Friday, February 25, 2011

Heroism with trainer wheels: commemorating the Edsa People Power frolic

Not being in Manila at the height of the festivities marking the 25th Anniversary of the Edsa "People Power" "revolution", I was relegated to some semblance of keeping tabs on events in real time via a live feed courtesy of Google set to display content with the keyword "edsa". The feed normally captures news reports as they come through the wire. Unfortunately it also captures "tweets" made on the popular "social media" website Twitter.com. So literally every second, some kind of update from someone somewhere in the world with something to say with "edsa" in it scrolls in.

My first thought was something I put out, where else, on a tweet:
Is everyone in Edsa crouched over tapping on their phones and laptops? What's up with all the tweeting? There's a real world out there!

By my reckoning, about 75 percent of the tweets involved text strings composed of combinations of the words "happy", "25th", "anniversary", "edsa", "revolution", "proud", and "Filipino" (or "Pinoy"). That leaves about 25 percent that one can consider exception cases.

It seems that dominating these exception cases are re-tweets of three specific tweets that were on the "Top updates" section of the feed (at the time I logged on to that Google feed page which was about 4pm AEST today):

Edsa 86 was People Power Revolution, not economic or industrial revolution. Not fair to say it failed just because poverty still around. (tweeted by amfezam)

EDSA revolution was initiated by one person, sharing the same ideals with many. Change always comes from a single person, and that is me. (tweeted by agot_isidro)

people can talk about remembering EDSA all they want but if the Marcoses' crimes aren't put on schoolbooks, they will disappear (tweeted by hotmanila)

All head-scratchers if you ask me, considering that they can all be considered to fall under a class of existential microblog drivel that derives saving grace mainly from the fact that they were all limited to just 140 characters. Pity the other fools in Mainstream Media who manage to churn out thousands of words with no more than as much meaning or substance as the above three.

Considering that even some people who were actually physically "there" in 1986 struggle to derive some meaning from the "experience", it is quite surprising that some adults today who were too young to give a shit back in 1986 had something to say. I do admire though the small minority who demonstrated a rare clarity of mind with regard to this "revolution". A good specimen of this rare clarity was this gem I came across:

i do admire people who joined EDSA rev..their courage and patriotism.. but sorry, I can't seem to appreciate it. dont know why (tweeted by jan_wewesam)

I might offer that most civilians monumentally fail to get it (even as they try their dandest to articulate something). That's because there is not much about the "experience" to get. Not too many people risked much going there. Indeed, the only people I'd consider to have had put it all on the line were the soldiers who holed themsleves up in Camp Crame, notably led by then Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. Back then there was none of the familiar herd mentality that made it easy for subsequent Edsa "heroes" to hit the streets. Enrile, Ramos, and the leader of the "Reform the Armed Forces Movement" (RAM) Lt. Col. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan and their band of renegade soldiers were pretty much alone. They faced the unknown and even possible death.

I doubt if any of the majority folk who were "there" and proclaim their "pride" in being there would have actually gone "there" if the scale of the unknown they faced was even half of the vastness and darkness of the unknown that Ramos, Enrile, Honasan, and the other RAM soldiers faced.

My personal experience was probably the same as 95 percent of city dwellers who trooped to Edsa in 1986. Prior to that we were all living -- under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos -- pretty normal lives. Our parents were all gainfully employed. We went to parties in Makati and Corinthian Gardens. Going to Edsa to "be there" was not something that we perceived to be dangerous and was therefore an easy choice to make. It was literally a walk in the park. Therefore there was nothing "heroic" about being there. Perhaps with enough of a stretch of imagination, it can be considered to be "patriotic". But then that is by the generally loose definition of patriotism that Filipinos are renowned for taking to heart. After all, being on Edsa in 1986 and wearing a yellow shirt pretty much qualified one for the distinction of being a "participant" in this supposedly momentuous occasion that we commemorate today.

By the way, I saw on the news that (now former) Philippine Congressman Ronald Singson had been sentenced to 18 months in prison in Hong Kong after getting caught at the airport carrying a vial of cocaine in his jocks. Perhaps many folk missed this bit of news today because they were all too busy being "proud" to be "Filipino".

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