It is time to expand the Manila-centric narrative of the People Power Revolution beyond the confines of Metro Manila. The narrative we most often hear – that it took place only at the stretch of Edsa – is clearly deficient. It is time to vet that if we are to have a narrative that has the scope of national history.
If the history being passed to future generations has no inclusiveness of events that happened outside Metro Manila, the rest of the country would not be able to identify with such a narrative because history is a source of national identity. That is not to mention that we would still be in our capital-city syndrome that ails the Filipino.
As it were, events outside the national capital are treated as footnotes. One favorite footnote is how Cory Aquino took refuge in Cebu city’s Carmelite Monastery, an event that actually happened but which the Imee Marcos-funded Darryl Yap maliciously misrepresented – thanks to ill-gotten wealth coffers — into monastic nuns playing mahjong with Cory, which never happened at all.
The lacunas in our Edsa historiographies have certainly contributed to that dearth, and which history distortionists like Yap have only taken advantage of.
Taken into context, the Carmelite episode was only a tiny portion within a magnitude of events that actually shook Central Visayas in February 1986. Thousands of Cebuanos filled the central hub Fuente Osmeña on February 22, 1986 when Cory led an indignation rally to protest the Marcos rigging of the snap election votes. An attempt to enlarge our consciousness of that determining event has been written by Karlo Mikhail Mongaya, the UP Diliman professor on Martial Law.
Cebu city was an epicenter of Marcos opposition. It had a forceful protest movement that followed the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 when weekly protests at Fuente Osmeña would galvanize into crowds of 10,000 strong. Cebu had its fair share of Marcos critics rounded up in the first days of the martial law declaration in September 1972. Democrito Barcenas, a pro bono lawyer, was then the vice-mayor of Carcar, Cebu when he was detained. Barcenas writes “to resist autocracy” in his book, “Never Forget,” launched in 2019. Also among Cebu’s first political prisoners was the writer historian Resil Mojares, today National Artist for Literature.
While some southern politicians adopted a wait-and-see on the astonishing developments at Edsa, one valiant woman went to the airwaves and was heard over the Visayas and Mindanao. Nenita Cortes Daluz went on radio to rally the people of Cebu and the provinces to go out into the streets to support the emerging revolution in Manila. How much of our Manila historiographers can do justice to the valor of Inday Nita?
The journalist Inday Espina Varona initiated an attempt in 2022 at “People Power Beyond Manila.” One of her resource persons, the priest Felix Pasquin recounted that at about 9 o’clock in the evening of February 25, 1986, the people of Bacolod city heard the news of the Marcoses’ escape from Malacañang. “The people of Bacolod went out into the streets and filled the public plaza. There was rejoicing and dancing in the streets.” Little vignettes like this are never written about and do not make it to our national narrative of Edsa. But this was the Edsa of Bacolod.
A province that suffers the misconception that it was a Marcos diehard bastion, because of his wife Imelda, is Samar. The Samar literary writer Harold Mercurio related to me local events that kind of shocked me because I had held on to that misconception. “There was a pro-Edsa rally at Catbalogan city. In Calbayog city, at least a radio station made noise in its condemnations of the Marcos regime.”
Calbayog, he said, had witnessed street protests against martial law long before Edsa. In 1982, the Marcos military – because that’s what it should have been called – arrested the priest Edgardo Kangleon who was based in Catbalogan. Kangleon was red-tagged by the agents of the regime. By the time the Edsa uprising came, red tagging had effectively silenced Samar’s street protests. Samar was not entirely pro-Marcos because of Imelda’s affinity to it. Monsignor Lope Robredillo, today of the clergy of the Diocese of Borongan, recalls that in February 1986 he was parish priest of the small town of Giporlos. He said he remembers that Cory won in the Giporlos count of the snap presidential election.
I was not at Edsa during the People Power Revolution, but I was in a virtual Edsa, in my home city of Cagayan de Oro. This was a city that had seen indignant street marches each time its mayor Aquilino Pimentel Jr. was arrested by Marcos on flimsy charges. Cagayan de Oro city and Misamis Oriental were anti-Marcos opposition strongholds. Local politicians who were Marcos KBL party stalwarts were wiped out in local elections.
On February 25, 1986, Cagayan de Oro’s central district of Plaza Divisoria erupted in a spontaneous outburst of street dancing. Everyone greeted and hugged each other “Happy New Year” because the incredible and unthinkable end of the long Marcos dictatorship had finally ended. The next day, there was a mass of thanksgiving at the church of Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan.
The Iloilo journalist Nereo Cajilig Luján showed me impressive photos of a massive street rally that happened in Iloilo city to celebrate the departure of the Marcoses. One photo was attributed to the photographer Napoleon Sy and published in “Iloilo, the Book.” It filled all spaces of the main street J.M. Basa. Another photo, the work of Loy Jurado, showed what looked like a vibrant street parade complete with drums and banners celebrating the Marcos departure. This one was published in the Flickr account of the Presidential Museum and Library and in the book “People Power.”
In Zamboanga city, hometown of the harsh Marcos critic Cesar Climaco, there was a victory parade around the city’s streets on the morning after the Marcos fall, with the Ateneo de Zamboanga leading the way. This was a mere two years after the assassination of Climaco whose funeral was attended by a mammoth crowd estimated to be 200,000. The longhaired Climaco had vowed never to cut his hair until democracy was restored in the Philippines. The anti-Marcos sentiment in Zamboanga city even after he was gone was attributed to Climaco.
Over at the town of Nabunturan, then of Davao del Norte (today the capital of Davao de Oro province), the human rights lawyer Dexter Lopoz relates an unusual incident. “I was in high school and monitored the Edsa Revolt through newspapers at our school library and by listening to AM news on our transistor radio. When the dictator Marcos was finally kicked out of the palace, I joined the Freedom March organized by the late mayor of Nabunturan Prospero Amatong who was the only opposition municipal mayor in the entire Mindanao. We marched around the town poblacion. I marched in solidarity with the people! We were finally free of the corrupt, brutal, and evil Marcos Dictatorship!”
An important note: Prospero Amatong was purged by Marcos in 1977 for being in the opposition.
One city whose own People Power events were recorded was Baguio City, thanks to the film director’s lens of Kidlat Tahimik, National Artist for Film. In his magnum opus “Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow” (Bakit Dilaw ang Kulay ng Bahaghari), the Father of Philippine Independent Cinema portrayed through an epic film diary the immersive experience of Cordillera locals before, during and after the heady days of February 1986. It is a precious historical piece that even the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain has kept as part of its fabled contemporary art collection.
While the usual Manila-written narrative has wide gaps of what took place in the provinces, others make a hype of personalities who made news only momentarily. One hagiographic account repeats the common notion that Soledad Roa Duterte, the mother of Rodrigo Duterte, was in the Yellow Friday protests in Davao city. That is true. What it lacks is context. Mrs. Duterte soon changed colors and campaigned for the resignation of Cory Aquino. When her son ran for city mayor in 1988, he was actually backed by the Marcos loyalists of Davao city led by Alejandro Almendras that she had supported. Mrs. Duterte had completely shed her Edsa colors.
Because the usual sources of interviews are known Duterte acolytes and cheerleaders of Davao city, they never say she was a traditional politician like her husband. She even ran for a local position in 1967 when her husband was in the Marcos cabinet. Her politics was political opportunism and run-of-the-mill turncoatism that was nothing to crow about. The fruit does not fall far from the tree – her despot of a son Rodrigo and what is today a dynasty that should be dreaded by any right-thinking democrat.
To the people still living who organized and participated in historic events that coincided with those at Edsa but have been sidelined by the narratives of Manila as the only center of the universe, you are not alone in your struggles and triumphs. To the dead who never had the distinction of being honored, they are our heroes that someday more inclusive narratives will write about.
The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.