The joke is that former president Fidel Ramos was irked by President Arroyo’s absence during the 23rd anniversary celebration of the 1986 People Power revolt last Feb. 25 because he would have wanted her to see him do his ritual Edsa victory jump. But he did the jump, or did what his 80-year-old knees could manage, anyway.
The stage was not empty, though, because the other Edsa 1 players like Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Gregorio Honasan were around. That should have been consolation enough because in the first place Arroyo was not an important figure of Edsa 1 (although saying that would have sounded more like the sour grape tale).
But that’s how this year’s Edsa 1 celebration has crumbled. Cory Aquino, the other Edsa 1 figure (although she was in Cebu when people massed at Edsa to protect Ramos, Enrile, Honasan, etc.), was in another forum. Incidentally, when Cory was president, Enrile and Honasan shied away from the Edsa celebrations she led.
“All of us should give respect to this momentous event in our nation’s history,” Ramos said. I watched closely the video footage showing him say that and all I could mutter was that the age of FVR, a health buff, is finally showing. But that should have added to the authority from which his words flowed.
Unfortunately, one cannot dictate respect. Edsa 1 and the other activities that pay homage to the heroism of individuals and people can best be celebrated voluntarily or out of genuine admiration or reverence. Gloria, obviously, has never fully identified himself with Edsa 1 or with what Ramos intoned as its “spirit.”
Like the others who went through or witnessed the harrowing years under the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and who, after Edsa 1, are still holding on to the old slogan of “Never again!”, I could not help but feel sad at the seemingly diminished significance of that heroic deed in 1986.
Many of us Filipinos have short memories, and there is nothing we can do about that aside from raving and ranting. But there are those who have not forgotten and who, in their own small ways away from the limelight, pause for a moment sometime every last week of February, close their eyes and relive those moments in 1986.
For them, whether presidents attend Edsa 1 rites or not do not matter.
(I wrote this for my Feb. 27, 2009 “Candid Thoughts” column in Sun.Star Cebu)