Lest We Forget – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 6:27-38, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

With dear Fr Bill Kreutz as our guardian, I was on formerly Santolan Road, now C-5, with a bunch of Ateneans, in what would be known the world over as the People Power Revolution. But I was there by mistake. Mom and dad were okay that I joined rallies here in Manila. Just not this one, because they saw armed soldiers and tanks on TV. One day, news on the radio said that diktador had fled, and partying on the streets would soon begin. So, my board-mates and I joined the assembly in Ateneo, hopped on the buses, and off we went to our assignment: Santolan. It was fake news. No party. In fact, the doddering diktador was still in Malacañang. Civilians were supposed to keep Camps Crame and Aguinaldo barricaded, to protect Ramos, Enrile, and well, this guy, Honasan. Barricade we did, about 30 abreast, and several ranks thick, especially when we were told that a bunch of army trucks were on the way to invade the camps. The trucks did come, and offloaded armed soldiers. They fell in, shoulder to shoulder and stone-faced, then, nose to nose with us. Then, they started pressing against us to break our ranks. When their leader realized we weren’t budging, he barked orders for his men to get back up their trucks. Then, they sped away! Cheers, tears, and hugs! But we celebrated too soon. The trucks came hurtling back, offloaded the guys, but this time, with bayonets popped onto their rifles. Again, they pushed against us, this time harder, more relentless, and angry. We started grunting and screaming to keep our barricade muscled and tight, until Fr Bill yelled, “Let them through! Let them through!” We were stunned! Let them through? Fr Bill squeezed his way through our ranks, tapping our shoulders and backs, “Let them through, let them through!” We realized Fr Bill was out to protect us from clear and present danger. He wouldn’t have been able to live it down if Ateneans were massacred. So, the soldiers got through. No more cheers. Just tears and hugs. But back on the street we came the next day, and the next, and the next.

People Power: a peaceful, non-violent resistance by the community, emulated by many countries thereafter. It really worked, you know. There was a general agreement that whatever happened, we, civilians, were not to retaliate eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Violence would only break and escalate if we did, at magkakamatayan. There was a shoot-to-kill order from above, allegedly, by General Fabian Ver. Ver to diktador, was like Go to Lame Duck, less fawning and clingy, though. But murderously loyal. Yet, not one soldier cocked a rifle against us in the four days we were on EDSA. Not that I remember, anyway. Because instead of eye for eye, tooth for tooth, it was roses for guns, food and for tanks; praying and singing for stone-cold, soldierly silence. I guess, it helped that the soldiers were believers in God and loved their mothers. Because it was mostly women who approached them, madres and lay, to give them food, rosaries, a smile, and a kind word. And we won them over. We really did, without throwing one rock or bursting one blood vessel.

I didn’t think non-violent resistance would work. After all, to his name, diktador had 3,257 known extra-judicial killings, 35,000 documented tortures, 77 recorded ‘disappeared,’ and 70,000 incarcerations. Only God knows the undocumented body count. But my God, non-violent resistance worked in EDSA, our nation turning the other cheek, surrendering our tunic, praying for the enemy, not judging. With my own eyes, I saw it every day of the revolution against diktador and his self-indulgent family and cronies.

Jesus himself revolutionized the centuries long history of blood vengeance. But please remember, sisters and brothers, Jesus advocated non-violent resistance, not masochism and abasement. Jesus did not want us to be dish rags and doormats to the wicked. Back in the day, when someone slapped you for whatever reason, he was slapped back a fine for the crime. Turning your other cheek meant daring your slapper to commit a double-crime, and paying double. If you owed someone, he could, by law, take your cloak as collateral. But also by law, he should return your cloak by sunset, so you’d have something to keep warm through the night. Too wicked to give you back your cloak at sunset? “Give him your tunic, as well,” Jesus said. Well, the tunic was the last piece of clothing a poor man had. Giving it away meant stripping naked before the merciless money-lender. Well, in Jewish society, nakedness brought shame not just to the unclad, but also to anyone who saw and looked at him. So, see? Cheek for slap and tunic for cloak weren’t divine commands to just swallow injustice and sob in a corner – NO! Jesus wants us to resist injustice, oppression, suppression, just like he did; but peacefully, non-violently, resolutely, without losing our God-given dignity and goodness. Sabi nga ng mga Pinoy, “’Pag binato ka ng kaaway, batuhin mo ng tinapay…na nasa loob ng garapon!” And for all of you who were there, all this happened on Edsa, didn’t it? Before our eyes and the eyes of the world!

Thereafter, though, we kinda sat on our laurels, somehow. We stopped telling our story of freedom, and of decades-long oppression, suppression, salvaging by diktador, his family, cronies, lapdogs who pampered and perpetuated themselves. We didn’t check, re-check, double-check the history and Araling Panlipunan books our children read in school. We left it all to their teachers, many of whom were still kids themselves in the 80s, too young to understand what it took us to fight to end 22 years of pagpapakasasa of one family. And we left our story to be told by glossy leaved coffee table books only the rich can afford. But we stopped telling our story. That’s why a liar and crackhead is now changing it.
Sisters and brothers, at every mass and sacrament, in every classroom of religion, catechism, and theology, salvation history is retold, without fail. You and I also need to keep retelling our story of freedom. Over and over and over again, we need to tell it, and make sure it is told right, and not twisted and bastardized; lest our children and their children forget. Lest we forget. Because dear sisters and brothers, lovers of freedom and fighters for justice, our story of freedom, and any story of freedom for that matter, is not going to tell itself.

*photo by Roger Buendia

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Norma C. Hidalgo says:

    Everything you shared is very true. I was also there during d Edsa Revolution with my co teachers for at least 3 – 4 days. We joined that non – violent experience. We are teachers from Canossa Academy, Lipa City . Slmt sa Dyos !


  2. gloria luz raymundo says:

    Our Moonwalk NAMFREL group was there and a book was published WE WERE THERE by the Asian Development Bank employees. Indeed the EDSA People Power was one of a kind….


  3. Tina benipayo says:

    And that is why, at 65, i still join the Leni rallies. As a Maryknoll high schooler it was rallies at mendiola, then in my thirties it was rallies for Cory, then 4 days at EDSA with my family. Now in my sixties supporting Leni, all these years trying to keep the dead dictator and his family from getting their greedy , power hungry hands away from us again.


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