February 25, 2011 was not declared a working holiday, but Samuel Loyola took the half-day off to visit the EDSA Shrine in Ortigas.
He said that before his eyesight fails him, he wanted to see and be at the same place he was 25 years back.
Samuel came to our ENG van carrying a yellowing, dog-eared newspaper page printed with his small claim to history. Wrapped in plastic, the paper was only taken out on Februarys.
It was the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated February 24, 1986. Below its headline, a boy in a tank top was giving flowers to a soldier.
“That’s me right there,” Samuel said, pointing to a grinning man who peeped out from behind another, somehow expecting the camera shot.
He said he and onlookers laughed when they saw the uniformed man halted by the kid’s present.
It was typical of the spirit along this highway when prayers met force and good-naturedness doused anger with cold water.
The image–minus Samuel and the smiling entourage–is immortalized in the yellow 500-peso bill that future Filipinos, unfortunately, will no longer see except as collectors’ items.
We talked as I led him to the Bayan Mo iPatrol Mo (BMPM) booth at the shrine.
“This was all just open field back then,” Samuel said in Tagalog. “The Robinsons Galleria? That was a landing spot for helicopters.”
Still, I cannot imagine the EDSA-Ortigas intersection without its high-rises, billboards, flyovers, and heavy traffic.
I’m sure many of the youths in yellow who were sightseeing there or signing up as Bayan Patrollers would have said the same.
Indeed, the stories we needed heard during the EDSA 25th anniversary were anecdotes from ordinary people who converged there against nearly 2 decades of the Marcos regime.
Long before the age of tweets and camera phones, a photograph, a piece of cloth, or a small souvenir told these persons’ contributions to history.
I referred Mang Samuel to our reporter Sol Aragones, who was there all day interviewing people who had brought their memorabilia.
Earlier, she talked to Ping Martija, whom she met registering at the BMPM booth. He wore a black shirt printed with an image of Sen. Ninoy Aquino–the same shirt he wore in 1986.
Ma’am Sol asked why he came back. Lolo Ping broke down, just as the loudspeaker at the shrine blared the chorus of the EDSA anthem “Magkaisa.”
“Naaalala ko buhay namin. Naaapi ang kapwa Pilipino (I remember our lives then. Fellow Filipinos were being oppressed),” he said.
“Nais kong buhayin ito habang nabubuhay pa kami, kasi history ito sa buong Pilipinas–sa buong daigdig (I want to live this out as long as we’re alive, because it’s part of history in the Philippines–the world)!”
Lolo Ping and the lady with him were reunited there with old comrades. The group gladly walked to the top of the shrine and with “Laban” signs relived 1986.
Many of the shots were taken by music coach Monet Silvestre, who was in college when his family went to EDSA.
“I was surprised to find them posted on Facebook,” he told Sol in an interview at his music studio. “After I gave them to a sibling, I thought we had lost them.”
In 1986, Monet performed with the UP Madrigal Singers, then patronized by the Marcos family.
“Almost all of us were already for Cory (Aquino) then, but we were beholden to the institution,” he said.
“We were still obliged to sing for the Marcoses’ (snap election) campaign, even though our hearts were far from it. So when Cardinal Sin made the call to go to EDSA, we were all itching to go.”
The news team asked Monet to play “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo,” another EDSA theme, on his piano. He turned teary-eyed as he ended.
Remembering 1986 was bittersweet, he said.
“The memories were very fond, the ideals and dreams very high. Then after 25 years, while you don’t see the significant changes you fought for, there’s still corruption,” he said.
Monet’s story was not included in Sol’s TV Patrol report for lack of time. His sentiments nonetheless mirror that of many EDSA veterans looking back.
Samuel Loyola said: “We’ve seen many changes, but until today, our country is no better. I hope change really comes for good.”
It’s a call again needed heard from thousands whose names are not printed in bills or published in history books. More than any personality, they collectively embody the spirit of People Power.
That we still see its far-reaching impact in the upheavals and stirrings of the Middle East in 2011 shows that 1986 holds lessons for today.
Monet puts it: “If everybody could believe that change would come, even on an individual basis, I guess that’s the biggest gift of EDSA.”