The spirit of EDSA does not exist

Today marks thirty years since Ferdinand Marcos was ousted from power due to the sheer strength of the people, or so says the prevailing narrative.

I don't mean to sound skeptical. I was not yet around in 1986. I would be born three years later; I'm one of those kids who supposedly have lived through all the graces of a post-Marcos world. I am perfectly aware of the atrocities Marcos did to consolidate power and wealth, for himself, his family and his friends, especially in the immediate aftermath of the declaration of Martial Law, purportedly to quell a swelling communist contingent. I have read the books, seen the documentaries, and heard the stories from my parents, who were college students when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, when anti-Marcos sentiment was at its peak - when things went pop and boom on those fateful four days in 1986.

And yet things are not sitting well with me today. Inevitably, you could say. It's not exactly the fortuitous timing of a landmark anniversary coinciding with an election year, however. It's not my skepticism of politicians using the supposed legacy of EDSA to further their place in the race for president. Perhaps it's something bigger.

The so-called "spirit of EDSA" has dulled as years passed. It's not because, as our elders say, we kids have no idea what it's all about. They cringe whenever our generation starts looking at Bongbong Marcos - the son of Ferdinand, current senator, now running for vice president - as a viable option. "Oh, shit, you want to vote for a Marcos? Do you have any idea what he can do? Are you out of your mind?" Why would we want to elect someone who is known to have amassed wealth from government coffers? Why would we want to elect someone who has tried to justify all the abuses incurred during his father's time? Why would we want to elect someone who just wants to move on from our tendency to dwell in the evils of 1972 to 1986?

I understand that we don't want another strongman ruling absolutely. Specifically, we don't want another strongman ruling absolutely over us, with a different set of rules for himself and his cohorts. But I also understand what my generation - we who supposedly are benefiting fully from the graces of a post-Marcos world - are seeing. We feel so hopeless, most of us. If we weren't born with rich parents, we would have to work doubly hard to achieve our dreams. Everybody says it's easy, but it's hard, really hard. Saving money for the future seems daunting as everything gets more expensive. You ponder working two jobs, and you worry you won't get the chance to even keep that one job you already have. And I'm saying this as a member of the middle class, we who supposedly can afford it more than the rest of them. What more the poor?

My generation is frustrated. My generation is hopeless, you can argue. It's not just the eternal gridlock on the very highway we have poured loads of symbolism into. It's the long queues when registering vehicles. It's the longer wait for a license plate. It's whenever some security guard drops a bullet in your baggage to extort money from you. It's whenever some customs agent opens up your package and takes what he wants. It's whenever you get your payslip and wonder why you are even taxed at all. "Your taxes are working for you," we are constantly told, to which we answer, "what the fuck are our taxes doing for us, anyway?"

I understand the appeal of Bongbong Marcos, of Rodrigo Duterte. They promise order in a world that has lost it. It's not that we've forgotten the past. It's just that the present doesn't look so appealing, either. Maybe we need to go back to the past, when streets were clean and buses weren't full and things just worked? But what do we know, right? We're stupid; we easily fall for excuses; we simply believe the apologists. All we need, apparently, is a reeducation on what our elders have fought for. We need to relearn what the spirit of EDSA is.

Thus, my screens are filled with patronizing stories of just what happened thirty years ago. After allegations of rigged snap elections, Enrile and Ramos decided to switch allegiances, and cooped themselves up in Camps Aguinaldo and Crame, surrounded by forces who share the same sentiments as them. Sin went on Veritas and called for the public to mass to EDSA, to form a human barricade to deter Marcos' forces from retaliating. It didn't stop them and Marcos couldn't help but be so public about crushing the rebellion, but the skirmishes were limited, and were far away. Veritas went down and Bandido took its place. The government television network went down mid-press conference, to be replaced with the words "this is the People's Television Network". On the 25th, both Aquino and Marcos was sworn in as president, but the latter, understanding that he has lost the Reagan's support, fleed to Hawaii. Or Paoay, as legend says he initially thought.

The narrative has not changed in the past thirty years. We, the people, in a bloodless revolution, in a peaceful revolution, ousted a dictator, removed his thirty-year grip from power. But then what, exactly?

What exactly is the spirit of EDSA?

Does it really all boil down to not allowing another Marcos to become vice president? Is it about ensuring that we continue to unjustifiably glorify an Aquino? It is constantly telling us kids to think one way and not the other, because we're stupid and dumb and we should be grateful we have all these rights anyway?

We have been accused of taking those rights for granted. Those four days in EDSA in 1986, they won us our freedoms back. Yes, I agree. If not for those four days I would not be able to write this very essay. I would have just disappeared, without a trace, for saying anything vaguely negative. True, perhaps we have taken those rights for granted. It's all we've known. Maybe we can have order and those freedoms too, right? I don't know. I haven't really thought about it.

Could it be that it's not just my generation who's taking those rights for granted? Maybe the elders have, too. Have we gotten so complacent since 1986 that we have allowed certain people to get away with things? You still need to know someone in high places to get ahead. You are constantly told what to believe and what not to believe, and deviating from that makes you an activist, and you know activists are evil - you know that; they told you so. We are still not as free as we say we are.

We only remember the spirit of EDSA when we find ourselves in a situation when we can appoint a protagonist and an antagonist and pit them against each other. In 2001, it was Estrada versus Arroyo. In 2010, it was Arroyo versus Aquino. This year, it is the Filipino people - whoever they are supposed to represent - against the idea of a Marcos, of a Binay, of a Duterte undoing everything that's supposedly been done in the past six years.

Really, though, the spirit of EDSA does not exist. It certainly did in those four days in 1986, but it dissipated as soon as we saw the helicopter carry the Marcoses away from MalacaƱang. We were so confident things will be better, we have consciously lowered our standards. The coup attempts against the older Aquino were seen as disruptions to a good thing. Only when things look desperate do we raise our standards. We can't elect a Binay, but we let an Aquino get away with things. We only invoke the spirit when it's politically convenient.

But what do I know? I was born in 1989. I have only heard the stories. I have not lived them. But I know that the spirit of EDSA is a constant struggle for what is right. It is a constant struggle for our freedoms, for our rights, regardless of who we're up against - and we do not have to be up against a Big Bad. We have the right to say what we believe within reason. We have the right to a high quality of life. We have the right to an education that will enable us to think and discern. We have the right to not waste our time mired in red tape. I could go on and on. The bottom line is, we still have a lot to fight for; it never ended on the 25th day of the second month of 1986. It never ended when Marcos left and Aquino became president.

Instead, EDSA has become just another empty political premise. A Marcos is running for vice president, so we're leaning hard on that spirit again. It's convenient, you see, to make people afraid of the idea that Martial Law will definitely return as soon as he is elected, of the idea that our gains of the last six years - not thirty, just six - will all disappear.

But what do we know?

And your responses...

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