Remembering the 1986 Edsa "revolution"

I was a teenager in 1986 when the first Edsa “Revolution” erupted. The sound of this “eruption” for me was the murmer of a crowd queueing at a fishball stand or playing pusoy dos with their pals on a sidewalk while smoking Marlboro “Blue Seals”. An anticlimactic account, yes, but the thing about the first Edsa “revolution” was that it came together spontaneously as ordinary people milled rather than massed into Edsa as what was to become the seminal event emerged from the collective stand. Indeed, back then the stand was clear, the phenomenon was emergent, and the sponteneity was very evident. That phenomenal nature underpinned by such clarity cannot be replicated — specially if the attempt is engineered by people with top-down agendas (as what’s happened since). For the first Edsa revolution was, at its most fundamental, a bottom-up movement.

More strongly imprinted in my memory was the sound of the clatter of my friend’s reporter’s vest — weighed down by a clutter of Opposition knick-knacks fastened to it — whenever we marched in and out of rallies. He had been collecting Yellow Army paraphernalia since 1983 when Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr was assassinated. There was quite an assortment of them — yellow buttons with Ninoy’s iconic two-tone black-and-white image printed on it and various anti-Marcos badges and pins flashing logos of the “movements” of the time: ATOM (August Twenty One Movement) and CAPM (Cory Aquino for President Movement) among others.

I was a card-carrying member of the CAPM back then and no less than the venerable Howie Severino — who was our English Comp/Lit teacher — led our volunteer group on a campaign trail that took us from the very ends of Laguna province to various rallies against the government-run Channel 4 and pickets in front of the Romualdez-owned Rustan’s Department Store in Makati. As CAPM members we got a free yellow shirt with the image of Cory Aquino printed on it on top of the words “Cory Aquino for President”. She was the winnable candidate in the Snap Presidential Election organised by President Ferdinand Marcos. I remember being at the miting de avance to end all miting de avances for years to come in Luneta where a huge crowd gathered to mark the culmination of Cory’s campaign.

The newspapers of choice of the self-described “revolutionary” in the 1980’s were the then little underground “subversive” Davids known as the Inquirer and Malaya which were seen to be heroically going up against the Goliaths of the industry at the time Bulletin Today (which went on to morph into the Manila Bulletin) and the now defunct Daily Express. Because these little “revolutionary” papers were so “underground” they presumably didn’t have the resources to openly do proper reporting at acceptable journalism standards. So the hearsay reporting of these journals were pretty much excuseable at the time. In fact they were pure gold considering that every “subversive” factoid and news snippet that slipped through the draconian press censorship of the Marcos government was gobbled up hungrily by our adolescent “revolutionary” minds. Little did we know that such dismal levels of journalistic standards would become institutionalised and deeply-entrenched into the industry culture in the subsequent post-Marcos quarter-century. Indeed, we can see with the benefit of hindsight how an investment in the winnable one back in the 1980’s turned into a huge payback for the owners of these little rags (now the Media Oligarchs of today) and elevated those who wrote for them into the revered demagogues that today imprison the 21st Century Filipino mind.

It didn’t help too that the handing back of the ABS-CBN Network to the Lopez Dynasty (rightfully so, to be fair) after Marcos’s fall was made out to be a seminal event associated with this Yellow “revolution” as well. It baked the ABS-CBN institution into the mystique of 1986 and wrapped a veneer of a kind of endorsement of its hallowed place in Philippine history that renders the content it infects our society with today virtually immune to critical scrutiny (kind of like how citing some weird stuff found in the Holy Bible evokes the primal fear of damnation that’s been ingrained in most Catholics since birth).

My point is, the 1986 Edsa “Revolution” — like the jeepney and many of our age-old traditions — was a measure that served a specific purpose within a period of time characterised by a combination of circumstances that is most likely never to be seen again.

I cannot highlight enough the uniqueness of this coming together of stuff between 1983 and 1986 that led to:

Specificity of purpose within a;

Finite time frame; given a,

Combination of factors

When you’ve got that many variables and a unique string of values describing an event, the probability that the same environment will recur in the future is virtually nil. What then does that say about this supposedly worthwhile effort of keeping the “spirit” of Edsa “alive”? For me, it simply means remembering it, as I do fondly but with a tinge of realism as I bring subsequent hindsight to bear. But to expect something of it beyond its efficacy as a mere historical relic is a bit of a stretch. The reality is that there is nothing in the real future we face as a society today that begs for solutions of the kinds we would like to imagine are underpinned by the “legacies” of 1986.

Indeed, the future begs for our maturity as a democratic people. All that the legacy of the 1986 Edsa “Revolution” offers is an adolescent “eruption” that, in hindsight, is better off left along with the mullet and cobra hair-do’s of the 1980’s.

[NB: This is my entry to the Blog Action Day: The Real Heroes of EDSA sponsored by the Kabataan Party List commemorating the 1986 Edsa “Revolution”]


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28 Responses to Remembering the 1986 Edsa "revolution"

  1. ka fredo says:

    Our Problems today can’t be cured by the People Power in the streets, but the People Power in our hearts and minds.

  2. BenK says:

    This is the most objective and even-handed assessment of the EDSA revolution that I’ve ever read.

  3. ka fredo says:

    shooting from the hip again :), just a need a revolution in how pinoys think. thats all. I don’t expect it in my lifetime though.

    • rafterman says:

      You are actually correct Ka Fredo. People still think taking to the streets and changing the Government will be the solution but the real change needs to be in themselves.

  4. Let us give a moment of silence to the heroic acts of the sidewalk vendors, tsismosos and tsismosas, unemployed, unemployables. THEY WERE THE FIRST REVOLUTIONARIES IN THE PHILIPPINES. THEY WERE THE FIRST RESPONDERS in the squabble between Marcos versus Enrile-Ramos-Honasan.

    The first revolutionary responders hate MARCOS-ENRILE-RAMOS-HONASAN-ET-AL. All Filipinos hate anyone in anyway connected to the Marcos crime family. (I was still a suckling 2-year-old when this happened what I post here were the accounts of my OFW parents and my voracious appetite for EDSA history).

    So when the Filipinos revolted. Who were they revolting against? Did they go to EDSA for entertainment? We all know the propensity of all Filipinos for oggling and gaggling and making the scoop to our neighbours. Were they there to revolutionize?

    FRANKLY I DO NOT KNOW. BUT BASING IN CULTURE … They were there to be entertained not revolutionizing.


    If all presidentiable doesn’t know this it is because they all wanted to garner votes. Or, they may be just ignorant.

  5. rafterman says:

    This “revolution” brought about a change of men, but not a change IN MEN. Therefore it was useless. Pinoys are still the same and so is the state of the nation.

    • There was no change IN MEN because it was not a revolution. They were there milling, gaggling and witnessing eating bar-b-Qs, drinking iced-water … They were not there to revolt. They were there to be entertained … while Tita Cory was hiding in Mabolo Convent in Cebu

  6. Makabayan says:

    What Revolution?

    A mass of Tagalogs flooding the streets of Imperial Manila to support a failed Coup Attempt?

    Did Visayas , Mindanao, and the Sultanate of Sulu have a say?

    • ka fredo says:

      How did the rest of the country react to Edsa 1? I always believed they also benefited from Marcos getting booted out.

      • Kahlil says:

        i don’t know how it was for the rest of Davao City, but i remember my parents being active in ’84 up till Marcos left. it was a tense time then with my parents getting freaked out every so often because some friend or another has been salvaged or what not. strange visitors at ungodly hours, hush hush conversations between my parents. such a strange time indeed but i can hardly remember it now.

    • Allow me to correct you, Makabayan. THERE WAS NO COUP-COUP-ROO-COUP-COUP. Enrile-Honasan-Ramos scampered away to Dept of Defense with a gaggle of foreign journalists.

      Honasan-Ramos-Enrile staged a coup? I do not think so. And the accidental revolutionaries supported Honasan-Ramos-Enrile who they also hated? I do not think so. SO WHO WHERE THEY REVOLUTIONIZING AGAINST FROM? Until to this day if you ask this question from any blogs, forums and more especially the perpekt englischtzes speaking columnistas … IN NO TIME YOU WILL BE BANISHED, EX-COMMUNICATED PRONTO! NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

    • rafterman says:

      Yes, Marcos got booted out (a change of men) but the Pinoys did not change (a change in man) so the benefit was short term. You are right Ka Fredo, not a revolution on the streets but a revolution inside each and every Filipino.

  7. Homer says:

    Allow me to throw-in a question to anyone of you who would like to share your thoughts…esp. the admin and friends. 🙂

    Going back to Edsa 1….

    Suppose the tanks actually fired on the people, and many lives were lost as a result…

    Would we have learned any lessons from this? Would we be better-off today as a nation?

    • rafterman says:

      If Marcos and his Government managed the country like Deng Xiaoping maybe yes! China had the Tienanment massacre yet they are progressive now.

    • rafterman says:

      *Tienanmen… sorry typo.

    • BenK says:

      “What Ifs” in history are invidious; things happened just the way they happened, and any attempt to apply the “butterfly effect” is necessarily contaminated by our hindsight. Still, it’s fun to try. But unfortunately, I don’t think that the country would have “learned many lessons” or been “better-off as a nation.” Has the country learned lessons from the Mendiola Massacre, the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, the Maguindanao Massacre, or for that matter, the endless string of sunken ferries or landslide-buried villages? Apparently not.

  8. benign0 says:

    @ Homer,

    Suppose the tanks actually fired on the people, and many lives were lost as a result…

    Would we have learned any lessons from this? Would we be better-off today as a nation?

    That’s what I meant when I said these were all circumstances that somehow came together in a huge but improbable stroke of serendipity in 1986. Therefore it is really foolish to try to artificially induce such an event again the way a lot of morons had attempted to do.

    The one gunshot that would’ve changed the outcome entirely did not happen in 1986. But that does not mean that it could have easily happened. The unlikely outcome simply came to be.

    It’s kinda like the psychology behind the lotto. Lotto marketers always trumpet the existence of actual jackpot winners and this somehow motivates people to buy tickets. It’s specially effective when the winner is someone you can easily relate to. The guy next door, a relative, or someone from the same province. No rational connection between those factoids and your chances of winning. But the tactic works.

    Same thing with this Edsa “revolution”. It happened once, yielded a humungous win; now everyone wants to try their luck.

    Fools. 😀

    • Conyo says:


      Tibak ka pala dati? This post shows gives me a lot of insight into your journey to Get Real Philippines.

      It is interesting to see how different people become REALISTS. For you, was it a gradual disillusionment with the “revolution” and the Aquino government? Or was it a sudden revelation or epiphany that the majority of Pinoys are just a bunch of God-damned hypocrites?

      I am quite different. You see, during my days at UP, I never ever went to a single rally (zilch). I placed Tibaks in the same category as Born Again Christian Cults. And I hated that PI 100 course (Rizal brainwashing 101) with a passion since I failed to see how studying Rizal can make me wealthy, although I managed to get a 1.75 grade by giving the bullcrap answers my super Tibak professor wanted to hear.

      Why am I such a contrarian? I don’t know. I figured out that the Catholic Faith and all Christianity was bullcrap at such an early age. The same goes for most of my formal education–useless, pointless.

      Now, as I sit on the sidelines, I am baffled why I keep on coming back to this website when I am supposed to not care.

      See you at Starbucks 🙂

    • Homer says:

      Guys, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the “what if” I threw in. It leaves us an impression that people from different backgrounds with different outlooks in life can actually come together for a common goal.

      Maybe there is some hope, after all. 🙂

      • ilda says:

        Suppose the tanks actually fired on the people, and many lives were lost as a result…

        Definitely, wala sanang Edsa two and three – no sequels…LOL

        Seriously speaking, some societies need to be ruled with an iron fist. During Edsa 1, it was still understandable that no violence occured because the whole thing was a new phenomenon. Pero ito namang mga Pinoy eh namihasa naman and wanted a repeat. Filipinos always overdo things to the point na hindi na cool yung dating. Nakakainis.

      • ricelander says:

        Hmmm. Suppose Marcos wasn’t sick?

  9. Pingback: How I became a “Get Realist” | The Anti Pinoy :)

  10. Pingback: EDSA, As Seen Through a Long Lens | The Anti Pinoy :)

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