1. The power of well-written and researched history, by professional historians aware of their vast responsibilities, is that it provides the tools needed craft a better future for all. In Margaret MacMillan’s conclusion in The Uses and Abuses of History she wrote “…a citizenry that cannot begin to put the present into context, that has so little knowledge of the past, can too easily be fed stories by those who claim to speak with the knowledge of history and its lessons.”  That is the situation extant in the country today. It is a situation that fuels many of the social, cultural, and political problems that we still face. One of the things that history teaches is to challenge dogmatic and sweeping generalizations, especially those that purport to have all the answers, to be the one true interpretation of the past.  History provides us with the tools necessary to question and question some more, while bad history (and its application) does little more than mislead and obscure; usually for purely political or selfish interests.

    A little self-serving is allowed now and then right? Please click through to read my little essay on bad history and how it is affecting our understanding of EDSA 1.

  2. "Look at those toy soldiers playing at war. For years they had nothing better to do than to march in loyalty parades and bang the heads of civilians who could not fight back. Now they ask these same civilians to keep their asses from being blown off."

    - Anding Roces, February 24, 1986


  3. I have always looked at the anniversary of People Power with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we removed a dictator from power. On the other, many Filipinos don’t even understand that we used to be under the thumb of a dictator; much less what that entailed. There is this disturbing concerted effort to remake Marcos and whitewash his, and his supporters, excesses, human rights violations, and gross totalitarianism.

    More disappointingly, we still see espoused misguided and antiquated political theory on the part of our so-called intellectuals that essentially support dictators and dictatorships.

    It is not only that we (as a people) do not learn from our mistakes. It’s that our ‘leaders’ refuse to change, refuse to learn from their own errors. They continue to plod the same course, espouse the same hackneyed beliefs, and basically carry themselves with a disturbing sense of self-satisfaction and superiority.

    In essence, our national forgetfulness when it comes to Martial Law allows them to maintain their positions of power with impunity.


  4. ellobofilipino:

    Here’s something which tackles the aftermath of the 1986 People Power Revolution from an economic stand point. It is also a good read for those who seem to fantasize much about what the Philippines would have been if Marcos remained in power.


    Still, much remains to be done. And the promises and dreams of the 1986 People Power Revolution have yet to be realized. The challenge though is no longer with those who fought against the Marcos dictatorship from 1970-1986. It is no longer with those who marched to EDSA and the different population centers all over the country in that week in February. It is now with the younger generation who have yet to fully grasped the essence of the revolution and why it was called People Power. I hope the country’s youth does not shrink from the challenge. 

    Walden Bello has also written extensively and critically (accurately of course) on the failures of post-EDSA government developmental policies. Chiefly, those that were implemented under Ramos. His remains one presidency that continually gets a suspicious and wholly unwarranted pass when it comes to economy and political (ie the militarization of civilian government and additional empowerment of military leadership vis-a-vis civilian oversight) structural issues. There are significant reasons why his nickname was “Mr. Ten Percent”.

    One of the chief criticisms you hear concerning Cory was her decision to pay back Marcos-era loans (funds that ended up in their and their crony’s pockets). It’s something I’ve used as well. I wish she had gone the way of Argentina and said “We’ll pay 25 cents on the dollar and if you bitch, 10 cents per dollar.” But alas, she didn’t. However, I do not think she should have begged for debt amnesty for a couple of reasons; which I think parallels the thinking within the administration at the time.

    The Philippines was economically, politically and socially in shambles. Capital was much needed for the Philippines to commence fixing the country; capital that likely had to be sourced from international institutions and private investors. The country was capital starved. As well, I believe the Cory admin wanted to present an image of the Philippines as being a stable economy that was cognizant of their responsibilities and pay off debts. 

    I do believe that was the thinking, rightly or wrongly. And while I wish she had gone Argentina on the creditors, there at least was something thinking behind the decision. The fact though that subsequent governments have done little to actually pay down the debt and instead increased it (to the point that under GMA debt servicing reached 30%+ of our budget) is abominable. That was a result of completely wrong-headed policy decisions geared towards free trade and an open economy.

    It’s not popular right now to say, but the ‘87 Constitution was right in the sense of limiting foreign ownership and protecting domestic businesses. It was geared towards organic development and protection of Philippine businesses. For examples of successes, you have China (to some extent), India (again to some extent), Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore etc. These were economies based on the old Hamiltonian forms (American school of economics) that has proved successful in rebuilding countries. Ramos/Erap/GMA went in the opposite direction, undercutting domestic manufacturing and industrial pillars (like agri).

    That is one of the real economic tragedies post-EDSA. Not that she chose to service the debt; but that the policies necessary to attract and retain capital were never implemented. The Philippines had a golden opportunity, with the heightened positive sentiments on the country, to attract investors and manufacturing/industrial investment. Even just mining our diaspora at the time, imagine all of the Filipinos who returned to the country desperate to help.

    That momentum was of course retarded by things that you rightly mentioned; namely Cory mistrusting some and the military demanding more power (Oh JPE). Anyway, another subject for another post!

    One of the big disappointments though has not only been our lack of job creation (again, if not more of an issue of the Ramos/Erap/GMA regimes) is our lack of grassroots educational development. The curriculums haven’t been revamped, new schools and classrooms built or teacher education and training improved/created. I always remember what one ex-Secretary of Education said; you can tell the priorities of a government by its budget. Pre-Marcos the largest slice of government budget (30%+) went to education.

    During Martial Law and since the majority has gone to defense spending and other areas. The politicization of the military is one of the enduring legacies of Marcos and then Ramos.

    Yesterday there was this discussion Twitter about developing the country; in small doses. And one journalist kept saying it has to be leadership! Leadership has failed! etc etc.

    Of course leadership has failed, of course we keep electing the wrong people into office. Of course there seems to be a dearth of leaders on the horizon. It’s precisely because we aren’t generating any new ones. And that is a by-product of our failure to develop the human capital of the country. What we need is to infuse multi-disciplinary thinking back into our curriculum; we need to start educating citizens, not export commodities.

    What EDSA gave us was the opportunity to do that. Something we didn’t have before.

  5. ellobofilipino:

    The PCIJ asks young people what they know about the 1986 People Power revolution.

    The words from the “hope of the nation” made my heart ache. I wonder what the families and friends of those who fought and died for freedom against the Marcos dictatorship would feel if they watch this.

    I was just thinking the same thing; and I’m not sure if I ever could, or would.

    As I mentioned on twitter, I’ve been asking and talking with some of the old opposition leaders and members for some of their memories and stories of ML and EDSA. And the hope, the dreams and what they felt and were fighting for is so damn inspiring. You can see it in their eyes when they talk about it.

    And you can see the slight bitterness, even among those who are still active and fighting, when they talk about what came after.

    I think one of the students actually said: Then Korina…

    It’s impossible to get mad at them; that’s their education, that’s their grounding in Philippine history. And knowing the reputation of the PCIJ, I doubt they really edited for shock value.

    We wonder how and why we haven’t progressed since EDSA. It’s really not a surprise. It’s not that we haven’t learned, it’s that we haven’t taught.


  6. "Look at those toy soldiers playing at war. For years they had nothing better to do than to march in loyalty parades and bang the heads of civilians who could not fight back. Now they ask these same civilians to keep their asses from being blown off."

    - Anding Roces EDSA I.

    My favorite #EDSA1986 quote. Brings a whole new meaning to ‘bandwagoning’.


  7. EDSA Forgotten.

    It’s in the Filipino DNA in truth; this attraction to mass movements and communal action. On much smaller scales we see it during fiestas; the annual Black Nazarene fiesta in Quiapo. There millions of Filipinos throng the streets in celebration. It’s found in preparations months in advance, saving, scrimping and getting for town fiestas. We love a good party, we love to celebrate en masse. We are a communal people.

    It was this spirit that was captured so perfectly in EDSA I: Four days where the religious and the secular were one in goal and spirit. To the streets some people brought their iconography, their rosaries, their faith in God. For the nuns and the faithful who stood before guns and tanks, it was their shield. For others who did the same, love of country acted the same. All brought their faith in country and each other. They shared that spirit, and were strengthened by it. It helped overcome fear and steady a people in their purpose.

    Writers like Anding Roces called it our fiesta revolution; because there was a communal sense of experience. Instead of consecrating the rites and rituals of faith and expression to an icon, the icons were along for the ride. They were another expression of the feeling that circulated through the streets that day.

    It was…spiritual.

    What was above was the Filipinas of our heroes. What was within was the Filipino we’ve always wanted to become. What we congregated to recognize was the opportunity to become, to create and to find a new dream, a reborn hope.

    There is one thing I will always remembering hearing about EDSA growing up: What was beautiful was not the four days, it was the fifth. And unlike that old joke that God rested on the seventh day, after creating opportunity with four days of labor, Filipinos on the fifth day did go back to the streets. To clean. For those who saw it, yes the four days were beautiful, the fifth day was a miracle.

    This is the forgotten side of EDSA. Not the four days of togetherness in the brotherhood of Filipino. We’ve been trying to find that at every turn. It was the fifth day, when Filipinos tried to start rebuilding, that we must remember. That we have to recapture. The first four days were about creating opportunity, the fifth day was about nation-building.

    The tragedy, as so many say, about EDSA is that we are forever chasing it’s ephemeral feeling. If anything, one of the things that has undermined EDSA I are attempts later on to recapture lightning in a bottle. With EDSA II and III, we went to the well one too many times. We keep trying to recreate the utterly unique. The more we reach for it, the more it slips through our fingers. In the process, the more we lose and the more opportunities pass us by. We’ve grown up thinking that EDSA I is what has to be recaptured: That feeling of togetherness needed to depose a dictator and create chances for greatness.

    In truth, what we should remember is that fifth day. When Filipinos came together to clean up dirty streets, to sweep away the dirt and filth and trash. In other words, the detritus of a revolution and the leavings of a dictatorship.

    We cleaned up the streets. But forgot to finish the job. We missed what was left behind when the heads of government took flight. Remnants of the system remained, echoes and ghosts capable of wrecking havoc. The cronies survived. And eventually, they came out of the woodwork and returned to prominence; in some cases, they never left the spotlight.

    The clean up should have continued on the sixth day and beyond. And it should have been comprehensive. Rebuilding cannot be half-assed. It was to be as comprehensive as the revolution itself; else a country misses that chance to move forward. The brilliant thing is we still have that opportunity. We haven’t frittered away our chances to truly rebuild, to truly recapture the essence and spirit of EDSA. In a sense, that is a testiment to the resilience of our people. We survived Spain and America, fought the Japanese, and died doing so. We remain, albeit slightly rudderless and wayward. Our history and its lessons somewhat forgotten. Our identity slightly damaged. But, we remain.

    While we have made gains in areas, we can do so much more. We have the freedom to express ideas, to change the system and make sure that gains felt by some, are felt by all. EDSA was the People Power revolution. The importance of power is remembered by some, the people remain forgotten. We have to retrace our steps, in a sense. To re-anchor ourselves to our history. To remember, that no matter the background, the creed, the color, we are Filipinos. With all the inconsistencies and potential that entails. That was the dream of our heroes in the 19th century, in the dark days of the Occupation and during the fall of Martial Law: To be free Filipinos. We’ve somewhat lost that sense from our day to day lives; we’ve forgotten that rebuilding takes steps and has no shortcuts. It takes time, it takes cleansing and it takes remembering.

    For that’s the true lesson of EDSA 25 years after; the forgotten lesson. Not that a people can rise up and reclaim a country. But that people can, together, clean up a nation.

  8. Tagged #EDSA #1986

  9. "

    When President Ferdinand Marcos was airlifted from the Philippines on a United States Air Force jet on February 1986, he left behind an economy in shambles. The average yearly income was US $540 per person, and like many averages, this concealed vast disparities. While the rich lives in an ostentatious splendor symbolized by the legendary extravagance of the Marcoses, the majority of Filipinos could not afford to consume the minimum daily calorie requirement…

    The magnitude of the Philippine development strategy’s failure can be appreciated by comparisons with neighboring countries. In 1962, per capita income in the Philippines was comparable to that of Taiwan, and one-quarter of that in Japan…In 1986, it was one-seventh of Taiwan’s and three percent of Japan’s. Infant mortality in the Philippines in 1986 was equal to that in Vietnam, a country on which the US had rained bombs rather than banknotes*. The Philippine external debt burden, measured by its ratio to national income, was the heaviest in East and Southeast Asia.**


    James K Boyce, The Political Economy of Growth and Impoverishment in the Marcos Era

    *During the Marcos regime, the United States lent approximately $4 billion.

    **Foreign debt in 1962 was about US $360 million, that rose to $28.3 billion in 1986.


  10. On Marcos and Lies about Marcos


    I guess this is how @iwriteasiwrite expresses his anger against what the son of the deposed dictator said about his father’s years in power.

    I myself actually find some people’s thoughts on the 1986 People Power and how the country has been on a downward spiral since, to be preposterous. Those who make that claim clearly do not seem to understand the concepts of public governance and social and political evolution.

    Much of what the country is today is still a result of the dysfunctional structures which were erected by Marcos and his cohorts during their years in power. Here are some samples: Danding Cojuangco still owns San Miguel Corporation; Lucio Tan still owns Philippine Air Lines; and Juan Ponce Enrile is still a Senator. And these three are just a few of the others who have placed themselves comfortably in society during the years of the Bagong Lipunan.

    I guess the problem with us Filipinos is we rarely make people account for their actions. Instead of running after these people and making them pay for what they did during the dark years of democracy, we welcomed them with open arms and kissed them on the cheek (much like what we also did with the Japanese collaborators).

    And then in the years after dictator’s death, his family comes back with his son speaking in big bold words: The country is now worse than what it was during our father’s time! If given the chance I would reply: Of course it is! And it’s because your father and your family took a lot of the money away; installed your friends in the economy; and killed the able political leaders who could have revived this country!

    My dear countrymen, do not distort history just because we are now in a sore spot. It doesn’t help. Nor does it make the economy or society better. All it does is confuse the younger generation on what really happened during the 20 year dictatorship. It makes the Martial Law years seem like the golden age of Philippine history. And it is an insult to the memory of students, workers, farmers, the religious, and opposition politicians who died in the struggle to rid the country of tyranny. If those who died for freedom could only rise up and walk, they would now be slapping the dictator’s son for sure! 

    I agree completely with you, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that gets my attention faster than someone attempting to argue that the Philippines was better off during the Marcos regime. The data to the contrary is voluminous. And even a modicum of research into the period aptly demonstrates that, even after the wholly corrupt presidency of GMA, the country on the whole is better off: Even with something as simple as actually having elections without soldiers staring you down and not-so-subtly indicating for whom to vote.

    I know that the pro-Marcosites want to distort history and resurrect his image, but we cannot allow that to happen. Quite frankly, that is a complete and total disservice to the men and women, like you said, who were persecuted for something as simple as speaking their minds. Even watching people like JPE and FVR irritates me to no end, especially this time of year.

    Where were they when the Plaza Miranda bomb went off?

    When journalists were being arrested in their offices?

    When opposition leaders from civil society were being tagged for assassination?

    When students were persecuted and human rights was essentially eliminated from the discourse?

    When a sham of a Constitution was foisted on an unsuspecting people in 1973?

    When elections became a mockery and the only way to express displeasure was via banging pots and pans and honking car horns?

    Oh right. They were plotting, planning and executing the moves of the dictatorship; while benefitting all the while.

    Martial Law was the darkest time in Philippine history for one simple reason: It was Filipinos colonizing and exploiting Filipinos. The Japanese Occupation may have had more death and destruction, while the American Era stole our hard-won sovereignty, but they were external forces. Colonizing this country at the point of a sword. Martial Law was Filipinos persecuting, killing, exploiting and destroying their countrymen and their country. For nothing more other than self-gratification.

    For those out there, I wonder if they realize that the crippling debt burden we still experience today is because of Martial Law. That the Filipino people had to take on responsibility for behest loans that were taken out by Marcos and funneled to shell corporations owned by cronies and frontmen?  Or even this whole concept of state sponsored labor placement, a practice that is incredibly damaging to the fabric of the country and retards our ability to organically grow as an economy, began during Martial Law? Ostensibly, to get rid of unemployed people so Marcos could use low unemployment as an example of his great and wonderful New Society.

    I say that for many the country has not improved; and by that I am referring to the impoverished. Gains have not redounded to their benefit. But, the fact is, in every meaningful way, we are better off. We can speak our minds, we can vote in an election, we can go out without being rounded up by the police for breaking curfew. And we can have hearings on television questioning the culture of corruption in the AFP.

    That the country poverty-wise has not improved dramatically is most definitely a by-product of the structures and people empowered during ML; people who are still running around this country with impunity, fancying themselves the cream of the Filipino crop. When I say that the country has not improved broadly and deeply that is a call for Filipinos and especially those with the power to affect the course of this nation positively to look within and see where change has to begin. From there, we have to realize that nation-building is not as simple as changing the head of state. It must begin by cleaning up government and basically using the systems and processes that were put in place by Cory after ‘86. Not continually deriding them and falling into the trap of supporting the return and empowerment of antiquated power-mongers.

    Those who actively support and continue to dream of a return to a totalitarian regime are nothing more than petty tyrants in their own right.

    (Source: iwriteasiwrite)