2/24/2006
Stories from a close coup d'etat call

The next post is based on, well, almost six hours watching the news, writing notes on pad paper about my reactions, my thoughts and my events as well as theirs. Yes, I made something out of a vacation. So, here it goes...

...up at five, ready by six, disabled by seven. All because of a coup d'etat attempt.

By seven in the morning, my siblings were grounded at home after the announcement that their classes were suspended. I was already in the car with my dad when the announcement came through the radio: all college classes are suspended. So, there it went - what I initially thought would be one of my longest days in my college life, with a Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah showing, plus swimming class - all changing only because of a couple of "misguided" military officials and their men attempting to topple our government and replace it with, quite possibly, a military junta.

Just days before, I was telling my brother that the WWE Raw Live Tour would not push through because rebel soldiers would end up attacking the Araneta Coliseum and begin shooting the wrestlers - but, in the tradition of the Dick Cheney hunting accident, they would hit somebody else instead. Rumors of a coup attempt were wildly making the rounds the past weeks, especially as the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the first People Power revolution went close. And then we woke up, got the announcement, and stuck with the television. Then, as we were all sleeping, soldiers began to move and people got wind of it. The moment I woke up, it was all over, but I didn't know about it yet.

As usual, I was working around the announcement in panic - two classmates were calling me, I was calling AK, and Mike Enriquez was going frantic. So, there it went - Sociology midterms moved, swimming class moved, The Sky Over Dimas moved - and a three-day weekend.

I thought, should I panic? We are technically safe from where it's all happening, with me safe in our Cavite home, and yet I got pretty concerned - worried, perhaps - about the others stuck in the middle of somewhere. It was just fifteen past seven, and by then no one was sure about what could possibly happen. Would it be as spontaneous as the past rallies? Would it lead to another government's downfall? Would it make us look really desparate for power, us already fickle-minded Filipinos? What about the economy, our civil rights, this blog, the people I care for, the play I was supposed to watch? Weirdly, I wished Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah would come and save the day.

As another announcement was made - that of the billionth iTunes song being downloaded - I finally began to make sense of everything. All rallies for the have been cancelled. People are flocking the San Juan Medical Center to keep the police from bringing former President Estrada back to Tanay. There have been mistakes in press releases. And President Arroyo isn't talking yet, probably a result of a demand of sleep and a supply of panic. It was almost nine in the morning, and the calm was still the one populated with jitters and paranoia, like the last coup attempt at Oakwood Hotel a couple of years ago. Obviously by then there wasn't any definitive explanation yet. Statements are thrown left and right. But, unusual probably in my eyes, no one was blaming anyone for anything. Then Clarence texted me, and then it was a subtle reminder that I'm supposed to enjoy the day, the long weekend, and all the rest I could possibly get from it. But at what price?

At noon, Arroyo interrupted our amazement at Rico having his head shaved for Mich's maid, and declared a "state of national emergency". There it was: proclamation number 1017, just as rallyists were being blocked at the Quezon Memorial Circle. Sociology lesson for some: defiance. No permits were issues or recognized, and yet there they were, trying to relive the spirit of EDSA in a way some would've thrown up on. I thought then that, for once, Time analyst Anthony Spaeth was right in saying that people power has become an excuse for mob rule (as he said about the second EDSA revolution that toppled Estrada). Some are at it again, abusing the much-celebrated concept of people power and taking it in toppling selectively unpopular leaders. Taking advantage of the quelled coup attempt, showing force, trying to show the world the false fact that everyone in this country hates Arroyo - it's like January 2001 again, only senseless.

Then images of those who got through the barricades began flashing on the screens. I was partially disgusted. Out of disgruntlement, "si David, si Hontiveros? Masa ba sila?"

Claim back EDSA for the masses, they said.

My uncontrollable political opinion machine has been turned on. Things have indeed gone very quickly; noontime shows have been interupted, reporters have begun losing their breath, and my mom and brother are hating me from talking too much. "Dapat binoto nila si Eddie Gil," I said. "Gusto rin naman nilang yumaman. di ba?" Obviously, those people who know - political elites, right? - have begun to march again, taking in people who are only there for the free food rather than their beliefs. Then the cycle begins again, after they've done their parts. They're critics again.

Everything seemed impulsive, but amazingly, it seems all planned to me. Again, defiance.

On the television, they've begun talking about the proclamation's apparent lack of legal basis. But, then again, who would want to see warrantless arrests and utility takeovers again? The words martial law began to ring again. That's what Congress minority leader Chiz Escudero compared it to, on the television.

By now, my chances of watching the musical is going dim - Tyne's texting me, asking for confirmation, for apparently she isn't being allowed anymore. But both of us feel for the money we've paid and the points we would get, not to mention the experience of seeing another play, what could have been my sixth in two months.

Two in the afternoon, and after a slight disconnection with the news, there it went - police break up snail-paced protesters along the Santolan area, complete with riot gear. Stones have been thrown literally, and then the words calibrated preemptive response began to echo like it was just introduced days ago. The police have begun to hit the protesters with wodden sticks, their shields - their instincts, if it even exists among humans. And then, another report was interrupted; Randy David, among others, were arrested. All that, in the middle of me watching a documentary on the celebrate event we're supposedly celebrating. Stuck in the middle of learning about fake elections, confetti revolutions and mosquito publications, there is the comparison. What's it all for? is it even close?

Maybe the reason why people have become agitated so quickly is that because the government failed to reach them effectively. Maybe their only experience is the bruise caused by crowd control. Check out the urban poor communities - some might have been, as AK called them, "professional squatters", with television sets and pretty much stuff that we have - but yet they're left out in the cold. What about those in the provinces? And then, power-hungry people take advantage and transform these experiences into something traumatic, something that the administration is automatically liable for despite the bureaucracy's inefficiency, something that must be worked on by brutality... or is it?

Now they're against a (supposedly unconstitutional?) state of emergency declaration that apparently mimicked martial law thirty-two years ago. And they're showing the same videos again. Same images, same people, same brutality, same trash, same fallen pink fences.

The last thing I heard, more protesters are joining Cory Aquino's tribute to her fallen husband Ninoy - the certain trigger that led to the yellow strips of paper falling on Ayala Avenue decades ago, the one that spurred the spirits of a seemingly dormant Filipino consciousness and sparked a peaceful revolution that isn't even bloodless, considering the dead soldiers as they fought for television stations and other vital interests. It was supposedly a wreath-laying ceremony, which has (somehow unintendedly) colored with one of those political crayons. They've passed by Mandaluyong. Maybe they're there with her now, but I don't know - I haven't watched the news in hours now, and I'm still stuck at home, along with Tyne and Kat, grounded because of the possibly perilous situation outside. Finally, though, I've gotten the hang of the vacation, but not all the attention - CNN's Hugh Riminton, Guinsaugon one day, Manila the next, spotted carrying a tripod as protesters left the EDSA Shrine peacefully early this morning.

After all this, I wonder. What are we actually fighting for? What happened to the things we've already fought for? Is it still all worth it?

I think people ought to know that, one point is, the event isn't as serious as it seems. The protests and the coup attempt, for all we know, could be coincidential. Eliminate the power grab possibility, and we've got people willing to celebrate the first revolution while, at the same time, criticizing the government for it's apparent inefficiency, for the taxes we pay, for the money we don't feel the impact of, for all the people who died, for Arroyo's apparent acting as a puppet, as a fascist - some, somehow, impossible, thinking sometimes things become confusing when opportunities come to mind. The media has weirdly merged two events with a spurious correlation into one thing that made us panic, for once. If anyone's noticed, during the last few days, people were wondering why the official celebrations of the first revolution's two decades are terribly low-key, unfelt. Maybe egos are being bruised over this one. Cory didn't show up. Former President Fidel Ramos might not be as well. Presidnet Arroyo is saying locations don't matter, as she proceeded to celebrate in Cebu yesterday. Today, the newspapers are abuzz with another government advertorial creating another spurious connection, this time between the spirit of EDSA and the government's accomplishments. And yet, we couldn't get ourselves together.

But what is it all for? Was it opportunity? Symbolism? Beliefs? Power? Fame? All the other things that come with it? Was it the show of force, of abilities? Was it all made up? Was it all to ruin my day? Was it for me to delay my reactions for a bit?

Would I get killed for this?

Political indecision, political divisiveness - all of this left me without Zsa Zsa, without company, without tutorials, without inspiration, without any courage to stand up for anything. It left me without anything to think about. Suddenly, at the end of all this, I'm confused, as always.

The spirit of EDSA isn't certainly dead, but this "celebration" is, I think, too low-key.

And your responses...

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