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(Still) remembering EDSA Revolution: A millennial teacher’s perspective

By Ruben Jeffrey Asuncion Published Feb 25, 2021 3:03 am

EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) is supposedly more than just a main thoroughfare in Metro Manila named after an early 20th century nationalist scholar. It is also supposedly more than just an official holiday for the rest of the country or the turning point that ushered in our country’s first female president and restored our democracy.

However, as we commemorate the 35th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, we face more challenges in making this historic four-day event relevant to succeeding generations of young Filipinos. Especially those who may not have been to Metro Manila or have passed through the busy “Highway 54.”

I myself did not personally learn about the events at Camps Crame and Aguinaldo, Ortigas, Libis, Malacañang, and other parts of the country. Having been born one year and seven months after EDSA, I learned about the details from my family and from documentaries, books/periodicals.

To teach is to remember, not for us to be eternally trapped in the past, but to learn from it, and be alert with the uncertainties of the future. If hope can’t be given to us, then let us start finding it in the recesses of our memories.

But yes, I have ridden on vehicles that crawled through EDSA since my childhood years and—at least before the lockdowns—having constantly seen the landmarks that make us remember the defections of military officials and the flocking of people that helped end a regime. Yes, I’ve watched those reenactments on TV of then Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel V. Ramos’ famed “jump” and all those songs calling for unity.

But times have changed. Those scenes may not or will not be enough. I may be fortunate to have come across this topic but unfortunately, EDSA was not discussed in detail in our high school.

Now, I have been teaching Philippine history in the last three years or so (previously in a private university in Manila’s U-Belt and currently in a premier national university).

Admittedly, the discussion of the events of 1986 (both EDSA and the snap election, as well as the decline of the Marcos government) would be at the tail-end of the semester, a stage when time is running out for discussions and activities. At this stage, students would be cramming for requirements while a teacher like me would start preparing for the final examinations.

Many of those who opposed the burial of Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016 were born after the People Power Revolution. 

So, I have to make do with whatever material I have. Either I discuss the events and the circumstances in one session (at the risk of boring the students to death) or if I am more prepared, I would give the reading / video material to students at the start of the semester so they can have time to digest the details.

But COVID, the lockdowns, and the ongoing disruptions to our previous way of life have upended the normal ways of teaching Philippine history to students. To make matters more challenging, the discourses in social media have become too politicized.

“Toxic,” as “Gen-Zers” would say. Furthermore, the current administration is not exactly known for being sympathetic with the gains of EDSA People Power. Remember the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016?

Frankly speaking, I cannot give any concrete long-term solutions to these very complex problems. But I can say that some baby steps may be started: by remembering. To teach is to remember. Probably making EDSA more relevant to younger people—some of whom may come from families loyal to the former strongman or the current president—can be done by making analogies relatable to the younger Filipinos.

People power—and love—prevailed in 1986. Photo by Romeo Vitug

We can also ask the children to relate the events of EDSA with the plots of their favorite Korean series or, more relatable, Game of Thrones. For example, who were the Lannisters and Starks in 1986?

To teach is to remember, not for us to be eternally trapped in the past, but to learn from it, and be alert with the uncertainties of the future. Most importantly, if hope can’t be given to us, then let us start finding it in the recesses of our memories.