The Revolution That Gave the World "People Power"
February 21, 2011 4:08 PM   Subscribe

The EDSA People Power Revolution began in the Philippines 25 years ago on this day. On February 22, 1986, tiring of a thieving, murderous dictator, Filipinos flocked to a Manila highway to willingly serve as human shields to two high-level defectors from the government. Faced with wavering loyalist troops and crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands, President Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines for Hawaii on February 25, where he died three years later. Was it happily ever after for the Philippines? Not a chance.

Marcos' successor Corazon Aquino suffered through several failed coup d' etats. Her successor Fidel Ramos brought the country a measure of stability that was frittered away by his movie-star vice-president and eventual successor Joseph Estrada. Shady dealings brought a dramatic impeachment trial and eventually a people power sequel in 2001 ("EDSA II").

Estrada's veep and successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, held on for ten years, gaining a good reputation among world leaders that stood in contrast to her reputation at home: that of an efficient but increasingly corrupt nepocrat. Arroyo was caught on tape talking to an election official, sparking another attempted coup d'etat and more EDSA sequels that fizzled out.

Whatever happened to the personalities involved in the original revolution? Corazon Aquino died in 2009; the rush of EDSA nostalgia on the occasion of her death helped her less distinguished Senator son Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino win the 2010 presidential elections. The two defectors - Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile - served high positions in the first Aquino administration. The former went on to become Aquino's successor as Philippine President. The latter split with Aquino and is presently the Philippine Senate President.

Marcos' widow and children were eventually allowed to return to the Philippines. Imelda Marcos (she of the 2,700 shoes) ran for President in 1992 (and lost), and her children Imee and Bongbong won elected office. The present-day Marcoses benefit from a growing nostalgia for the Marcos administration's perceived stability and progress, especially in the light of the failures of succeeding administrations.

And the Catholic Church, sidelined by Marcos and emboldened by its prominent role in Aquino's rise to the presidency, has reasserted its influence in government. Catholic bishops lead the opposition to GMO, mining and charter change; the Church hierarchy is currently fighting a reproductive health bill that is supported by most of the population.

Some observers see in the Philippine experience a cautionary tale: that a popular revolution doesn't do squat if the people don't invest in long-term nation-building afterward.

And in case that was all tl;dr: here's how the EDSA People Power Revolution would have played out on Facebook.
posted by micketymoc (11 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Great post. The U.S. sure has a long history of propping up dictators overseas and being shocked, shocked, to find discontent in this establishment.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 4:41 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow, I had no idea about all this... and I'm 100% Filipino. (Shameful!) I was even in the Philippines during EDSA II: I was 12 years old then, and I still remember hearing people chant "Erap Resign!" It's great to read about all this history, especially in the context of recent events in the Middle East.
posted by Rickalicioso at 4:55 PM on February 21, 2011

I'm certainly no Philippines expert, I travelled there as a tourist for a few months a few years back (good times!). the thing that struck me the most was the extreme population distribution. All of the schools were full to overflowing. An extreme age-sex pyramid, with a booming population to be managed. 35 percent of the population is under 15.
posted by wilful at 4:59 PM on February 21, 2011

I woke up 25 years ago to the literal clanging of a frying pan against the rails of a metal gate the morning of the revolution. I crawled out of bed, shuffled down the stairs and stared incredulously at my aunt outside, dragging the pan across the bars of the front iron gate first left, then right, while crying out, "Laban! Laban!" (Fight! Fight!).

I asked her what was happening, and through the revolutionary fervor she told me the people have risen and are taking back their government.

I'm sorry to say that even though I was a fairly well-educated twelve year old who knew about the Aquino assassination and even been to revolutionary rallies just weeks before, the first thing I asked upon hearing this on a Sunday morning was, "So, do we have to go to school tomorrow? Or should we start packing and get ready to fight?"

The rest of the day was spent at home listening to the radio and watching fighter jets circle above us (we lived 2 miles from Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame).

Eventually the TV started broadcasting as well, so now you there are all sorts of noises in the home. My aunt was tireless in her calls for uprising outside, the radio was staticky and sounded a lot like a soccer game where someone just scored a goal and the TV was a mass confusion of sound and image.

I remember images of a man on top of a tower. Maybe he had a rifle, maybe he didn't. I remember scenes of a gutted Malacanang Palace and a horde of rioters running off with loot. I remember wide angle shots of a mass of people in yellow, of nuns stopping tanks and soldiers crying.

By Tuesday I was back in school. By the following day life had returned to normal for that twelve year old boy. Three weeks later I was on a plane headed for Los Angeles to start a new life. You could say I get to stick around to see the end of a regime that drove my family away... a case of too little too late.

It's only later that I step back and think about those events. They're not very sharp and I'd like to think I think back to those days with strong emotion. But I don't. I just remember asking if I had to go to school on Monday or would the revolution mean I need to go get ready to run or fight.
posted by linux at 5:04 PM on February 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

Some additional Phillipines info: Last night BBC2 aired an excellent and depressing documentary, The Worst Place In The World To Be a Bus Driver, which transplanted a London bus driver to the slums of Manilla. The poverty on display was just horrific, and the contrast between the lives of the Brit and Filipino, both working class men fulfilling ostensibly the same job in their respective countries, was incredible. I highly recommend catching it through the iPlayer or other channels.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:22 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this detailed post! Living in the US, I only know of Imelda Marcos, through joking reference my dad made about my mother's little shoe collection.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:06 PM on February 21, 2011

A few more thoughts came to me while on the bus home. That morning "rebels" (FVR) took Camp Aguinaldo while literally across the street armed forces stationed by the government were at Camp Crame. Why two military camps were across the street from one another, I can probably google to find out but back in 1986 it just brought the amusing image of a Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs the revolutionary was in a fort facing Sam the Hessian.

Later, there was Cardinal Sin (still the best ever name for a cardinal in all of the RCC) on TV asking that no blood be shed.

The jets later declared to be with the people and later Camp Crame declared the same.

The more or less revolution was won... and as I said, that meant I was back in school on Tuesday.
posted by linux at 8:10 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Linux, both camps were rebel territory. Crame was (and is) police headquarters, while Aguinaldo was (and is) headquarters for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. On day two of the revolution, Enrile and Ramos consolidated their forces in Camp Crame, as it was smaller and easier to defend. (Google map of both camps)
posted by micketymoc at 8:52 PM on February 21, 2011

I guess that's what happened. My memory of that early morning is confused, mostly because no one knew much of anything and all we had was the radio (and later the TV). I do remember thinking of the Bugs cartoon so at one point there was the idea that the two camps were in opposition. Then later came the tanks down the road and the nuns coming out.

Like I said, I could have googled it, but I decided to just recall what I was thinking at the time.
posted by linux at 9:10 PM on February 21, 2011

Was it happily ever after for the Philippines? Not a chance.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:37 PM on February 21, 2011

In my country, corruption was rife during the first hundred years after our big historical revolution and well afterwards, as was nostalgia for the previous regime. Also, during that period we managed to come up with at least one solution to some of the problems we faced that involved around half a million of our citizens dying stupidly and violently.^ And did lots of other really stupid things besides that and had almost all of the problems the Philippines has had that I've come across in the OP links, and we continue to do all sorts of stupid things down to this day.ยน

But we're still chuggin' along, so I'm not counting the Philippines out yet.

1. Including screwing over the Phillippines in every way we could think of during the last century and change after generously "helping" them to avoid becoming a German colony. Can't find any inoffensive jokey way to apologize for that, so for what it's worth: I'm sorry.
posted by XMLicious at 4:01 AM on February 22, 2011

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