Philippine EDSA Revolution Revisited in the Light of Egyptian Revolution

a writing by Elizabeth Padillo Olesen

As I watch the struggle for change in Egypt which I describe as people’s revolution, I cannot help but think of the revolution in the Philippines when the local people tried to oust the great dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos, who held the reign in the government for 20 years. It was called EDSA revolution, a revolution which started on the street called EDSA in Manila where more than a million people gathered to express their demand for revolutionary change. There on that street of EDSA, people staged their revolt against corruption and oppression. People proclaimed: No to prolonged dirty elections! No to assassinations and salvaging of those who were looked at as communists or rebels! No to tampering of the constitution just to suit to the whims and lusts of the administration, wanting to hang on to power! No to injustice and great inequality in Philippine society!

The same intention of bringing about radical change is what the Egyptian and the Philippine revolutions have in common. The gathering of people on the street for some days is motivated by the ardent desire for change. Both consider their action as a duty to save their country and to ensure a better future for themselves and for their children and for the next generations.

But one of the greatest differences between the two is that, there was no throwing of stones on the streets in the EDSA revolution. What the people on the streets did was to kneel down, pray and talk to the soldiers and the military on the streets. Some of them with tears gave flowers to them in uniform in their attempt to win their side. It was an appealing tactic which came naturally from those who gathered on the street of EDSA. Their prayers, their tears and their open dialogue drove away the fear while standing face to face with military tanks, guns and truncheons. That revolution was called a peaceful revolution, which marked the exit of Marcos from the country and from his long abode in the Malacanang Palace, and the uniformed men and women, the military force, transferred their loyalty to the population that demanded change. Then followed the ransacking of the presidential home palace and the retrieving of financial accounts hidden in foreign banks, attempt to restore the fortune, alleged to have been stolen from the coffers of the Philippine government.

Every revolution has its own style. The Egyptian revolution will be remembered with people who did their best to protect themselves by the stones available on the streets, an expression of helplessness and courage but not cowardice. The Philippine EDSA revolution will be remembered as another style, fully surrendering to the gentle spirit of God which can be awakened in every human heart including the hearts of the most powerful.

But no revolution in our history is ever complete after the gathering of people or demonstrations on the streets. The process of change is long. And the dreams for change in the hearts of the local population will ever continue to be a flame in lighting and completing a revolution.

written February 7, 2011

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