Corinne de San Jose at 8, Edsa ‘86, wearing the Ninoy shirt her father gave her three years before.
Culture Spotlight

They were just kids during Edsa ‘86, and they remember

The memorials may get smaller but what happened those four days in February, 34 years ago, is no small feat—just ask the kids who were there.
Jerome Gomez | Mar 01 2020

In EDSA, by the People Power monument, the usual flag-raising ceremony took place the morning of February 25, followed by a mass at the Edsa Shrine. In Makati, People Power stalwarts Rene Saguisag, Jejomar Binay, and members of the August Twenty One Movement gathered around the Ninoy memorial along Ayala Avenue,  while Martial Law victims and human rights advocates offered flowers. People still do commemorate those four days that happened 34 years ago, a peaceful, bloodless revolution that toppled a 20-year dictatorship. But the celebrations have become smaller, the noise around it diminished to a hush, and the people who are supposed to remember getting fewer as the years pass. It doesn’t help, of course, that the color of that moment in history is not the most popular color at this moment. 

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But the shrinking crowd shouldn’t diminish the importance of Edsa 1986, nor should it mean there is less reason for remembrances. We spoke to the kids who were there those four glorious days of February, and while they didn’t exactly have the full grasp of what was happening around them then, they know now as grownups it is a moment one must work hard to not forget. For some of them, it was the spark of a political awakening; for others it opened their eyes to a world larger than their own. Here’s what they remember. 

 

Diego Mapa, DJ and Pedicab lead vocal and guitarist 

I was six years old. I was with my parents, and my brother Jao who was four years older than me. We didn’t have a car then so sumabay lang kami sa jeep sa village with other families from Antipolo. We ended up in the Crame side. I saw tanks, yes, but I didn’t see any of those soldiers with flowers on their guns. I went there not knowing any political agenda — I was 6! Ang alam ko lang Cory kami, brother ko maka-Marcos. To us kids, it was like Decepticons versus Autobots. 

We were in the periphery of the crowd lang; maybe because my parents were protecting us just in case something happens. But I felt no sense of fear from them. There was a calm. I remember thinking it was like a stroll in the park, or like Fiesta Carnival! I had ice cream. There was confetti in the streets. None of the riot I was expecting from a rally. 

Diego and brother Jao, a little older here than when they were in Edsa for the People Power revolt.

My parents are very influential to me. They are very peaceful people. That’s why maybe I’ve never been involved in any suntukan eh. They always taught us to be peaceful. They knew Edsa in ‘86 was an important rally because it was not violent. I was talking to my dad the day of the anniversary, about how people were saying only 100 attended. It’s sad. But despite popular opinion, I still celebrated in my mind and in spirit. I celebrated the non-violent People Power that overthrew tyrants.

 

Kris Lanot Lacaba, writer 

Grade 6 ako no’n. Kami nina nanay at tatay ang nagpunta, si Lolo at Lola din ata. Pero may araw din na ako lang ang kusang pumunta, at nakipagkita ako sa mga kaklase ko, nakimartsa, nakisigaw, nanood ng programa. Sabay nakikibalita sa mga ibang rallyista kung nasaan na ang mga sundalo, ano nangyayari sa loob ng Crame, sa Malacañang, kung nasaan na ang mga sundalo, tangke, at eroplano ni Marcos. 

Nagbubus ako papunta sa kung saan nag-assemble ang mga tao. Di na din makalapit ang mga sasakyan noong second day pa lang. Hanggang Santolan lang ata mga sasakyan kung tama ang tanda ko. Maglalakad na lang ako at iba ding pasahero na makikirally. May mga nagpapa-hitch din sa mga pribadong sasakyan. Sa mga rally, tense kasi parang anytime puwede kami banatan ng mga sundalo. Pero andoon iyong paninindigan na dapat na umalis na ang diktador, na bully, na overstaying na sa palasyo, mandarambong, mandaraya, sinungaling, at mass murderer. May posibilidad na mapatalsik si Marcos, may pag-asa.

Ang EDSA para sa akin ay pagwakas ng dalawang dekadang strongman rule. Overtime na si Marcos, mandarambong at mamamatay tao, dapat na talagang palitan. Kung ano si Marcos, kung paano niya pinapahirap ang buhay ng mga Pilipino, ng mga manggagawa, mga magsasaka, at mga sumasalungat sa kanya — habang nagpapakasasa sa luho ang pamilya't cronies niya—hindi yun realization na nangyari lang sa EDSA, kundi kaalaman na dala ng pang-araw-araw na karanasan ng Pilipino.

 

Yasmin Sison Ching, artist 

Tibak kasi nanay ko. Naalala ko lang nakatambay kami at natulog sa banig malapit na sa Greenhills, sa mismong EDSA. Nandoon pa rin yung building na ‘yon hanggang ngayon. Nasa akin pa din yata yung JAJA shirt ko. 

Yasmin Ching’s JAJA shirt. To those who don’t remember, JAJA stood for Justice for Aquino, Justice for All.

Kasama ko mama ko at kapatid na mas bata sa akin ng apat na taon. Di ko na maalala kung paano kami nakarating do’n. Pero parang dapat ata pupunta rin kami sa Club Filipino kasi ide-declare na na president si Cory? But I’m not sure about that memory. Nagkahalo-halo na mga rallies na sinamahan ko nung bata ako. Ang sure ako, basta dapat laging may tubao at calamansing dala in case ma-teargas. Ano mensahe sa’kin ng Edsa ngayon? Na di dapat tayo makalimot at di pa tapos ang laban.

 

Anna Francesca Rosete, Metro.Style design editor

We lived in Greenmeadows tapos grabe yung mga tora-tora! Talagang nagtago kami sa laundry kasi parang nasa taas lang ng ulo namin yung mga helicopter. When it was "safe" to go na, we drove to our friends' place in White Plains, and from there, walked to EDSA. 

I remember it so well. I must have been 8 years old. I remember sitting on EDSA, cheering for Ninoy's brother as he gave his speech. It was like a big street party. Lots of singing on the streets. I know that song, "Magkaisa" by heart because na-LSS ako big time. I also remember the soldiers and the tanks. To an 8-year old girl, those made it really look like a revolution. But also there was so much sharing in EDSA. I remember food being passed around and lots of great, positive energy. 

My Papa, my mom, my dad's older brother, his wife, all of my older cousins were with us. What I remember was Papa holding my hand as we walked from that street leading from White Plains to EDSA — is that Temple Drive? — and he said, "Never forget this." 

 

Isa Lorenzo, gallerist, Silverlens

I had just turned 9 when Ninoy was killed. I was with my parents and my sister and we were Malate-bound. We heard the news over the car radio while heading home on South Superhighway just at the bottom of the Magallanes interchange. I remember my father saying, "Oh no, they did it. Things are going to change.” 

I was 11 when EDSA started. We were at my Tita's birthday party when the guests started to murmur that Cardinal Sin is asking people to come to Edsa to protect Enrile and Ramos. With my father and my brothers, we went the next day, tried to get as close as we could. Car parked outside Corinthian Gardens. It was a mass of people we joined, walking, sitting, just being there. I have no dramatic memories of it, but it was about being there.

EDSA 1986. A soldier stands with his rifle watching the crowd gathered in front of Camps Crame and Aguinaldo. Photo: The Eggie Apostol Foundation

Kat Holigores, freelance producer

I have a very clear memory from February 1986. My parents are having a big party in our house at the time and we had a lot of family members and family friends who attended. Many were in yellow shirts and also quite a number who were in red. In fact, one uncle wearing red teased an aunt in yellow who was about to leave to go back to EDSA, “Well, if you get arrested I may not bail you out.” 

I was curious as to why my parents hadn’t taken me to EDSA just yet. Perhaps because I was in my early teens and my brother was even younger. It surprised me when my mom came to my room one day, carrying my brother, and said: “Kat, get dressed, we are going to EDSA.” And I said, “Okay, mom, but didn’t they say it might be dangerous and we could be hurt or die?” To which my mom somberly replied, “Yes, but it is for our country, and for our future, and if we are going to do this, we will do this as a family.” 

I can’t remember what I wore, and will not allow myself to look for photos to “cheat.” All I can remember was the feeling. The nerves, coupled with excitement. It seemed like I was going to do a “big girl” thing. And then, the silence in the car as we drove to EDSA, not anticipating the amount of people that lined the streets. To be honest, I didn’t really, and couldn’t really comprehend the full gravity of the situation. All I knew was the emotion that was reverberating from person to person, whether familiar or stranger. It was, in fact, like one family doing something together.

We stayed for what seemed like the entire afternoon until it got dark and returned the next morning. It was like the crowd had gotten even bigger and all I could think about was how brave my mother was, and for how brave she made me feel, and that I was part of something so significant, so revolutionary, and that we were doing something that would truly change lives, and defeat evil. I also remember the announcement that Marcos had left. I think it was my dad who was yelling it to my mom above the noise of the crowd—because everyone was tuned into radio Veritas, the same way people binge watch Netflix now. Again, confusion on my part: what does it mean that there are helicopters? What does it mean that they’ve left? I kept asking. And my mom said “It means we’ve won, and now we can go home.” 

What do I feel about EDSA now? That we’ve, in a way, let its spirit down. The last 34 years have gone by without truly embracing change. It seems like it was a great story to tell, but what it stood for was never maximized to empower the people of today.

 

Corinne de San Jose, artist, sound designer 

My parents had explained Marcos to me and what was happening to our country three years prior, when I was five, after Ninoy died. I asked my dad about the scary news clips and why so many people showed up for his funeral, why people were crying in the streets. Then he showed me pictures of his body, and explained to me why his family decided not to have him cleaned up. He said his family wanted the world to see what was done to him. Ever since that time, politics was always something openly discussed in our house. So when the snap elections happened, we were very much involved. My dad would bring us to the precints just to watch if the votes were being counted—there was a lot of news about ballot snatching, etc. 

Then we heard Cardinal Sin’s call on the radio to go to the streets. My dad went to all three days of EDSA. I distinctly remember seeing him off at the gate really early in the morning because my mom was super worried. He only allowed us to come on the last day, when it was almost sure the Marcoses were about to leave. 

I came in pigtails with a yellow ribbon headband (syempre lol). I was wearing the ‘Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa’ shirt my dad bought for me after Ninoy died—which was tbh a little too tight because I was by then already 8 years old. I remember this because my mother insisted on us tucking my shirt into my jeans and it was a little uncomfortable. I also remember I was wearing my blue Mighty Kid sneakers with a Mighty Kid hologram on the velcro strap. I loved those shoes, but ended up hating it by the end of the day because we had to park and walk really far—there were tanks and barricades on the street, abandoned already because I think by that time most soldiers had left their posts. 

We met up with cousins and uncles there who were based in Manila. It was a mini family reunion. To me it felt like a party. People were passing around food and drinks. Everyone was happy and friendly. I remember a foreign photojournalist taking my picture, which made me feel like, wow, I must be doing something really important. I think at some point everyone started singing “Bayan Ko” so I think I cried with everyone too. 

We stayed till sundown and then all of us cousins rode the back of my dad’s pick-up on the way home. (Side note, somehow we ended up passing Mabini and it was the first time I had ever been to a red light district so I was freaked out haha). Anyway, when I got home, my feet were covered in blisters from all the walking and standing up so I never wore my Mighty Kid sneakers again.

EDSA was so important to me. That whole era was the beginning of my awareness of politics, and paying attention to what’s happening around us. It made me love my country, it made me want to be involved, to be better. I couldn’t really understand everything, but I was sure that it felt good to be there. It felt good to be around people who were fighting for something right. For years after that I was so idealistic about everything. Like, wow, we’re really going to turn things around now! We’ve learned our lesson, everyone’s going to do their part now, everything’s going to be better. 

Now I look back at it fondly, but I have a hard time celebrating it. It feels like a missed opportunity. Like we turned out to be such a disappointment. So many of the people we saw as heroes then turned out to be just as awful, maybe worse. And so many of us didn’t really hold on to the idea of it, or maybe we never really processed what that whole thing was about. We’re not really good at keeping history, I guess. Now it just feels like another narrative that was sold to us, that we just consumed and discarded soon after, or replaced with another, more convenient one.

 

Quark Henares, filmmaker, Globe Studios head 

I have vague memories of Edsa. There's one that I remember so vividly, though. I was sitting on my father's shoulders, and everyone was quiet while listening to this speech. My dad told me that the person speaking was Cory Aquino, and so I tried to get a clear glimpse of her but a gigantic yellow 'Laban' hand got in the way. I couldn't stop looking at that big yellow foam hand, and so I had my dad buy one and played with it all the way home. 

These days, whenever I teach my students, I’m occasionally struck with the realization that I’m talking to people who have no recollection of having experienced Edsa. This isn't a good or bad thing, but whenever this occurs to me, I always marvel at how a four-year gap can cause such a difference between generations. And yet, I don't think even we realize anymore how beautiful this revolution was. When all is said and done, the Edsa revolution was about thousands of people holding nothing but rosaries and flowers taking on tanks and machine gun-wielding soldiers. Those days weren't like us and Edsa 2; everyone in that rally was terrified that they were going to die, and yet they were ready for it. 

 

Paolo Enrico Melendez, writer, Kapitan Kulam guitarist

I remember waking up to the sound of small arms and recoilless rifle fire outside the perimeter of old Fort Bonifacio. It was a few days before my sister’s birthday. Early the next day, our father bundled us into the family car. “Wala munang party,” he said, in his army fatigues. “See you soon,” our mother said. She made the same face as when she gave my sister and I our daily reminders for gradeschool. Wag magpapatuyo ng pawis. Wag malikot sa klase. Wag sasabihin kahit kanino ang mga pinag-uusapan sa bahay. I have never asked my parents were they fled to. 

I remember being a week into hiding at a relative’s place when our parents finally picked us up. My father lifted me off the floor, spun me around, told my sister we could have that party now. His fatigues had the stink of field and gunfire: soil and sweat and graphite. I remember our car having trouble getting out of the neighborhood, which flanked EDSA on the east. There were nuns and civilians, tanks held up by candles and popcorn carts, soldiers obviously sleepless and perhaps missing home. There was music and dancing but also prayers and mutterings. Our car finally reached the main road and there was a large rank of people with red and blue flags. They were all flashing the “V” sign. I remember my father sticking his head out the side window, shouting “Umuwi na kayo!” My mother quickly shushed him. I was too young to appreciate the moment, but I know now that we no longer needed to be so silent.

EDSA 1986. People climb on top of the main gate of Camp Crame as the crowd along EDSA multiplies to tens of thousands. Photo: The Eggie Apostol Foundation

Andrew Paredes, creative head, film critic

Ateneo High School would organize weekly retreats for graduating seniors at the Pollock Center in the Katipunan campus. That last weekend in February, it was my class’ turn.

My classmates would sneak out after lights out during the two nights we were at the retreat, eating a midnight snack at the Burger Machine near the intersection or exploring the campus at night. But there were rumblings of a change about to happen, you could feel it in the air. It was just building and building. Even a sheltered nerd like me couldn’t help but feel it. The previous school year I had attended my first rally, in front of Rustan’s Makati of all places. 

The three-day retreat was supposed to end Saturday, February 22. And right at the moment we were supposed to be dismissed, we heard Jaime Cardinal Sin on Radio Veritas—almost the only mass media news source the secretly anti-government, rebellious teens trusted, existing in an axis along with the ballsy female columnists of the Bulletin Today—asking people to show their support for Fidel V. Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile as they holed up in Camp Aguinaldo. My clique of friends and I didn’t head straight home; we made a detour to one of our friends’ houses to listen for any further developments.

My parents were dyed-in-the-wool Marcos loyalists. My father had grown up in La Union, a satellite province in the Solid North, and my mom had adopted his politics. I couldn’t stand dinners at our home because there would be all this political talk that I felt I couldn’t make arguments against. So when I got home much later than the prescribed time, I got a dressing-down from my mom (now deceased) for worrying her sick.

Thank God I wasn’t grounded or anything, and I still had use of the landline. (No cellphones or text or private messaging back then.) The following day, Sunday, February 23, one of my kabarkada phoned and asked if I wanted to join them on a look-see at what was happening on EDSA. I begged in whispers if we could go at night instead so I could sneak out of the house after my parents were asleep. So I went to my friend’s house, met up with two other pals, and we drove his car all the way to Cubao—where he prudently parked his car at Araneta Center and we had to walk along EDSA to Aguinaldo.

We had missed Ramos and Enrile’s crossing of the thoroughfare from Aguinaldo to Crame, but it didn’t really matter. It felt like a blatant power statement, a f**k you to the government, saying we have liberty of movement. Everybody we met and jostled with at EDSA had that hopeful, buoyant spirit. That feeling like nothing bad could happen to us here. For the first time, I felt like I really, truly belonged in my nation.

It felt risky to go and sneak out a second night in a row—I wish I had learned the skill during the retreat, a last lesson I wish my high school education had taught me—so I bitterly sat out a second excursion with my friends. I was planning to go again on the night of February 25 when—miracle of miracles!—reports started coming in during the day that the dictator had fled. He had blinked! My parents were crying, I was crying. But the reasons for our tears were diametrically different.

I don’t regret my one glimpse of the spirit of those heady days in late February 1986. Because that was when I saw what we were capable of if we stand together and put our heads and hearts toward accomplishing one thing. My heart would swell with pride because that was when the world noticed the Philippines in a way that REALLY mattered. I do regret all the political in-fighting and selfish backbiting and bickering that followed. 

How easily we forget what a people united in one common goal can achieve. That is a lesson that this government seems to have learned, with its paid trolls and clumsy bribes to the military establishment. But I feel we are capable of it again. It may take an economic conflagration or a viral outbreak or something world-devastating to do it, but I feel we are capable of it again.