Learning from history, before we become history | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

EDSA SHRINE/FEB.22,2010 The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Edsa Shrine during the 24th Anniversary of People Power 1. INQUIRER PHOTO/RAFFY LERMA

Hekasi or Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, Sibika (Geography, History, Civics) has never been a strong suit of mine. Dates of historical events that shaped our lives and allowed the privileges we now enjoy used to evaporate like the morning dew, doomed to the deepest recesses of my memory, twisted and incorrect.

Feb. 25, the commemoration of the first Edsa Revolution or the People Power revolution, was no exception. Before I entered college, this was nothing but an anticipated date if it fell on a weekday, for students like me who looked forward to a day off from school.

Piecing together what I can remember from my lower education and political reflections our father—a diligent student of history—would animatedly relay to my siblings and me, the revolution happened to put an end to the dictatorship of then President Ferdinand Marcos. The Philippines under his administration was arguably a rapidly developing country economically, but morally, the general situation was foul because of the unjustified killings of Filipinos. That’s all I knew.

Honoring sacrifices

But great was my shock when I entered the Los Baños campus of the country’s premier university, University of the Philippines.

There I discovered a lot of patriotism, where history is rightfully honored, the youth are aware of their rights and their responsibilities to engender national change, and the past is remembered to make sense of the present.

The first program I attended when I was a freshman in 2018 was Araw ng Paggunita sa mga Biktima ng Batas Militar (Day of Memorializing the Victims of Martial Law).

Guest speakers took turns narrating the atrocities committed by soldiers; my flesh crawled upon hearing them. There were also band performances; I was captivated by the depth of the lyrics, compared to those of the famous pop songs we hear nowadays.

Then, during the closing remarks, a baritone voice pierced the crowd: “ISKOLAR NG BAYAN!” I can still remember how the hair on my skin stood on end, as the crowd responded, “NGAYON AY LUMALABAN!”

I wanted to flee out of fear for the unknown. It was my first time encountering such a scene, and I could not grasp what it was for. But my feet stayed planted. After a series of exchanges I could not quite comprehend, candles were lit and a moment of silence followed.

As an Iskolar ng Bayan myself, I began to feel the weight of the injustice and the blatant abuse of power that claimed the lives of fellow Filipinos, some of whom were named that night. When I got home, the Philippines I had imagined in the throes of martial law became more vivid and horrifying.

Gone was the detachment I felt from historical dates. These took shape, looming shadows behind me, enjoining me to mind the past. I’ve always known life under that regime was harsh, but I never understood how harsh it was, and even now, I cannot begin to completely do so. But such events taught me to appreciate and honor the sacrifices made for the comfortable life I lead.

The statue of the Virgin Mary at Edsa Shrine on the 24th anniversary of People Power in 2010 —INQUIRER PHOTO

Dots on the calendar

Attending more events, I had a better concept of what had transpired in the past, which gave way to our transition to democracy. A collective resolution by the people under the violent and authoritative Marcos regime, Edsa underlined the values Filipinos from that context and generation held dear.

As far as I know, not a drop of blood was spilled because of the peaceful demonstration. Nuns held out flowers to soldiers as they met at the front-lines. The ultimate goal was to break free from the shackles of martial law and restore democracy as well as the nation’s fundamental principles: bayanihan, the power of the people, protection of the vulnerable as well as the media, disseminating facts truthfully, and the responsibility of voting for a greater future—all of which the government and Filipinos must spare a thought for.

From what I observed among the younger generations, the so-called Generation Z, there is the attitude that the more distant a historical event, the more irrelevant it is. National holidays are reduced to dots on the calendar, especially now that online classes have significantly decreased the quality of education.

Two of my younger siblings in the secondary level grumble all the time about the tasks teachers assign to them that are unrelated to their lesson, so only a few bits of information are retained.

Rekindling hope

I conducted an informal survey on what young people know of the Edsa revolution, and their position regarding the event. Only eight out of 21 respondents had insights; 10 responded that they don’t particularly care for it, while five could not take a position as they lacked knowledge. Most of them grimaced at the question and readily admitted that they only had a condensed understanding of what happened.

Nevertheless, those who articulated their position rekindled my hope for the future. They shared valuable reflections on what the youth are able to realize, from our generation’s own circumstances and experiences.

May the past compel us to heed the cries of our fellowmen who fought for the country. To make sense of the present, we must refer to our forefathers’ aspirations, sacrifices, conviction and even bloodshed. If we juxtapose our context now against that of the past, we may be surprised to find parallels and maybe even solutions.

History offers a glaring exhortation to exercise the power given to us by the People Power Revolution—the freedom our fellowmen fought for. Some of them were activists, like the students of today who urge the government to listen. It is high time we learn from and heed our history before we ourselves become history. —CONTRIBUTED

The author, 21, is a student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.