Today, 22 years ago, the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos was ousted peacefully by hundreds of thousands of Filipinos that gathered at EDSA - the highway between Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio. I was at that time in a distant barrio in Mindanao - hearing the good news on the radio. I had been grieving over my mother's death (she was killed by military men) and was wondering whether it was time to leave the priesthood and join the armed struggle against the government. The ouster of Marcos through non-violent means made the armed option unnecessary. Deep within, it affirmed my faith in the reality of God's liberating presence in the history of our people. Out of joy, I wrote this poem:
Psalm of EDSA
Ring the bells, blow your horns
light the fireworks, let the dance begin
in the barricades, streets, camps and homes.
Proclaim to the whole world the good news:
the dictator has finally fled to Hawaii!
This is the moment we have longed for
the moment of our deliverance!
They who put their trust in their armies
have been put to shame
by the multitudes of men, women and children
emboldened by the power of the cross
led by the frail widow of the man
who gave his life on the tarmac.
The instruments of terror
have unwittingly been converted
into forces for freedom
embraced and protected by the people.
The armalites, tanks and helicopters
were powerless against the risen people
ready to offer their bodies and blood without taking life
armed with their prayers, tears,
rosary beads, carved images of the Mother and Child,
crosses, flowers and food for the bewildered troops.
Let us praise and thank the Lord,
the God who is never blind, deaf nor powerless,
the subversive God
who has always been with us in our struggle
throughout the archipelago
who is present at EDSA
and who will accompany us on our journey
to the land of promise - a land flowing
with peace, justice and prosperity.
Let this moment be etched in our hearts
for we have shown to the world
the saving power of God!
Twenty-two years later, the euphoria is gone. It was a brief moment in our history when we were proud to be Filipinos. We thought that it would be followed by a transformed society. It was an Exodus, but we have not reached the promised land -- we are still wandering in the desert.
As I look at our society today, the situation has not radically changed. The dictator is long gone and dead. But the problems that plagued the people remain - widespread poverty, inequality, foreign domination of our economy, corruption in government and the military, the spiral of violence, extrajudicial killings, the culture of death, environmental degradation. Most of our politicians have the same attitude as the politicians during the time of Marcos -- greedy, corrupt, self-serving. Our president is no better than Marcos.
We have changed the political system , we have changed our leaders but we as a people have not undergone a process of conversion. The spirit of EDSA - of people power - seems to be gone. How long do we have to wander in the desert? When will we ever reach the promise land?
The desert is place of purification - a place of growing up as God's people. It is a place that we need to go through before we can enter the promise land.