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‘Time to be serious’ by Jannelle So

SO LA
By Jannelle So

I don’t remember much about the events surrounding the bloodless EDSA revolution in 1986. I was nine then, and all I can remember now was that the television was always on. It wasn’t airing regular programming though. Even though classes were suspended, I couldn’t really watch shows I regularly enjoyed. All I could see on the screen was news, which is understandably not very appealing to young kids. But I was amused that my dad went on a panic-buying mode. I watched as the maids and the house boy hauled in several bags of grocery from their trip to the supermarket – a dozen or two of everything – from fruit cocktail cans, to corned beef, to bathroom tissue. The long white receipt had to be folded many times as one maid checked the goods.

I knew something was going on. But my 9-year-old brain couldn’t grasp what it was exactly. My parents were too busy speculating and conducting their business based on those speculations that they really didn’t have time to explain to me and my siblings what was going on. I only understood how important those four days were after school resumed. And then we talked about nothing else but this concept of “people power.” It didn’t matter if we were having Science hour, or Math subject. Somehow, the classroom discussions all tied in to yellow, Cory Aquino, soldiers, nuns, Marcoses and “democracy,” a word that was unfamiliar until that period.

In the days that followed, almost every Filipino reflected pride in their nationality, proud of their biggest accomplishment yet – peacefully toppling a 20-year dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. There would be two more “Edsa” revolutions after that though – the second was to end the presidency of Joseph Estrada after an aborted impeachment trial where prosecutors walked out after failing on a motion. The third is quite vague to me. It was called “EDSA tres or three.”

Since the first one in 1986, considered to be the turning-point in Philippine history, there would be anticipation of major traffic on EDSA (acronym for Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue), to commemorate the event that put the Philippines on the world stage. This year was even bigger because of the milestone of a silver anniversary.

But as we celebrate the 25th year of this victorious occasion for the Filipino people, I asked viewers of “Kababayan LA:” Is the spirit of EDSA still alive? And where has it gotten us?” First to answer the question was Deputy Consul Dan Espiritu of the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles: “Basically the spirit of Edsa is the collective participation of the entire populace in a peaceful transformation of the country.”

“I think what Edsa really taught us for both Filipinos in the Philippines and Filipinos overseas is the power of the people to really change the structure,” said Jollene Levid, an active community organizer. “They went up against the military and the dictatorship. These are well-funded, well-armed and they were able to defeat them.”

What followed was a good debate that touched on the responsibility of not just the Philippine government but of every individual to uphold the legacy of Edsa. To watch the interesting rebuttals, log on to www.youtube.com/kababayanla18.

As for the tweets that came in, the first one we got was from @miguelroan: “I guess EDSA has become just an event now because there’s still corruption in our gov which the spirit of EDSA is against of.”

His hopeless and pessimistic view was not unique. More followed: “EDSA spirit has been overstretched; and has become a “POLITICAL” instrument, for those who seek money, power and prestige. Tsk :|,” tweeted @yfurporche.

@iamstevet was even more concise and hopeless, “EDSA. 25 years of commemoration…NOTHING ELSE.”

@burningrubber said: “The EDSA spirit has been used & abused by those wanting to stay in power & hasn’t benefited the public in any way, shape or form.”

But when we are too quick to despair over the seeming death of the Edsa legacy; or the lack of major impact it has on the current political and even economic situation in the Philippines right now, are we negating the victory of the people? Are we disregarding the way concerned Filipinos sacrificed their time and personal safety by trekking to Edsa during those days? And if you’re one of those who risked their lives to converge with fellow kababayans on that major highway, are you proud of yourself now simply because you were a part of a very popular event? Or are you proud because you effected change that you, your friends, family and people around you could feel and see?

And just as there are two sides to everything, there were also those who responded with a more positive outlook: “25yrs ago we proved that f we set our minds 2 accomplish something, we can. It’s up 2 each individual 2 let d spirit of Edsa live on,” tweeted @alixed08.

@nigelrebel replied: “seems that we just try to celebr8 d pageantry of EDSA while forgetting that the change it brought should be lived by every1 always.”

Bottom line is, not much has changed in the Philippines since then. Where there was dictatorship before and so-called democracy now, people are still dying of hunger now as they were before; extra-judicial killings are still rampant now, as they were before. Maybe they are just more heavily reported now. Private armies still lord it over innocent civilians in the provinces. Corrupt practices are still accepted as a staple in different government units because corrupt officials still get away with stealing from the country.

You don’t want your officials to be corrupt? Why then do you ask to take pictures or even ask for autograph or shake the hand of notorious politicians you see in person? Why treat them like stars? Why elect former President Gloria Arroyo into Congress when her administration has been marred by a lot of controversies and inconsistencies? You don’t want oligarchy; but why elect people from the same family?

I get goose bumps when I hear the song “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” because I think it really encapsulates the true spirit of Edsa. This bloodless revolution was our gift to the world. It’s an example used by many models and socio-civic groups who campaign for peaceful change of structure. It asserts the power of the people. In its simplest form, though individuals are poor, weak and powerless; they can overcome institutions as powerful as an authoritarian rule, even an armed and oppressive regime, if they band together.

So, how can a people as powerful as those who came out to fight a dictatorship be this powerless now in the midst of investigations on the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines? How can this same nation seem helpless in the midst of crimes such as car-jacking, drug trafficking, human rights violations?

I think it’s because we’re too quick to judge and sound off – whether positive or negative – but too slow to act. It’s easy to pay lip service, after all. But when something entails sacrifices, we take a step back. Take the Reproductive Health reform, for example. We know we need it. We know that the population of a country may be directly related to the quality of life the nation can afford its citizens. But are we willing to sacrifice for it? Even if we take the “abstinence” route and campaign hard for saying “No” to sex, are major networks willing to drop shows that depict pre-,extra- and unprotected sex cool? And even if these businesses refuse to let go of their programming because they earn big bucks from those types of shows, are we, as citizens, willing to stop watching? Can we police ourselves? Seriously?

Edsa 25 reminds us that all change comes from within. If as individuals we really decide on doing something, we are able to achieve anything. But the circle can grow bigger – that a group of motivated individuals can be powerful enough to sway more groups of people to work together to effect change.

It’s time to get serious. We have always been proud of our resilient nature as a people, having gone through and survived a lot over the course of our history. And people attribute that resilience to the Filipino sense of humor, that we are able to laugh things off. Well maybe it’s time to get serious – closely follow the investigations in the AFP and make sure that people take responsibility for their actions; be involved in the debate over RH and don’t just consider one side unacceptable, try to come up with solutions or a compromise.

Keep in mind you are powerful. But you have to take it seriously!

Jannelle So is the only Filipina immigrant seen daily on local television in Southern California. She is the Host/Producer of “Kababayan LA” – the first and only daily talk show for Filipino Americans and has negotiated sponsorships from companies interested in her target audience. She has more than 16 years of global content production and print and broadcast expertise covering a wide range of topics from Philippine politics to US politics, to sports, Hollywood, lifestyle, health, music. Jannelle holds a Certificate in Journalism from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts which she attended as an honor scholar.

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