By RONALYN V. OLEA
Yesterday marked the 10th year of the People Power 2 uprising.
The other day, I chanced upon some of my so-called batchmates in the youth sector who participated in the movement to oust then former President Joseph Estrada. Sally Lagos is now with Gabriela Women’s Party and so is Frances Bondoc. I saw two other former youth activists from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) that day.
“Sampung taon na pala iyon?” I told Sally, and laughed. “Naramdaman mo bang tumanda tayo ng sampung taon?” I added. We went on sharing memories, those moments when we held meetings until the wee hours of the night at the Anakbayan headquarters on P. Noval in Sampaloc, Manila; the allies we encountered during the campaign; all the “gimmicks” we devised to oust Estrada and even the times when we skipped meals because we had no money; and many more.
I was then with the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP). Sally was with the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Frances was with Anakbayan.
We were young, full of energy and were willing to do anything to contribute toward change. Days before Estrada left Malacanang, we were busy mobilizing students from different colleges and universities. From the day since Tessie Aquino-Oreta did that jig when the Senate refused to open that envelope, we went to different schools every morning, mobilizing thousands of students to go to Edsa.
The image of thousands of people marching from the Edsa monument to the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola bridge) still fascinates me. I could still hear how thousands of people chanted “Sobra ng pahirap, Patalsikin si Erap!” I remember how ordinary people would give out food and water to the protesters. It was literally the people’s movement at work.
Our personal lives have changed since then. But the lessons of People Power 2 are timeless. Anti-people governments cannot stay in power forever. United, the people have power in their hands. It is not enough to change the faces in government; what we need is a societal change. Rhetoric? Not quite. These facts remain true; they are only blurred by the powers-that-be who wish to render the masses powerless.
The Arroyo government diluted the meaning of people power; it even called it passé. The reasons are obvious. Why would a hated, corrupt and anti-people regime say otherwise?
The current Aquino administration tries its best to portray itself as champion of the Filipino people but implements the same old policies that have long made our people suffer. This government remains captive to foreign interests. It cannot be expected to implement land reform or national industrialization for the country to move forward.
Ten years have passed but the struggle for genuine freedom and democracy continues. Yes, we are older but our hearts remain young, doing our humble share in building a better future for our children. Ronalyn V. Olea