1983-86 The Yellow Movement & the People Power Revolution

In 1983, the Philippines awoke to the reality of the Marcos dictatorship, with the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Soon, people shed off their fear of military and police brutality, and took to the streets. I was a middle school student then, but I was quite aware of current events, aside from reading between the lines of the government controlled newspaper, I listened to the hushed discussions of the adults that lead way into the night. It was funny that we kids complained about how our parents would end their parties late into the morning, not realizing that no one could leave because of the government imposed curfew.

Soon, more news started pouring out from allegations of corruption, to torture and murder. In 1985, to appease the people, President Marcos called for snap elections. Looking for a strong symbol for the people to rally behind, the opposition asked the widow, Corazon Aquino, to run from president, and opposition senator Salvador Laurel as her running mate. I was in high school then, and I readily volunteered in different activities for the campaign.

By the time the elections were over, allegations of vote buying, vote manipulation, harassment, and even the stealing of ballot boxes were hurled towards the Marcos camp. Both parties declared victory, and the whole country was at a stalemate.

The vote counting was slow, and stretched on to the next year. Then a series of events lead to the 1986 EDSA Revolution. Government computer operators who were monitoring the vote tabulations discover a discrepancy with what they had on their monitors and what was being announced, and because of this they staged a mass walk-out from the Batasan Pambansa. Opposition leader and Antique Provincial Governor, Evilio Javier is assassinated. Then the allies/cousins of President Marcos, Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel Ramos plan to stage a coup de etat against him, seeing that he was losing his grip over the country with his failing health. Marcos discovers the betrayal, and sends the military to crush the rebellion. Fearing for their lives, the coup plotters call on the opposition and claimed that they have jumped ship and were now in league with Corazon Aquino.

The opposition called on the people, through the radio, to protect these “heroes”, and millions went to the streets. I was in the province with my uncle, and opposition leaders Lito Atienza and Gen. Aldeberto Yap and his wife Lorna, who were talking a break from all the protests. When we heard to the news, we returned to Manila, and joined the people in the streets.

The coup plotters barricaded themselves in military Camp Aguinaldo and the police Camp Crame, along the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), and the government forces were being deployed to attack these locations. But in an instant, hundreds of thousands of people swarmed around the two camps, preventing the military from their siege. Soon many government commanders relented and also joined the opposition.

Waiting for the tanks to arrive
Waiting for the tanks to arrive

February 1986, Here I am on sandbag walls along EDSA, waiting for the military to arrive. We weren’t sure if they would attack us, or join the opposition. So it was just a waiting game, for almost a week, until USA President Ronald Reagan intervened and had President Marcos whisked away to Hawaii.

Yellow pages ate shredded to create confetti, to signify defiance against the Marcos dictatorship
Yellow pages ate shredded to create confetti, to signify defiance against the Marcos dictatorship

The protests against the Marcos dictatorship took a colorful turn in the city of Makati, the financial district of Metro Manila. While tens of thousands of demonstrators walked the streets, office personnel would shred the Yellow Pages and toss them down to the streets as confetti. Yellow was the color adopted by the opposition, as a symbol of the late Senator Benigno Aquino, whose theme song for his return to the Philippines from his USA exile was “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and the Dawn (1973).

Mom collecting donations in Cubao, for the Corazon Aquino presidential campaign
Mom collecting donations in Cubao, for the Corazon Aquino presidential campaign

Compared to the millions of tax payers’ money that fueled the electoral campaign of President Marcos, common people donated what they could to fund the campaign of Corazon Aquino. Here is a photograph of my mother collecting from passersby, with the “Piso Para kay Cory” (One Peso for Cory, Corzaon Aquino’s nickname).

My father joins other opposition leaders as a pallbearer for Gov. Evilio Javier's funeral
My father joins other opposition leaders as a pallbearer for Gov. Evilio Javier’s funeral

My parents, who were both prominent in the chosen fields, for a time working quietly for the opposition, yet after the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino, my openly campaigned for change. Here, my father serves as one of the pallbearers for the assassinated Antique Governor, Evilio Javier. At the lead is Chino Roces, another staunch opposition leader.

La Union province
La Union province

The wealth that the Marcos had amassed from pilfering the government coffers was staggering, and his greed seemed insatiable. This is the monument that he had built for himself in La Union province, to rival Mount Rushmore in the USA. Presently, this sculpture has been obliterated by the communist rebels in the area. Sad to say, the Corzaon Aquino government was also riddled with allegations of corruption and murder, leading people to question if the EDSA Revolution was worth it.

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