Last year, February 25 marked, for myself and a couple of friends, not just a non-working holiday to commemorate the first EDSA Revolution, but a long weekend trip to Cebu.
Tomorrow, February 25, 2012, I will most likely spend the Saturday at home. As it turns out, the movie a friend and I wanted to see won’t be out until May, and in any case the car will be unavailable tomorrow. But this isn’t just the realization that this year’s EDSA I anniversary will be a chill Saturday, but the confession that to even think about the EDSA I anniversary is a site of struggle for many people in my generation.
The “Relativity” of Time and Space
By “my generation”, I mean people who, early-perched as the world is on the beginnings of 2012, find themselves in their early twenties, in their first jobs; some are perhaps traveling the world for the first time, or learning what it’s like to truly run out of money when one has too much month at the end of one’s salary. I mean men and women who missed EDSA I by a smidgen of one to three years. It’s a margin not far enough to go through elementary and high school without teachers showing us what was then considered good-quality videos commemorating the First Quarter Storm or the iconic, heads-crowding-the-way-out-of-the-plane scene leading to a man lying dead on a tarmac: audio-visual orchestras reaching their climax in a sea of yellow ribbons and people standing up to military tanks. Still, ours is a margin of distance that isn’t quite near enough the actual chain of events for us to have a firsthand experience of what Martial Law was really like.
For someone of my generation to remember EDSA I is to come face-to-face with an area of struggle. In my experience, I missed EDSA I by two years, can remember only what history books tell me of the first Aquino administration, and witnessed what it was like to stand with schoolmates under gray skies as Cory Aquino’s coffin passed us by. The last, evidenced here by a photograph, presents best that irony of attending a sorrowful event, being overwhelmed by it, and yet being able to take pictures with such smiles, such silent insistence that this is a memory also of fun and spending time with friends.
At the Anda Circle, on the day of Former President Cory Aquino’s funeral
Just last year, I had the chance to interview Mr. Val Rodriguez, Former President Aquino’s official photographer, and he told me stories of how she had always treated her staff like family. But more importantly, he asked me kindly how old I was, the same way a grandfather who is prone to forgetting would ask a grandchild the same question–in order to contextualize his story better to someone whose knowledge of the former President may be nothing but hearsay.
At the same time, I belong to the generation that witnessed Bongbong Marcos win a seat in the Senate while his mother Imelda reportedly won more than 100,000 votes against Mariano Nalupta for a seat in the House of Representatives. All in the same election that hailed Benigno Aguino III the fifteenth President of the Philippines.
What a mess.
But I’m not here to defend why not everyone my age would be able to say anything (substantial or otherwise) about EDSA I except perhaps to fulfill an academic requirement. Neither am I here to attempt to prove that not all of us are stricken with apathy when it comes to the same matter.
Rather, this is a realistic admission that what separates us from the actual event is precisely also the same that would link us to the past. It is something which is simple, but not simplistic; something that touches on realistic (rather than skeptical) questions, and just a few minutes of listening.
Things We Don’t Know
My thoughts behind this post can be found in a noisy college cafeteria, where heat and noise and food-smoke and student-sweat mingle enough to raise a voice from the grave because hey, this smells like teen spirit. I’m sitting at a table with a blockmate and a professor we both respect, and for one reason or another we end up talking about history; a President here and there, the US of A link, and eventually, the Marcos Regime.
And there we were, my blockmate and I, and we felt candid enough, believed ourselves critical and “unbiased, looking-only-for-the-truth” enough, to ask him, “But sir, despite all the things that Marcos did, isn’t it admirable, what he did for the country’s economy?”
My teacher does not lash out on us for being so innocent. He does not bombard us with questions to test how serious we are in our statement. Instead, he keeps his hold on the bottle of juice before him, elbow of the same hand on the table and his other forearm kissing the surface of the wood. I know it seems weird to describe it as such, but he makes what I can only describe as a sad, but wise sound of assent: one that, if it must be typed, would probably be spelled something like, “Mm.” And then he proceeds to say, in the same tone of wise resignation peppered with a deep sadness devoid of resentment:
“Hindi niyo kasi naiiintindihan kung paano mabuhay noon; yung hindi mo alam kung bukas, buhay ka pa.” (Because you do not know what it is like to live each day in fear, not knowing whether today will be your last)
As always, the medium of print does not, will not ever, give justice to the way such heavy words were said. I could wax poetic here about this old man and how I know him to laugh even when he is serious; how he can strike colorful language borne out of fear from students when he says Get a Sheet of Paper, We’re having a Quiz. But I don’t want to because I don’t believe I can do justice to the way he had accepted the distance between my generation and EDSA I, and all the ways it could color our vision.
Here and Now
During the last few days, a call to different activities c/o of the youth in order to commemorate the 26th anniversary of EDSA I has been advertised by one of the country’s big networks (three guesses who–at nararapat lang naman dahil tatlo lang naman ang lokal na networks na talagang binibigyang papansin; marahil tama lang ding sabihin na ang sagot ay hindi iyong network na may mini-serye kung saan bumibida si David Archuleta, at hindi rin ito ang network kung saan nanggaling ang susunod na video). I’ve no doubt that schools in various places in the country continue to hammer into their students’ heads what an important event EDSA I was and is. Even now, countless teachers are perhaps inspiring students to write essays, make multimedia presentations, or stage plays featuring key figures in the event.
Still…I don’t know. But I feel that even though these are all well and good (particularly for those who are much younger than I am), I think my generation also forgets that remembering something can be as simple as looking around and realizing that we don’t ask enough about it. I myself am guilty of this.
One time, I remember being in the car with my father. Again I’m not sure how, but the conversation turned to Martial Law, and my father began talking about a priest he knew in those old days. The guy was one of the number of people who disappeared without warning. If I remember the story correctly, even search parties after the Marcos Regime had not been able to locate him, and truth be told, I don’t think my father thinks of him often, except on rare, random moments when the same spell of silence that fell on my professor in that stuffy cafeteria falls on him and he remembers that he hasn’t seen or heard from the guy in forever…and that for all he knows, he’s been long dead.
This generation–my generation–missed EDSA I by what can perhaps be described by the entire concept of Time and Space as only mere seconds. But my generation also forgets that precisely because of this context we are surrounded by people who experienced the events leading up to it: mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and professors and parents of friends and oh, you understand what I mean.
Let’s make PowerPoint presentations and attend network-affiliated events yes, well and good, but let’s not forget that this anniversary is also a story, and if only we’d take just five minutes of our time to ask about it from the actual people around us who experienced it firsthand, or to look up stories on the Internet, or to recall just how much our elementary teachers scolded us for not paying enough attention to an event they themselves witnessed–then I think that makes for a better, more heartfelt way to remember something we never knew. It’s a little unfair, I know. It’s not our fault we missed out. But to not concede to the politics of remembering and its subsequent importance would be a greater fault, I think. And this one enough to shame us.
Remembrance vs. (Non-)Recurrence
Oh, don’t get me wrong. A couple years back I hated the just-under-the-surface insistence that yet another EDSA should take place. If anything, instead of a belief in peaceful resistance or freedom of speech I think the great “Power of EDSA” paradigm is a sign of fickle democracy than anything. And to think that any revolution has now reached a conclusion would be more than mediocre.
So why do I think we should still remember EDSA I?
Because people disappeared. And they died. And those who lived through it all, they lived for a great part, in fear. Today, I go to the mall and eat out with friends and come home as late as two in the morning and if ever I have to follow a curfew, it’s a parental rather than government rule.
Because today my fears have to do with my so-called career path, my eyesight, and my finances. Valid concerns, all, but I’d be damn stupid if I didn’t admit that compared to the fear of not knowing if by tomorrow I’ll have disappeared in order to be tortured or killed, these fears are absolutely nothing.
The yellow ribbon I had tied on my arm on the day of Former President Aquino’s funeral, now practically obscured by beads and whatnot
A few minutes of remembering, of listening to stories. Compared to the hours I spend leisurely going through Facebook and Tumblr and WordPress and YouTube and typing away on Microsoft Word or getting lost in a novel–really, it’s a small price to pay.
 In case it is not clear, this links to an article composed not by myself but by Chiko Ruiz, with James Mananghaya, for the Philippine Star
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