Monday, February 27, 2006

A Squandered Gift (Part 4)

I had planned to post my last entry about EDSA I a few days ago, but recent events put an end to that thought. As I write down my memories, I can't help thinking about how Gloria Arroyo could have ruined my reverie by desecrating the 20th anniversary of People Power with EO1017. I have decided to escape by going back in time:

February 25, our day of liberation.

I woke from fitful sleep in a bad mood. Sleeping in a car for three days can do that to you. The snapping between me and Javy was getting worse. The lack of sleep, "real" food, a constant source of water (sorry, no bottled water then, only water stations peppered along EDSA), and a shower had made us all edgy, too sensitive. We were by then terribly disappointed that Marcos had not left after all, and as dawn broke, rumors were rife that we would all be in terrible danger. But hard news had also reached us - Cory was finally going to be sworn in as President in Club Filipino. That was gratifying to learn, but we were still short-tempered. To relieve the tension, we decided to drive around and reconnoiter the north. Our convoy drove in the direction of MBS 4 (ABS-CBN). We wanted to check out the area, make sure the TV station had enough warm bodies to defend it.

We arrived at the foot of the TV tower on Mother Ignacia shortly before 6am. We were surprised to see that the area directly under the tower was bereft of people. Winnie was upset - where were all the people? As we looked around for answers, one of us spotted a uniformed soldier as he began climbing the tower. We all watched for a while, wondering if he was "one of us". Not long after, we lost interest (my neck hurt from looking up) and just when we were deciding on how to get people to guard the tower, the asphalt exploded about a meter in front of me. I shouted, "he's shooting at us!". All hell broke loose.

My brain shrieked "RUN!!!", but my legs were rooted to the ground. I was too busy trying to process what just happened. I was flabbergasted! How could I have survived almost four days of this tension without thinking that any of us could get hurt? Had I lulled myself into a false sense of security while surrounded by so many others? How stupid of me! Then I was slammed out of abstraction when Tony, Javy's brother, pulled me away by my collar to hide behind a car. After a lull in the shooting, we crawled toward an aluminum shed directly below the tower. Winnie was already there, smoking a cigarette. She asked what took us so long.

At some point, the attention of the shooter focused on EDSA, we could hear the rumble of tanks and the whoosh of a chopper. We made a dash for our cars and hightailed it out of the area. The quiet in the car was deafening as we all tried to understand what had just happened. By the time we reached Ortigas Avenue, we began to talk, and it was clear that dying for our country wasn't a far fetched thought, after all. Not out of bravery, more from out of love.

The crowd around Club Filipino was humongous. After parking, we fought our way through the throng to the heavily secured building entrance. A man at the door to the function room said only Winnie and I could attend the ceremony. We were both livid! We wanted to be with our friends, we had almost died together, for God's sake! The man wasn't about to be cowed. But, with what he thought was a flash of brilliance, he said they needed people to help secure the driveway, and would we do that? Too tired to keep arguing, we agreed. So the dozen or so of us started emptying the driveway of people, shouting hoarsely to them to let the cars through. My only glimpse of Cory was of her getting out of the car and rushing in. I no longer remember if she arrived before Ramos or Enrile, I only remember being shoved around by their RAM companions.

The rest of the day remains a blur for me. I have memories of hearing about the killing of the sniper, that he may have killed some people, while we sat around a grassy area not far from Club Filipino. I was saddened by that. The reality was that it wasn't entirely a bloodless revolution. The radio also reported Marcos' sham inauguration. We couldn't believe it.

We didn't learn about Marcos' leaving till way after. Javy and Winnie woke me up at some point to give me the news. I was too tired to jump for joy. All I wanted to do was go home and have a long hot shower. The euphoria didn't hit me till I arrived in front of my house, I think I laughed and danced a jig. My housekeeper and my dogs seemed relieved to see me. I took that shower, put on my pajamas, and cried like a baby. We were free.

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