EDSA '86: The View from Mindanao

I was 19 years of age when the the failed coup by Ramos, Enrile, and Honasan was repacked by ABS-CBN as “the EDSA Revolution”. On the eve of Marcos departure for Hawaii, a buddy and I were in a BBQ place behind Davao City Hall. We were listening to the news, as we guzzled down cases of San Miguel Beer Pale Pilsen. By then, I was way over the activism phase in my life. So there we were singing drinking songs and talking about what was going on in Manila.

They asked me – “you were in the militant mass movement before, been on the watch list (the so called-OB/Order of Battle, what are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be out there?”.

Flashback, two years, 1984. The open militant mass movement was peaking up. The political spectrum was highly polarized. The National Bourgeoisie and the Petty Bourgeoisie were in alliance with the Workers and Peasants in a National Unified Front that will achieve a strategic stalemate, establish a National Democratic coalition government as a preliminary stage to achieving a more equitable system of government akin to China and Vietnam. We were having wet dreams of a cultural revolution – of banishing outdated feudal Pinoy thinking.

We rallied at any opportune, we volunteered as agit-prop teams during general strikes, we acted as command and control during long marches, we were in every Asin concert, we lighted our lighters and sang “International” along with the Plebians “Aling Pag-Ibig Pa”. The East is Red, Davao is Red, we can’t wait for the entire Philippines to turn Red – or so, we thought..

Something got lost along the way. In the enthusiasm to drive Marcos out, the open mass movement extended its outreach to the Comprador Big Bourgeoisie Landlord Class – in the name of Cory Aquino. The Snap Elections lead to an intense debate that split the progressive forces and the leadership of the militant mass movement. The Snap Elections was the proverbial monkey wrench that changed the momentum of the game.

I advocated participation – my colleages went for the hardline – Boycott. I argued that boycotting the elections will make the mass movement a follower instead of a leader because it hands over control to the parties who participate. When I look at Satur Ocampo, Liza Masa, Teddy Cansino, I am reminded of those days – I TOLD YOU SO.

I kiddingly replied “Good question guys, but I have an NDA with my former colleagues. Tagay”

Then I got serious  “We parted ways due to differences in management style. They are trigger happy, am not.. It does not make sense to me to blow up a bridge only to ask for a loan later on so I can rebuild the one I just blew up. It also does not make sense to me that I will engage in the very same activities on which I have called the GRP to task. There has to be a better way. And with that went away the Mao hat, PSR, my combat fatigues, and my collection of writings by Lenin, Stalin, Engels, Marx, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Gustavo Gutierrez”

For short, been there, done that – your turn guys.

I conveniently did not mention the part where my parents were just about to construct a jail in our house – and were going to imprison me because they were afraid that the moment I stepped out of the house – I will either be gunned down (I was already on the watchlist supposedly) or that I would take to the hills – and lay it all to waste.

My dad’s value proposition to me was this – if for every problem your approach is armed struggle, and I tried that approach on you, my dear son – I would have shot you a long time ago and you and I will not be having this conversation. You can kiss your democracy goodbye because I am exercising economic power over you, as such I have political power over you – and you are staring at the barrel of my gun. I got the message. So much for doing a Che Guevarra.

On that night, memories of the nights of rage and disquiet in the streets of Agdao (aka Nicaragdao), Mandug (aka Mandugua), Maa (aka Maanagua aka killing/salvaging  fields) were raging, until it flickered, and went away.

Later on a former Danish colleague in the energy sector would tell me, “If you are young and not a commie, you don’t have a heart. When you are old and still a commie, you don’t have a brain”. Ok, I have a convenient excuse – I was young and didn’t know any better.

The inner Petty Bourgeoisie opted to wear Hanes t-shirts, Adidas sneakers, Levi’s jeans, listen to Smooth Jazz, dance to Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, go clubbing in Apo View Hotel’s Penec Bar (turned One Down Disco then Spam’s), become a college jock and captain the Ateneo de Davao Men’s Vball Team all the way to the UAAP Nationals ’88 – the proletarian experiment was over.

And so, there we were, that night of 1986, Davaoeños, Mindanaoans, second generation Luzonian-Mindanaon chowing down on Colasa’s pork barbecue.

As far as  I was concerned, as far as the Davaoeños were concerned, whoever won – Marcos or Aquino:

  • Davao and Mindanao will always be the LAST priority of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.
  • The Manila-centric GRP will always call the shots on allocations.
  • Mindanao will remain the hacienda of the Cojuangcos and the mestizos, and the multinationals – and the AFP will be the security guards who will shoot and kill the Mindanaoans.
  • Mindanao’s resources will be siphoned off to Manila, business taxes from profits derived from Mindanao will be paid to Makati. Malacañang will allocate the tax revenue to NCR, and if they want brownie points – throw the Mindanaoans a bone – and watch our local politicians croak their voices like frogs in a downpour.
  • Mindanao will be the playgorund of Luzon-trained AFP military officers wanting to get a promotion – Fly to Mindanao, Shoot some Moros, Bilaans, Manobos – Get a medal, Get a Promotion, Return to NCR and brown nose a mistah to generate cushy funds for retirement.

For short, it will be business as usual.

The only difference between Marcos and Aquino is that in Marcos time, you can easily spot the crocodiles – they had the bulging beer bellies, the tucked in 45s, the RayBan aviator glasses, they were usually in military or police uniform. In Marcos time, corruption was limited to the Cabinet Secretaries and the Regional Directors.

After Marcos time, it seemed the crocodiles had spread like a malignant cancer. From the military, the corruption now included the “civilian”. It used to be that people wanting to do business just paid off the Chief of Police or the Regional Commander of the Regional Unified Commands. After Marcos, we had to pay more people off just to take part in a bid – from the driver to the treasurer, section chief, even the COA Auditor!!!

Talk about democratization of corruption!

In the years that have passed, the remote places in Lake Sebu, Diwalwal, Bukidnon, Mt Apo, Kidapawan, Kitanglad, Surigao that I have visited in my youth, my adolescence, as a college student, as a yuppie, and as Pinoy overseas have not changed a bit.

The roads are still narrow and dusty, the concrete roads are still full of crater-sized potholes, people still ride the same trikes and jeeps, neighbors still blast the volumes of their boomboxes for everyone in the village to hear.

There are some changes too – I saw the Ampatuans buy out and consolidate the smaller lots to come up with a bigger lot in the subdivision where I grew up – Luzviminda Village, in Maa. The rich are richer.. the poor are poorer.


Nothing new man dinhi oi. Mao ra gihapon.


EDSA? A Revolution? You gotta be joking.

Excuse me, but I can’t relate to this EDSA crap.



  1. Gosh, Hanes t-shirt…I see an image of Bruce Willis from Die Hard in my brain…lol.

    I can just imagine the frustration of the people who live in Mindanao and other parts of the Philippines outside Manila. I was born and bred in Manila but I’ve always suspected that the people in the provinces always get the short end of the stick. Government officials who reside in Manila are free to pimp, rape and pillage other parts of the country mostly for their own personal benefit. The activities and income derived from there don’t even benefit the majority of the population. It sucks.

    Your father was right though, at the end of the day, it is better to subtly outsmart the enemy with your wit 🙂

  2. Makabayan · ·

    Yeah that’s another thing I forgot to mention in the “other” thread. The “revolution” was decided by Uncle Ronnie flying his friend Ferdie to Hawaii. I am pretty sure Ferdie and his loyalists would have fought on given the chance. My point it is: The “revolution” outcome was decided by Uncle Ronnie.

  3. I was 19 years of age when the the failed coup by Ramos, Enrile, and Honasan was repacked by ABS-CBN as “the EDSA Revolution”.

    @ BongV, I came of age taking the phrase “Edsa Revolution” for granted and with what you said above — that the term “revolution” was a concept that was introduced after the whole thing — it dawned on me that we all (in Manila, at least) went to Edsa not having the concept of “revolution” in mind originally.

    So the whole thing was packaged into a sort of a media product by ABS-CBN which then went on to successfully infect the collective psyche of our society — becoming the sort of jargon that people like Abe Margallo throw around describing as “institutionalised” and institutions like the Church attributing “miracles” and holy “intercessions” to.

    In any case, it was ok from a teenager’s perspective — hanging out on the streets eating fishballs and checking out chicks. But looking back now that I’ve got my own kids who will be teenagers soon, I kinda think now how irresponsible it was for our hi-school teachers to be leading their 16- to 17-year-old students into rallies and pickets.

    I certainly wouldn’t want my own kids being fed all kinds of political crap by hi-school teachers.

  4. Who’s Uncle Ronnie? 🙂

  5. Oh, Ok …I get it. Never mind.


  6. Ronald Reagan is Uncle Ronnie.

    He is quoted as referring to Da Apo as “He might be an SOB but he is OUR SOB. 😀

    Gen. Fabian Ver was ready to let the tanks roll but Marcos blurted Okinanam and was cursing Ver in Ilocano.

  7. It was a putsch,

    Marcos was dying and the camp was split between Ver and Ramos/Enrile/Honasan. Whoever won got to take over. Had Ramos/Enrile/Honasan prevailed the Philippines could have become another South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, (military dictatorship transitioned to democracy) – and at the worse end – Myanmar, The US was caught unaware with the massive showing of people in EDSA, rumor has it that the US was banking on a Fabian Ver win.

    However, Enrile and Ramos were foiled and to save their necks, scampered to Cardinal Sin – the rest is history. The Return of the Oligarchs was completed – it was retrogression not revolution.

  8. hello eveyone,

    i’ve always thought that i was born too late. when i came of age, i thought my peers were rudderless and mis-informed. though i was not as informed myself, i had this feeling there was something wrong with the “tibaks” in ADDU echoing what the previous generation fought for, except they didn’t know what exactly they were fighting for. so they adopted the TFI issue year after year. as for me, i moved on and found Cebu, commerce and the power of information. i think everyone should move on too. there’s more to do than just going “ra ra ra” on the streets and disrupt the flow of traffic.

  9. Thanks for the insights BongV. thanks for fixing the comment feature too. 😉

  10. I kinda feel guilty now for joining another rally earlier. STill the parliamentary arena is something the mass movement has a hard time comprehending much less mastering

  11. Why do you people refer to Marcos as APO, MACOY?

  12. hi ilda:

    looking at this SCTEX, NLEX, C-5 controversy, a mindanaoan would say – dang, you guys are complaining about your three expressways, we don’t even have one expressway in Mindanao – and we are also paying taxes and the loans made so that the expressways were built.

    Mindanao’s getting a bum deal. and that’s because Mindanoans keep on electing congressmen who are but lapdogs and doormats of Manila.

    Take for instance Arroyo lapdog – Prospero Nograles, the typical Congressman who puts placards in government projects and present it as if it came from his own pocket – and Davaoeños in the first district fall for it – and now he even has his son running in politics.

    The thing is VOTERS in Davao’s first district selected Nogie – kung hindi ba naman mga retards.

  13. That is why METRO MANILA outstrip Bombay as the densest city in the world, PHYSICALLY and MENTALLY. Because all the progress is concentrated in this pathetic township. MANY THANKS TO URBAN PLANNERS that graduated from University of the PHilippines, Ateneo, La Salle and PhDs from foreign-country in ivy-school ….

  14. hey Free..

    Apo is an Ilocano slang for an elderly person; Apo – Ilocano version of Gat;

    Macoy is another slang for Marcos..

  15. my question to the “tibaks” was this – how can you get to socialism when you can’t even build a darn good capitalist state.

    let’s work on getting our capitalism right – for all we know – marx was right on the historical stages – but he didn’t get the details right.

    consider I, the entrepreneur – I have the capital, I am my own worker – in a world of extended supply chains – I am both capitalist and worker.

    that will be a blog post for another day.

  16. you are welcome ka fredo… it was bugging me too.. the 500 internal server errors were driving me nuts.. and embarassing too… 😳

  17. Free, no need to feel guilty.

    The mass movement has a problem dealing with the parliamentary arena because they have painted it as being a snake pit.

    What the mass movement seems to miss is that the pit became full of snakes because the voters selected snakes.

    If voters selected someone who’s not a snake – then the arena ceases to become a snake pit.

    Having painted the arena as such (a snake pit) the mass movement now paints itself into a corner – after all engaging in the arena means becoming a member of the snake pit.

    This is where the movement is barking up the wrong tree. It should be barking on its membership – elect the candidates who support our agenda, or let’s run for it ourselves.

    The ideological trap that the movement has laid for itself is its belief that electoral struggle is useless because in the end, it has to be an armed struggle.

    But there are strategic questions as well – assuming the national democratic line is correct – there is no assurance on which way the Philippines will go, if the fundamentals are unchecked – instead of doing a China, the Philippines could become a North Korea or a Myanmar.

  18. Well there in lies the problem and Nogie’s skill in keeping people by a short leash. With the use of tarpaulins and scholarships he gets 360 visibility every year. Ika nga, lisud bayron ang utang kabubutun.

    Plus the competition, Acosta isn’t that visible so expect TATAK K signs everywhere for the next few years.

  19. >>In Marcos time, corruption was limited to the Cabinet Secretaries and the Regional Directors.

    Not entirely true. The reason why SLT was so successful in commie recruitment in the countryside back in the days was they can easily pinpoint an abuses by police or military down to the CHDF level.

  20. I find Murthy’s, a former socialist and now heads multi-billion Infosys, statement has more meanings to the proper capitalist solution to the Philippines woe, “the best way to solve poverty is to pour capital.”

    Marx seemed did not foresee that there is a variant to capitalism — creative capitalism. This is a way of investing a 2 way benefits….not only for the capitalist but also for the workers.

  21. Concept of “revolution” was never in the mind of the Filipinos. They came out when it was safe for them to come out. MANY THANKS TO THE SIDEWALK VENDORS, THE TSISMOSOS AND TSISMOSAS, THE LOOKY-LOOS, THE GOSSIPERS … They were the very first-responders … THE REST WERE JOHNNIES-COME-LATELY then stole the “revolution” from the vendors.

    The people who went to EDSA didn’t even know they were revolutionaries. They went there TO WITNESS not to revolutionize.

    As to Honasan-Ramos-Enrile ….. they were not out to stage a coup … THEY WERE HUNTED DOWN BY MARCOS ….lucky they came out alive to tell their lies ….. and many thanks to oblivious ignorant pathetic peryodistas …. THEY SWALLOW IT INCLUDING SINKERS ….

    Filipinos are not rebolusyonarios …. BUT I DID BANG OUR POT CRAZY after marcos left that my tatay banged me too for putting holes in the pot ….

  22. If they staged a coup … they wouldn’t have been scurrying and entrapped in DOD building … they would have men in tanks and cannons to support them … THEIR MILITARY SUPPORTERS WERE AN AFTER THOUGHT … not part of the plan … BOY, OH, BOY WERE THEY LUCKY …… The stars must have aligned in their favor

  23. I was banging my tatay’s pot without knowing what I was banging about because our neighbours were banging theirs, too. I was a suckling 5-years-old then …. WASN’T IT FUN TO STAY UNTIL MIDNIGHT WITH PEOPLE AROUND ??????


    1. HONSAN-Enrile-Ramos
    2. My favorite vendors, tsismosos, tsismosas, unemployed, unemployables


    … Well, stealing is the norm of the Filipinos …….IT HAPPENED IN EDSA, DURING …. AND AFTER …… NOTHING CHANGED ….. IT WILL FOREVER BE THE SAME ….

  25. If they staged a coup …. the events were not worthy of them graduating from West Point. It was a pathetic coup. Yun ang ipinalabas nila to save face ….. actually they were running for their lives and got trapped.

  26. Funny these coup-de-t’aters. All of them are PMAyers. One of them from West Point. THEY STAGED A COUP to oust Marcos. When Marcos’ henchmen came bearing down on them … they scurried to DOD building to get armaments ….

    SO THEY STAGED A COUP AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE WEAPONS …. and Filipinos fell for it …

    THE VENDORS, TSISMOSOS AND TSISMOSAS STAGED AN UPRISING … And Cory who was several islands away came out the heroine. And filipinos just unveiled her statue …

    THE PRELATE, CLERGY, BUSINESSMEN, ACTORS, ACTRESSES, CLOWNS AND CORRUPT … came out when it was safe … and they got credit for it ….





  27. RAMOS-HONASAN and other johnnies-came-lately PMAyers MUST HAVE FAILED COUP101 subject.

    They staged a coup and not one has heavy artillery with them sans machine gun. They have to run to DOD to get armaments and got trapped along with foreign journalists.


    The real coup was CIA-inspired Made-in-USA murder of Ninoy, his gunmen and witnesses. PURE NSA-CIA-FBI-MOSSAD operation.

  28. […] to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginBenign0’s and BongV’s excellent retrospectives on what is in this country viewed as a sacred, watershed moment reminded […]

  29. Same sentiment here. I was born and raised in Naga City – while it is a progressive city thanks to our mayor, the EDSA revolution just felt like a fairy tale to me. I’m not belittling or insulting those who did participate in it and suffered from the dictatorship; rather, it would be hypocritical of me to celebrate with the millions of Filipinos something I only understood on regulated textbook level.

    I now live in Makati, and the more I try to feel the excitement over the reminiscence of that event, the more I start to question what it was all about.

    If there was a revolution, where’s the change?

  30. you forgot Doy Laurel 🙂

  31. Terrier · ·

    Unlike most of you, I was born after the EDSA Revolution and I’m sure glad that I was. It is sad that even now people still wish to tarnish the image of EDSA. Yes, not all the promises were accomplished but that does not stop it from being a success. People only remember Marcos as “the good old days” even to the point of romanticizing it. Yet, what they don’t remember are the curfews, the street riots, the disappearances, and even the insurgency in the countryside. I may not have a first hand account of what happened and what my relatives told me may have been affected by time but what I know is that things are better now than what it was back then. The streets are far safer even to the point of walking in the streets at three a.m. and there are no riots now but instead crowds of people going to school or going to the mall. Freedom now is far more easier to achieve, and the irony here is that people, even those who disagree with the Spirit of EDSA, have proven that that is a reality by their capacity to criticize that very spirit itself.

  32. Terrier:

    It was safer way back then, you are already home by 12, at home.

    As kids we were all home at 6PM – it was family time. There’s not much of a difference – you still die of your political beliefs – not much has changed.

    Just look at the Morong 43 – that’s unthinkable in a democracy. Is that just Gloria?

    Hell No, that’s the military establishment staring at you – the same establishment that all the Presidents make sure to take care of, so as not to have coup d etats. Under this semblance of democracy – people still keep on dying, there are still military check points in the highways – it’s like Martial Law never left.

    The only freedom you have right now is to get out the door or you are dead.

  33. Terrier · ·

    People who criticize EDSA live through jaded lens and not in the real world. Have you ever been out at 3 a.m., when all the coffee shops and restaurants are open? You cant’ do that back then. Now, it’s okay 24/7. People can buy anything, do anything, and say anything.

    And while it is an aberration, The Morong 43 is nothing compared to what was happening back then, because back then you would never have heard of a “Morong 43”, all of it was silence. Rights are protected in this country and while abuses exist here and there, it is not an epidemic light the media would like to suggest.

    And by the way, with regards to Mindanao, have you ever been to it’s cities, like Davao and Marawi? Because they seem to be doing fine to me.

  34. Terrier –

    I could do that back then, stay out at 3AM – that was the best time to go out and paint the walls with Ibagsak si Marcos in blazing red.

    With regards to Mindanao – lemme see… born and raised in Davao… 33 years… studied in MSU-Marawi, cousins in Maguing – ano pa?

    Morong 43 vs Mindanao 3 – Risonar/Ilagan/aRellano – same same

    AFP killing dissidents with impunity – same during and after martial law.

  35. That Ilagan wouldn’t happen to be a relative of Luz Ilagan of Gabriela?

  36. Today’s the first year anniversary of Rebelyn Pitao’s murder. Brutally stabbed, raped and left to rot in some river she was a schoolteacher just trying to meet ends meet. She was killed probably by elements of the Military Intel Group (MIG). All because she was the daughter of Leoncio Pitao, known rebel leader alias Ka PARAGO.

    Years earlier his uncle, another innocent who had nothing to do with his brother’s revolution was gunned down. While he was supposed to be bringing soldiers sacks of rice for their “convention”. Not surpisingly it was just a set-up.

    Ka Jinggoy’s father, killed in Monkayo.

    Here’s another one, 9-year old girl killed by a soldier. Later tagged as an NPA.

    It’s really hard to say you don’t care when you’ve just been on a street stage. Looking at all these faces who more often than not wouldn’t have anything to do with the insurgency. They were just unlucky to be blood with people the ARMY wants snuffed out. By hook or by crook.

  37. Larry Ilagan – he’s the deceased husband of Luz Ilagan of Gabriela.

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