Most welcome is this minute-to-minute scene-after-scene of The Four Days. Angela Stuart Santiago has had this terrific idea of combining snippets from reportage, memoirs, and testimony and sequencing them into a panorama of the event. The device enables you to see the revolution unfolding bit by bit as beheld simultaneously by different eyes.
And what’s the effect wonderful?
It’s as if the happening was happening again before your very eyes, as if you had a front seat on the greatest show of modern history.
This book will also be, as reference, a priceless peace agent. Whenever The Four Days are discussed, there’s always a row on the who, what, where and when. “No, that happened on the third day, not the first day!” Or: “He wasn’t at Crame, he was still at Aguinaldo!” Or: “She didn’t say that, it was the Cardinal who said it!” And so forth, usually ending in general acrimony and even rampage. But now we have this EDSA dictionary to consult: arguments about The Four Days should be more gently settled.
Of course, certain arguments about EDSA will continue to boil tempers. EDSA is a clear, clear page of our history, but certain interested quarters want to, and try to, overlay that clear page with their own very dense, dense prose. The intent is to belittle EDSA, or to distort it, or to make it serve their own ideology.
In the years since 1986, the lucid image of EDSA has been vandalized by debunkers claiming to be disillusioned because the revolt there brought us no Promised Land, nor Eden, nor Utopia, nor Shangri-la. But the multitudes that blest EDSA did not go there to make revolution, or work a miracle, or establish a Brave New World. They went there on a specific mission: to save two men from a tyrant.
So when we say now that EDSA was “in vain,” what on earth do we mean? That Mr. Marcos was able, after all, to catch Ramos and Enrile? Or that Enrile and Ramos were not worth saving in the first place?
Besides Ramos and Enrile, we had another chore on EDSA: to protest the queering of an election that we believed to have been won by Mrs. Aquino, not by Mr. Marcos. Even if we knew then that Mrs. Aquino would fail, wouldn’t we have felt still bound to protest for her sake if we truly believed she had won the election? After all, the very life of a democracy depends on the sanctity of the ballot.
Those who now say that they went to EDSA to ensure a new order, or a future for their children, or more galunggong in the market, are fantasizing. We went to EDSA in the same spirit we joined the “confetti revolution” in Makati, eager to raise our voices in protest but knowing full well that not all our shouting and marching nor the showers of confetti would bring down the strongman we loathed.
EDSA was equally a lark of a demo, to begin with, and notwithstanding the claims today of very wise hindsighters, was not expected to be more or less effective than the Ayala Avenue confetti, which also expressed the hope, the wish, that Marcos would fall.
The first time we got an inkling that EDSA might be different was during the false alarm on Monday that the Marcoses had fled. Such was our astonishment that we danced on the street. From that point on, we knew that EDSA was not mere confetti, EDSA was for real.
That wow of astonishment, that abrupt incredulous rapture, is what we have lost with regard to EDSA – perhaps inevitably, since EDSA is now history, and history is the death of the interesting. Spontaneity was the very spirit of the event; cold-blooded are the deliberate efforts to belittle it, or discredit it, or color it fulsome.
The supposedly “disenchanted” can hardly wait to gloat over the ever smaller (and cooler) crowds of each anniversary. The “loyalists” are, of course, very much concerned to have EDSA exposed as a movement not Filipino at all but Yankee-plotted: we were all just puppet Amboys on EDSA. And there’s, of course, the “pink parlor” trying to do to EDSA what it did to the 1896 rumpus: read EDSA as a revolt of the masses captured by the burgis. The key picture offered is the Club Filipino when Cory Aquino was sworn in as president, in the presence only of the elite, exluded being the masses who allegedly peopled the power on EDSA. In the same way that the presence in the Katipunan of Jacinto the Letranista and Valenzuela the physician (not to mention Bonifacio of the elitist Liga Filipina) is simply ignored, so these re-readers of history simply blink away the influence on EDSA of such key figures as Cardinal Sin, Butz Aquino, the Nun and the Seminarian, the Makati Villager and the Ortigas Gent. It’s another way of “making“ history.
But history is truly made only by each set of original producers – and by their later interpreters, if those interpreters can revive the original spontaneity and astonishment and interestingness.
Angela Stuart Santiago has succeeded in making EDSA happen again, although not on a highway but on a page. Her blow-by-blow technique of presenting the raw EDSA material has made it come alive again – to the confounding, one hopes, of those who would belittle, distort or misuse EDSA.
In this book EDSA is not history and not dead.
In this book EDSA is still news – and alive.