of soldiers and INP police officers of different units but the majority was from the PC Highway Patrol Group, now the TMG. A kindly elderly couple requested entry because they have brought newly-baked food for us. How the soldiers and we civilians relished the daing na bangus and pinakbet and fruits laid on top of a long table. We ate together kamayan lapangan style and very happy to partake of such fare.

Suddenly a burst of automatic gunfire coming from the direction of the nearby Channel 9 tower above the then PAGASA office disturbed our hearty chow. We scampered in different directions and the soldiers aimed and fired their rifles instantaneously at the tower but to no avail because the height and the distance of the tower were very far and the bullets couldn’t reach their target. I, who crept inside the cruiser managed to take hold of the microphone of the radio and called the anchorman and broadcast to report the situation in a quivering voice. Johnny Midnight told me to calm down and inquired if I was safe which I affirmed. He then contacted the Reformist Officers inside the TV station.

After a while, a V2 armored carrier came rushing to the site and reformist soldiers, battle-tested veterans of the Mindanao conflict, went out of the gate mostly armed with M14 rifles and took up strategic positions near the Channel 9 tower. Staccato sounds of gunfire erupted, then after a little while a Huey gunship helicopter hovered in the skies above and raked the tower relentlessly with M60 machine gun fire. After several breathtaking minutes, I heard a report that a lone sharpshooter acting as a sniper was dead and this was confirmed when the soldiers on the ground went up the tower and lowered the dead body using ropes strung around its torso. Everybody cheered shouting “Cory, Cory, Cory!”

After rejoicing, I reported back to the anchor and we all returned to our interrupted simple but sumptuous lunch. Everybody burped contentedly and thanked the kindly couple who still stayed and served us so humbly. I later interviewed them for the benefit of the listeners and found out that they were well-off and the only way they could think of serving the country was by bringing in food which all of us hungered for. Late in the day, a lot of donated food and goodies from all over the restaurants of Metro Manila and PAL poured in but for me the best tasting was that lunch of that memorable event dubbed, “People Power”. Mabuhay tayong lahat at nawa’y manatili sa ating mga puso ang diwa ng EDSA!         — MANUEL “Manny” T. DE CASTRO, JR., NTC-PIO

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