EDSA, the highway named after he famous linguist and writer Epifanio de los Santos, girds the outskirts of Manila ad satellite cities like Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City.
As a students in the fifties, this author passed away this s
treet every day from home in Sta. Ana to the University of the Philippines, but it was then called Highway 54. The areas on both sides of the long stretch of the highway were still mostly field and pasture although the walls of the two military camps facing each other, Aguinaldo and Crame, were already imposing structures there.
Epifanio de los Santos, he highway’s complete name, also means the Epiphany of Saints. Truly this avenue can be considered such because it has experienced its own epiphanies when it turned the people into present day “saints”.
The First EDSA Revolution
Millions of people on February 22, 1986, a little before 6:00 p.m., sat transfixed before their radio sets listening to the voices of two men. Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Army Chief Fidel Ramos were announcing their breakdown from the government of dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos who had presided over 14 years of Martial Law in the Country.
Next, they heard His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin issuing calls to “leave your homes now – le us go to Camp Aguinaldo.”
Those firs historic moments a EDSA capped a series of events that had been shocking the country from 1983. Exiled opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. was returning to Manila when he was treacherously killed as he was being “escorted” by soldiers down the plance.
Then, because of the people’s angry clamor, a snap election was held. In spite of the declaration of victory by the Marcos government, the people knew that the real winner was Corazon C. Aquino , widow of the martyred Ninoy.
Responding to the Cardinal’s call and Enrile and Ramos’ actions, by midnight of the fateful February 22, the people gathered at EDSA. Their number was first placed at 10,000 then 25,000, then 30,000. Over the next few days, the entire stretch of highway in front of the two military camps up o Ortigas Avenue was filled with over a million Metro Manila residents.
Armed with rosaries and flowers, the people of all occupations and callings, priests, nuns, students, teachers, businessmen, housewives, old and young faced the soldiers and pushed back the tanks.
Many stories are told about those miraculous four days at EDSA, but the best story of all is that the dictator, his family and followers were forced out Malacanang and taken in exile to Hawaii.
The Second EDSA Revolution
The Filipino did it again. For the second time in fifteen years, on January 16-20, 2001, we experienced an EDSA revolution. Again, it was a peaceful, bloodless toppling of disgraced president. The Filipinos did it again after five days of demonstration held mainly at the EDSA shrine.
We Filipinos, demonstrated people power again triggered by the Senate’s vote (11-10) at the impeachment trial not to open the envelope that could be evidence against then President Joseph Estrada.
Again we showed that we could always change unwanted and unworthy leaders with pressure from the streets, within legal methods and without shedding of blood. The power handover, capped by the swearing in of Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by Chief Justice Hilario Davide and with Cardinal Sin’s blessings, ended the country’s crises under the Estrada leadership. This time it was a victory against immorality, corruption and greed.
One amazing thing about these events on EDSA was that food never ran out for the millions in front and in the vicinity of the Shrine. Even when President Estrada had stepped down, food continued to pour in – a real modern day multiplication and sharing of loaves. In EDSA 1, where tanks were sent to the streets. Military defection, too, didn’t take too long so that at once realized that his time was up and that he had to go.
Unlike EDSA1, EDSA 2 had no galvanizing leadership. Of course there always were Cardinal Sin and former President Corazon Aquino urging resignation, but it was the people themselves who trooped to EDSA, driven by their desire to bring back the dignity of leadership and heal the land.
New President Gloria Arroyo said that in 1986 the Filipinos gave the world a new weapon. We won over a dictatorship with “flower in the barrel of a gun”. At EDSA 2 we gave the world another new weapon – people power.
No less than he Cardinal Sin himself has declared the EDSA site as “holy ground” because of the people’s sacrifice for the country’s welfare. At this holy place we and our children will always be reminded of the faith and heroism of the Filipinos.
When the people gathered there in 1986 and again in January 2001 they carried not guns or money but “food to share, love to share, conviction to share, selves to share,” according to Cardinal Sin.
Indeed we, the people, were the ones who made the ground “holy”. In fact we are encouraged to make pilgrimages to the EDSA Shrine. The Holy See has granted the Cardinal’s petition to grant pledges of plenary indulgences to all who make such a pilgrimage.
Is There Third EDSA Revolution?
At first we wanted to blot out what occurred then. We did not want to call this rally a third EDSA, considering the lowly performances, the unruly people, the dirt, and what we considered the “degradation of the holy place.”
But another look at what happened there gives us a message that just cannot be ignored. And having emerged from a place that in two earlier instances had proclaimed our desire for change and upliftment, the message becomes doubly significant.
What then is the message of this third rally at EDSA? It is that we had been sadly neglecting a large sector of our society. The protest was not just against Joseph Estrada’s arrest. It was crying out of the poor, a desperate expression of their need for education, opportunity, security, care and a better life.
Our Lady of Peace was letting us get the message that unless we did something about this problem, there could never be true peace and healing in our country.
Wha are the lessons we have learned from EDSA Revolution?
The first lesson that is easily seen is this – the happenings could not have taken place without God’s intervention. The events were not planned by any human force and yet they converged to create the ultimate solution.
The impeachment drama, the outraged of the people on the three occasions, and other events that led to the rallies were not planned nor orchestrated but they stimulated the people to find the normal sense to go out and become forces that were hard to resist. The EDSA Shrine has truly become the symbol of the good sense of Filipinos.
We have experienced three EDSA events. From them we gained, among others, three great blessings: liberation from a corrupt dictator, deposition of an immoral and plundering president and realization of a pressing social responsibility.
In remembering these three events, let us not forget to thank the Lord and our Blessed Mother and ask for their continuous love and protection. Let us be reminded of the lessons we learned here. Let us also pray for our leaders, that whatever they do be in keeping with what they have sworn to before God and people.
We have many reasons for celebrating the EDSA Revolution, but most of all we celebrate them for God’s kindness, continuing guidance and enlightenment and for the Filipinos’ greatness and sense of unity.
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