I grew up in the Marcos era. I experienced the censorship, the lack of press freedom, the curfew hours, KBL vs Laban campaign, the pre-election noise barrage. My family and friends were victims of the atrocities—relatives were hauled to jail, family members were harassed even tortured. Once, when I was a child, I accompanied some folks who were well-connected to the regmine inside Malacanang and I experienced first-hand the vulgar ostentatious display of jewelry that belonged to Imelda.
Indeed it was grandiose times. I remember when hotels such as the Manila Peninsula and Philippine Plaza (now Sofitel Philippines) suddenly sprung from nowhere to present a facade for the IMF confenrence. I remember when the Manila Film Center was hastily constructed for the Manila International Film Festival and I remember when the more than 160 construction workers were buried under cement and the subsequent hush-hush that came with it. I remember the “royal wedding” of Greggy Araneta and Irene Marcos in Sarrat where the Marcoses had the main road decorated with white, red, and pink bougainvilleas, which I later discovered to be mostly crepe paper (the altar, however, had fresh flowers shipped all the way from Hawaii).
I cringe when youngsters look back at those times with nostalgia, crediting the Marcoses for the beautification of our country, not realizing that those extravagant expenses were mostly backed by loans. It's like envying your wealthy relatives for their majestic mansion and their splashy sportscar, not knowing that it is all from borrowed cash and a close examination of their balance sheet would reveal that they are actually in the red. I likewise cringe when people hail Bongbong Marcos as some savior of our country, thinking that he is the poster child of good governance.
I was one of those who marched to EDSA. We parked our cars in Bel-Air and trekked the long walk to Camp Crame. I was there when the tanks rumbled in. I saw the strike helicopters of Col. Antonio Sotelo land and until then I thought that he would spray bullets on the crowd. EDSA for me is the epitome of what a people power revolution is. Sadly, I don't think we will see something like it again. It was unplanned, unorchestrated, totally spontaneous. It represented decades of pent-up anger and frustration. Of all the rallies I have attended, none—not even EDSA 2—would ever come close.
I have no regrets taking part in the ouster of Marcos. I disagree with the notion that we were better off then and that we would have been better off if Marcos remained in power. We were a ticking time bomb and I remember dreading who would fill the power vacuum if the then-ailing Marcos would croak. If you want to know what could have possibly gone awry in the Philippines, read the 1998 riots of Indonesia, where thousands were killed, homes and business establishments even shopping malls were looted and burned, and countless women were raped.
Sadly, we have lost the spirit of EDSA. That once crowning glory of our country is now muddled by a growing base of Filipinos who are ignorantly critical of the present administration and the existing base of Filipinos who are just plain and simply ignorant. If there is something I long for during the Marcos era was the brillant crop of politicians that we had. I long for the Benigno Aquino, the Soc Rodrigo, the Carlos Romulo of old. Do you want to see an example of eloquence? Search for Ninoy Aquino's speeches, especially the one he delivered in Boston, and compare that with the sheer idiocy of our dear Senators like Jinggoy Estrada and Bongbong Marcos.
But that's the price we pay for democracy. We have to abide by the wishes of the majority, which unfortunately for us is the uneducated and impoverished masses. However, I am still hopeful. An ideal government does not happen overnight. We as a population have to make mistakes and hopefully learn from it. We had made mistakes by voting showbiz personalities to positions of power, a mistake I truly hope we avoid. With the advent of mobile technologies and cheap devices, news and information are now available to the masses. We now see who are power-hungry, who are selfish, who are the ignorant and who are the trapos. I hope we all learn to sift through the noise and the fake facades and put into positions of leadership those who truly deserve it.