EDSA, the Unlearning

Freedom should not have to rely on a single event that we commemorate every year.

Today, the nation marks the 36th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution. Esquire Philippines asked young people for their thoughts on the significance of this day, in the hopes that the spirit of EDSA lives on and is carried forward for future generations. 

At our house, family dinner is served piping hot in pristine Corelle bowls, on a lazy Susan, at exactly 6 p.m. Decades-old alcohol bottles and tea cakes are displayed on aging wood cabinets, where dust patterns have not been touched for years. It speaks volumes about the kind of people we are: traditional, stubborn, and unchanging. And though it was never explicitly said—and nothing is ever explicitly said—politics is off-limits at the table.

Like many Filipino-Chinese families, politics is a touchy subject. On the surface, it may seem as if we are an apolitical community without a care for the country’s political events, but the truth is we are often the hands manipulating pieces of that machinery ourselves. Whether we unconsciously support dictators for business interests or befriend shoddy personalities for community incentives, it is something that almost every Filipino-Chinese family I know is guilty of. 

Growing up, a shroud of protectiveness—guised as censorship— always loomed over me. I did not get the chance to know EDSA, the major thoroughfare, nor the EDSA Revolution, the historic event that caused us to redefine our understanding of a revolution. It was a sin to be a protester because you blocked traffic, and it was rude to do that because that meant you were against the government. I guess for my family, EDSA I was just another rally, only with more people, flowers, and a hit song. It was not that big gesture of unity the media painted it to be. It was an obstruction to daily affairs. A nuisance that sprang up from something that wasn’t even that big of an issue to begin with.


But this indoctrination (or lack thereof) didn’t just happen at home. Even in school, history was not a subject I could use to piece my personal and social experiences together. My classmates and I were barely talked to about Martial Law, so how are we to fathom the gravity of the EDSA Revolution? The lack of context was appalling, but even more so was the lack of conversation around it. By parents, by teachers, and other adults.  

If you ask me how we got to this point in our history, it’s because we never gave enough people the chance to speak their truth. We became silent. It is a sob story of collective complacency, bitter irony, and a twisted desire to remain unbothered in the face of injustice. It is one where stories are swept under the rug and hidden inside cabinets, where dust patterns will remain untouched for years. 

Until a few years ago, if you asked me what I felt about the EDSA Revolution, I would just give you an empty stare. It was hard to give an impression of something that you had no solid knowledge of. Plus, to say that it was a move toward progressive politics would have to mean that I was against my family—the only world I knew then.

It was only in college when annual gatherings and protests were organized that I got a sense of the gravity of the event. Had I not learned it through the impassioned voices of college professors, bright-minded students, and well-crafted documentaries about the EDSA Revolution, I would have no political awakening. Of course, with this came many horrific realizations about myself, but the transformation was welcome. 

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The spirit of EDSA and the desire to protect our democracy is present in the youth, no doubt about it. It may be imperfect, but therein lies a genuine desire to never again experience what our forebears had to live through. To the elderly, it may seem just like another brash act of naivete, but on the ground, it is nothing but.

If you ask me, the EDSA Revolution was not a failure. It was groundbreaking but I think relying on it to promote democracy is unwise. Freedom should not have to rely on a single event that we commemorate every year. Democracy is something we exercise daily, consciously. It is unrelenting and unforgiving to those who try to quash the most basic laws of the land. It starts at home and in school so it can reach the highest seat in the government. 

But mostly it starts with confronting ourselves. The talking, the asking, the learning, and the struggling. After all, they say one vote makes a difference, but a forgetful mind can undo a revolution, too.

Sabrina Joyce Go is a college senior at the De La Salle University pursuing Bachelor of Arts in International Studies Major in European Studies, Minor in Creative Writing. She is the former editor in chief of The Lasallian, and is currently interning at Esquire Philippines.

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