If there is anything the Philipinos can be proud of, it should be their faith in God. This is the kind of faith that has inspired them to stage two “peaceful revolutions” that have changed the course of their political history.
The first and most famous one was the EDSA revolution of 1986, where more than a million people gathered along the streets of Manila in protest against the then President Ferdinand Marcos and his dictatorial government of twenty years. This event was triggered by what the people perceived as outright manipulation of votes and inability to concede defeat when Cory Aquino was declared winner in the presidential race. Two presidential inaugurations took place in two different venues. The late President Marcos was surrounded by his family and a few loyalists in government, in contrast to Aquino’s mass of support. When Marcos mobilized the military in order to quell any mass protest and took control of the media, Cardinal Sin of the Archdiocese of Manila went live on Catholic-owned Radio Veritas, urging people to stage a peaceful protest along the longest street of Manila, called EDSA (which stands for Epifanio de los Santos Avenue). The rest is history.
This remarkable event gave rise to what we now call “people power.” But the secret of our people power revolution in 1986 was God and the intercession of Our Lady, Mother of Christ, and, perhaps, all the saints who have prayed for our cause. The Philipino people from all walks of life gathered together in prayer and peaceful resolve. Catholics, who were armed with Rosaries and Bibles, linked in chain around the armed soldiers and tanks praying almost unceasingly, singing religious and protest songs, listening to the news over Radio Veritas and appealing to the soldiers. People kept vigil for almost a week and literally broke bread with the military. Food was shared by all of those who kept vigil in the streets. Soldiers were also handed Rosaries and flowers. Family members took turns in the street. Masses and prayer vigils were held in all churches. Perhaps, it can be said to be a huge religious event, unparalleled in modern history. It was literally a leap of faith. It was the Power of God, so evident in the faith of the people, which produced such victory. Political analysts, despite having their own theories, were confounded; Marxist revolutionaries in the underground movement were hugely surprised. The military turned against its commander-in-chief, the President, and rallied behind its protesting public. When President Marcos finally fled the country on February 26th 1986, the whole nation sang and danced in the streets. Prayers and Masses of Thanksgiving took over.
In January 2001 the Philipinos did it all over again – the peaceful way – and ousted President Joseph Estrada, who was accused of corruption and inefficient leadership. The people couldn’t take him any longer. The same Cardinal Sin, now ailing, together with ex-President, Cory Aquino, encouraged the people once again to take to the streets and stage a prayerful, peaceful protest. When the people massed peacefully, businesses allowed their employees to join the protest and provided food for the crowds. Young and old took a determined stand. Reporters noted that this time again, priests and religious were in the front lines of the human barricade. Young “texters”, as they are now called, sent out messages to other parts of the country and the world with faith in their hearts and phones in their hands. Once again, the army and the police withdrew their support from the President. This time, the Vice-President, Gloria Arroyo, was sworn in as the new President on the streets of Manila, in the presence of a million people. This was by decree of the Supreme Court. (Not too long after that, ex-President, Estrada, was arrested and is now in detention (September 2001), facing corruption charges in court.)
The day after the victory, January 21st, was the feast of the Holy Child of Prague, we call Santo Nino, to whom Philipinos have a very special devotion. At the thanksgiving Mass in the Cathedral, all 39 bishops of the Philippines concelebrated with an elated congregation. Former President, Cory Aquino, was right when she said, “What miracles are happening to us because we, Philipinos, haven’t forgotten to pray!”.