Reflecting on EDSA 1, our People Power Experience, what kept coming to mind was the image of the thousands upon thousands of mostly young people at the peak of Mount Samat in my diocese in Bataan, last year on the evening of the First Sunday of Advent. Most of us who had gone up started at the foot of the shrine in mid afternoon and by the time we reached the top the sun was setting. Yet in the gathering dusk, the bright faces of the people shone. There was hardly any weariness that could be gleaned on their faces, even after the 10-kilometer walk uphill, but there was exhilaration and much energy for the activity that still lay ahead, the celebration of the Eucharist.
When I was at the EDSA Shrine I used to recount to the young people how it was like then. They were thrilled to hear the story from a person who was a witness to that historical event. For my part, I’ve always felt a sense of duty to tell the young people what EDSA 1 was all about, and to remind them that EDSA is a legacy to the youth how freedom and democracy can be regained through prayer and peaceful means.
I remembered EDSA 1 whenever I am in the midst of large youth gatherings. I remember the innocence, determination and fearlessness of those four days of February 1986 when I see young people coming together in prayer and celebration. EDSA 1 was about innocence, there was no guile in it. True, it was aimed at driving away a dictator, but this intention was purified by their intense longing for the noble values of peace and freedom. Those of us who were there took on the armor of determination and with fearlessness. We were ready for the worst yet prayed most fervently for the best.
That is why People Power cannot be replicated if there is no innocence or purity of intentions. There should be no guile otherwise the true nature of People Power will not spring forth, and it will be reduced to a mob.
Many are sad that the anniversary celebrations of People Power no longer stir the people into participation. “The feeling is not there,” they say. And they are right. The feeling we had during that first People Power is no longer in these commemorations. But while we may have lost the feeling I think the spirit of EDSA 1 remains and is alive in many hearts and minds.
It is alive in the young people whose hearts yearn for goodness, truth and love. I see it in their faces when they express their hopes for the future. It is alive in people who selflessly serve the poor, setting up cooperatives and other livelihood projects to lift them out of their helplessness. It is alive in honest government workers, dedicated policemen, committed public officials.
When we commemorate EDSA 1 it is to reaffirm the values we stood and gathered together for, without guile, with much courage and firm determination. When we commemorate EDSA 1 it will be to pray to God, for thanksgiving for that glorious moment in our history, and also to petition Him, that as in EDSA 1 He would hear our prayers and supplications, aided as we were by the protection and love of our Blessed Mother. Let the anniversary of EDSA 1 be our special day of prayer for its spirit to remain in us, for its spirit to be passed on through all generations, as the epiphany of God’s love for us, and our love for Him and our country. The feeling will fade, but the spirit remains.