The legacy of EDSA People Power

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

It was a Tuesday morning, Feb. 25, 1986. I had been staying in EDSA since Saturday evening along with more than a million other Filipinos. That morning, I was told that Corazon Aquino was going to take her oath as president of the Republic of the Philippines. Finally, the 14-year Marcos dictatorship would come to an end.

I decided to walk to Club Filipino to witness this historical occasion. When I got there after walking from EDSA, the room where the oathtaking would be held was already overcrowded. The entire premises of Club Filipino was also jampacked. I waited on the street right beside the Greenhills Shopping Center, right in front of Club Filipino, for some companions who were fortunate to have found space in the crowded room.

Later, I was able to get a copy of the inaugural speech of President Cory Aquino. It was brief but has always communicated her message in a memorable way. Here is her speech:

“My brothers and sisters, I am grateful to the authority you have given me today and I promise to offer all that I can do to serve you.

It is fitting and proper that, as our people lost their rights and liberties at midnight 14 years ago, the people should formally recover those rights and liberties in the full light of day. Ninoy believed that only the united strength of the Filipino people would suffice to overturn a tyranny so evil and so well organized. The brutal murder of Ninoy created that unity and strength that has come to be known as Lakas ng Bayan – People Power.

“People Power shattered the dictatorship, protected those in the military that chose freedom and today has established a government dedicated to this protection and meaningful fulfillment over rights and liberties.

“We became exiles. We Filipinos who are at home only in freedom when Marcos destroyed the republic 14 years ago.

“Now by God’s grace and the power of the people, we are free again. We want to make a special appeal to those who have not yet joined us. Do not engage in any further action and instead, be among those who will lend a hand to rebuild the country.”

There is now a new generation of Filipinos who have very little knowledge of the Marcos dictatorship. Then there are those who are even trying to rewrite history.

In her first State of the Nation (SONA) message, president Corazon C. Aquino spoke about the imprisonment of Ninoy Aquino. “In March 1973, six months after the declaration of martial law, Ninoy Aquino was taken blindfolded from Fort Bonifacio and brought to a place he did not know. He was stripped naked and thrown into a cell. His only contact was a jailer. The immediate prospect, in such a place, was a midnight execution in front of a grave dug by himself.

“The purpose was clear as it was diabolical. It was not to kill him yet but to break him first and with him, break the compelling proof that men can stand up to a dictatorship.”

Ninoy Aquino did not break. And on the third anniversary of his incarceration in Laur, according to Cory, “… the recollection of his pain gave birth to a poem of hope.” This is the poem he wrote:

I am burning the candle of my life in the dark

with no one to benefit

from the light.

The candle slowly melts away;

soon its wick will be burned out

and the light is gone.

if someone will only gather

the melted wax, re-shape it,

give it a new wick –

for another fleeting moment

my candle can once again

light the dark,

be of service

one more time,

and then … goodbye.

Here is what she wrote about Ninoy’s poem: “This is the anguish of good men, that the good they will do will come to nothing. That pains suffered in obscurity or sacrifices made away from the sight of men, amount to the same and mock the man or woman who bears them.

“This is not true. None of the good that we do is ever lost; not even the light in an empty room is wasted.

“From Ninoy’s burnt out candle and thousands like it in cells throughout the garrison state, we gather the melted wax and made more candles. To burn – not as long in such loneliness – but much more brightly, all together as to banish the darkness and light us to a new day.”

Today, there are obvious efforts to erase the struggle and martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino and the historic event that happened in EDSA during those four days in February 1986.

The story of the restoration of democracy is a truth that the present and future generation of Filipinos must never forget. These historical facts must not be rewritten and must be taught in classrooms and other venues. It is one of the most important legacies that the old generation can bequeath to all future generations.

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