EDSA on my mind
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 28, 2016 – 12:00am
It’s EDSA ‘86 that’s been on my mind all week. I guested on two TV shows where I talked about my experiences, and did several radio interviews. I also gave a talk in two places and attended the EDSA 30th anniversary.
All this brought back memories, some of which that I had forgotten. Also, meeting some of the old warriors of the revolution and hearing their stories awakened feelings that I wish to share with my readers.
I recall hearing June Keithley calling for me through Radyo Bandido, the rouge radio station set up by Radio Veritas that kept the EDSA faithful informed and energized during the four days of the revolution. She wanted me to hurry to the studio to co-host since her crew was getting exhausted.
Every person who saw me on the street urged me to heed the call. It seemed everybody was tuned in to Radyo Bandido. I was not sure where it was but I had a suspicion and went with it. It was in the old DZRJ studio on Sta. Mesa Boulevard.
When Lydia and I got there, we had to take the stairs to the top floor since the elevator was not working. The moment we opened the door to climb the stairs, we heard prayers being murmured by a group of nuns who had occupied the stairs as a line of defense to protect the civilians running the station. It was quite eerie but very moving.
When we got to the studio, they were already closing the operations. They were also watching Marcos on TV who was right then and there unceremoniously cut off the air. Soon after, a few minutes of blurred broadcast, a picture appeared. It was a long table with civilians gathered around it all grinning at the camera. They were giddy but had victory written on their faces. What a memorable sight! The people inside Radyo Bandido burst into cheers and applause. Soon after, we drove to the newly liberated PTV 4 and joined the liberators there.
Thousands of people had gathered inside and outside the premises. Outside the gate, the people had assembled to secure the front gate. The first line of defense nearest the main gate was rows of children. The next line was a row or two of paraplegics in wheel chairs. After them were nuns and seminarians. Then it was the civilians who had gathered. It was an awesome defense. I remember thinking how any group of loyalist soldiers could have the heart to ram their way into the building and take over the station.
That afternoon, a group of us entertainers gave an impromptu performance on the top of the drive way entrance cover of the building to the delight of the huge people power contingent who had gathered there.
I was talking to Secretary Jose Rene Almendras during the EDSA 30th anniversary ceremony at the People Power Monument last Thursday and he told me that he gave a talk on EDSA to an audience last Wednesday. When they sang Bayan Ko, he teared up. He had to explain to the crowd that during martial law, that song was banned.
He recalled that he was at a bar with a friend during martial law and when someone played Bayan Ko everyone started to sing. In the middle of the song, someone in authority demanded that the music be stopped. They were all shocked.
Bayan Ko was the opposition’s anthem then. We sang this when we gathered by the hundreds when it was impossible to get all of us arrested at the same time.
During the 30th anniversary, there was hardly a dry eye among the warriors present. I wept as I sang it with my right hand held up in a fist, alternating with the Laban sign.
After the takeover of the TV station, Johnny Manahan immediately organized an impromptu program aired live on PTV 4. I was one of the hosts assigned to interview guests, make announcements, and direct people power to areas where civilians were still needed to protect the places.
I was also announcing things like troop positions, and the laughable curfew order from Marcos which was supposed to be from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. I remember telling everyone not to follow it but feeling fear right after I said it. I also reported “news” from Gen. Fidel Ramos announcing the defection of military units to the side of the people which I found out later had not even happened yet. It was part of the psy-war Ramos was playing to convince the military that a majority of them were already on the side of the opposition. It apparently worked.
The people who risked their safety during EDSA remember those days as defining moments of their lives. It defined a lot of who we thought we were, our character and what it meant to be Filipino at that time.
We chose to stand up and fight for the country. Were we scared? Sure! I know I was, but we still showed up anyway. We had drawn the line on the sand and there was no turning back. We were going to end the dictatorship and install the winner in the presidential race, who was certainly NOT Marcos.
I read somewhere that the meaning of historical events changes depending on the generation looking at them. To the millennials, EDSA may not have the same meaning as it does to us, baby boomers . It may not have much significance at all.
I say to you, please take heed.
In his speech at EDSA last Thursday, the President quoted George Santayana who said that people who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. It would be the saddest thing to happen to a nation who taught the world a new template of change, for its succeeding generations to abandon what their elders learned and invite a return to the dictatorship.