EDSA: Our greatest triumph and tragedy as a people
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-02-25
Three months after the EDSA People Power Revolt of 1986, I was in the US for the Annual Los Angeles Television Screenings, in line with my involvement in the business of television programming. I was pleasantly surprised when a representative of Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) approached me to extend his hand and congratulate me.

He had heard that I played an active role in the EDSA People Power Revolt, having organized and led the Cory Aquino Media Bureau. He was profuse in expressing his admiration for us Filipinos who had awed the world as they watched live on television the first peaceful People Power Revolt unfold before their very eyes. He grasped my hand, and with esteem and amazement written all over his face, he said: "We envy you." At that time South Korea was also in turmoil as it was in transition towards democracy.

My experience was not unique. All over the world, Filipinos took center stage in the immediate aftermath of the EDSA People Power Revolt. Soon after that, our People Power experience inspired several other such political events in the world which became as momentous in their own way.

How can I forget that warm feeling of pride on hearing that CBS TV anchor in the US commenting during their EDSA live coverage: "We Americans like to think that we taught Filipinos democracy. Well today, they are teaching the world."

For those who played an active part, the feeling was overwhelming. For months we told and retold the story with eyes moist and a lump in our throats. In fact, writing this and recalling what happened 21 years ago, I feel the same emotions all over again.

The euphoria of EDSA has dissolved long ago and I am left with mixed feelings. Many of those who stood as heroes then have become the tyrants of today. Some of them even became worse thieves than the cronies they have denounced for controlling the means and opportunities to creating wealth. How our greatest triumph became our great tragedy
EDSA did not fail us. Rather, we failed EDSA. We failed because we did not know our history and so we did not really understand what we were really fighting. We thought that only Marcos was the enemy. We did not see the bigger enemy that made Marcos — the system that managed to resurrect after EDSA and is now in place again.

If we kept ourselves in sync with our own history, we would have recognized the real enemy. The enemy is the same kind of species — the crafty, sinister leeches — who Apolinario Mabini had denounced for having stolen the Philippine Revolution from those who fought and won it. The enemy is the quisling, the coward who took the unpatriotic but easy path of cooperating with the US, the new colonial power who took over from Spain. That quisling is very much around today controlling our government and economy.

Today, we are locked in another struggle. This time, it is with a woman — Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — who has all the attributes of Marcos. Once again, many of us do not realize that the real enemy we must vanquish is not just the current Malacañang Palace tenant. And because the social and economic conditions, repression and corruption will no doubt bring the Day of Reckoning upon the woman, chances are we will be rid of her but we will still be under the control of the real enemy which had brought us ruin.

No doctor can heal without knowing fully the patient’s medical history. No hotshot manager can turn around a hemorrhaging company without a full background on the company’s operations history. In the same way, Filipinos will never be able to exorcise its devils unless Filipinos know and understand their real history.

We never solved our problems because we never really knew what and who are our problems.

We don’t even know how revolutions work. We expected things to all fall into place after we ousted Marcos. When it did not, we are now saying that we are sick and tired of People Power. We never gave People Power a chance to change and reform our political landscape. We failed to realize that People Power was only the tool for setting into place the democracy we never really had.

A pair of scissors will not trim hair on its own. Yet this was exactly what we expected People Power to do for us. Unless we learn to stop relying on personality cults and symbolic champions, we will never have a real democracy. It’s futile hoping for an El Cid to rescue us. History teaches us that champions like El Cid belonged to the era of medieval monarchies. In a democracy, the people are the champions of the country. In fact, collectively the people are the monarchs.

EDSA was our greatest triumph because in EDSA we all became champions. Cory was our Joan of Arc but just as in the saga of the Maid of Orleans, the people were the real champions. Cory, just like Joan of Arc, merely raised and carried our standard.

When the old "champions" — our traditional politicians — did not deliver, we became disillusioned. However, instead of learning from our EDSA success, we looked towards showbiztocracy to provide us with a new set of "champions." We jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

It’s time we Filipinos learned — not just from our mistakes but also from our successes. George Bernard Shaw puts it very well in saying that not learning from one’s success is the more grievous fault than not learning from one’s mistake.

It is about time that we finally tried democracy. EDSA was the only time we really had it.

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