Remembering EDSA: No Change After 30 Years

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – Shortly after claiming victory in the 1986 snap presidential elections, President Marcos scheduled his inaugural at the Quirino Grandstand. But on Feb. 22, 1986, a few days before the EDSA Revolution, President Marcos cancelled his inaugural plans at the Quirino Grandstand and decided to hold it in Malacanang Palace.

A director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Folks Arts Theater assigned to design the Quirino Grandstand inauguration until now still could not figure out Marcos’s last-minute change of venue of the ill-fated Marcos inaugural.

Willie Red Buhay said at about 2 a.m. on Feb. 22, 1986, he got a radio call in his home in Los Banos, Laguna to proceed to the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the reclamation area abutting Manila “for a change of design.”

When Buhay, who was 36 years old at that time, arrived at the CCP and the nearby Folk Arts Theater (FAT), he was let in by a security guard. He went to his office to “work on some concept of design.”

But he later found out, it was not a change of design but a change of venue and he was told to proceed to Malacanang grounds.

When he arrived at Malacanang grounds at about 6 a.m., Buhay said he noticed hundreds of “Rambo-looking” soldiers and the well-manicured Green Revolution garden of First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos littered with tree branches and leaflets, which were a “no-no before.”

Buhay said that during the three hours that he was on the grounds, he noticed “Officers, cabinet, people of rank were all going inside Malacanang palace. And I asked a “secretary” what’s going?” I was told, ‘Don’t you know it’s going to be very hot.’ And I said, ‘I could imagine that.’ So far, I have to do my assignment because the engineers of the Palace were asking me to rush the designs.’”

He said he never saw Mrs. Marcos or President Marcos again because he was barred from entering the Palace. He was told to stay at the Rotunda and later, told to go home.


Alvar Rosales said when he regrouped after being lobbed with teargas bombs by the Marines on the early morning of Feb. 24, 1986 at E. de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) in front of Camp Crame, he froze when the tanks in front them started to roll.

“Fear gradually crept to my consciousness,” Rosales, now an administrative staff of the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, Illinois, recalled. “I thought of my Mom, my poor Mom, unaware I was at EDSA. I thought of my brother, who was earlier with me in the area. And I believe at that moment I was thankful that I was alone. And if I were to perish, my mom would only mourn a death of a son, not two.

“I said to myself, ‘So, this is it.’ I stood firmly, closed my eyes and my palms, ready to accept my fate. Silence at least among those occupying first three rows occupying near the tanks pervaded the atmosphere. I started to mumble my prayers. And in between these prayers, I counted silently, still hoping that after 13 agonizing minutes, the tanks would not roll. And the rest is history.”

Buhay and Rosales were two Filipinos, who were in the Philippines during the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986. They gave testimonials at the 15th Pagkikita sa Konsulado (15th meeting) last Feb. 18, marking the 30th commemoration of the EDSA People Power Revolution from Feb. 22 to 25, 2016 dubbed as “EDSA @ Trenta” held at the Philippine Consulate in Chicago.

Buhay said he was the director of CCP and FAT for 15 years. When he took a parting glance at EDSA on his way home to Los Banos, he saw something that “was impossible (gathering of) of humanity and I had to get to my home for eight hours instead of two. That’s my story.”

Rosales said after hearing and heeding the call of Cardinal Sin on Feb. 23, 1986, summoning the people to go EDSA to give moral support, food, supplies to beleaguered Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile at Camp Aguinaldo and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos at Camp Crame, he gathered, “using every trick in the book,” 20 people, including his brother, friends and neighbors from Sampaloc, Manila and they walked towards EDSA some 10 kilometers (6.2-miles) in the middle of Camps Aguinaldo and Crame.

He said they were “singing and jumping on our way. We were joined by students children and adults from all walks of life and our group swelled to about hundreds as we got closer to EDSA.”


Rosales said a more prominent view was a group of nuns clutching their rosaries and reciting prayers. People continued to fill up EDSA to the brim up to noontime until it swelled up to hundreds of thousands of army of civilians. The mood in the street was festive. Many people brought their families with them. Performers entertained people, nuns did vigil prayers, some put barricades. People were listening to Radio Veritas. Our small group joined a bigger one and a gentleman in his mid-50’s clutching a small radio became our snap-appointed leader. And in the mid-afternoon, there were reports of Marines massing in the area and tanks approaching.

One funny incident Rosales heard was about somebody named, “Sugar,” who was coming to town. This Sugar was going to Malacanang to convince Marcos to step down. “Sinong (who is) Sugar?” “Sugar Ray, the famous boxing champion?” he asked. It turned Sugar was Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar but was never in Manila. Later that night Enrile and Ramos decided to join forces. Enrile crossed EDSA from Camp Aguinaldo. And drew cheers from all of us at around 9 p.m. Our group decided to call it a day and went home to our houses but determined to return.”

Rosales said his first real encounter with government troops occurred in the early morning of Feb. 24. “Marines lobbed teargas at us and we scampered to different directions and only to return after the smoke had cleared. The noontime of Feb. 24 marked a very significant part of my life. I was part of a group of young and innocent civilians most in the area who were there for fun frontally facing temporarily immobilized tanks. There was a row of people separating me from the tank, which I could actually touch by slight extension of my arm. But like anybody else in the group, thinking perhaps, I was confident the tank would not roll. But lo and behold! Those tanks before me and tanks around me, started to roll.”

He was thankful the tanks rolled away from them.

Aside from Buhay and Rosales,  Ruben Salazar, 63, also gave his testimony.  He recalled that as a working student assistant at the University of the Philippines before martial law. Salazar said during off-hours, he was mass-producing subversive leaflets to support the progressive movement of the students at the state university, opposing Marcos. He considered the year 1969, the height of student activism in UP, “as my best years at UP.”


Joseph G. Lariosa spoke about his career as a police reporter of Manila Bulletin before and after EDSA Revolution. At the run-up of EDSA most of his stories were never used if they illustrated breakdowns of peace and order. His stories went thru the eagle eyes of publisher Hans Menzi even if my stories were already vetted by his senior editors. General Menzi could not displease President Marcos, who could fire him as his aide-de-camp and take the Bulletin away from him, if anti-Marcos stories would see print.

Lariosa was at the Bulletin editorial desk at about 9 p.m. when he and the staff heard and saw helicopters airlifting the Marcoses from Malacanang grounds towards the U.S. Embassy across Taft Avenue by Rizal Park. The Bulletin building was located in Intramuros, Manila.

Although he was a police reporter, Lariosa was asked by the late Bulletin night desk editor, Irineo “Totoy” Torres, to cover the Marcos loyalists’ takeover of the Manila Hotel led by then Vice President Arturo Tolentino when the defense reporter at the time chickened out to cover the event for fear of being hit in the crossfire between the rebels and the Marcos loyalist forces. The event was Lariosa’s last banner story for the newspaper before immigrating to Chicago.

Anong Santos, Pinoy Magazine publisher/editor, reminded the participants that Chicago was the first city in America where Sen. Ninoy Aquino spoke after recovering from his coronary heart bypass surgery in Texas. Ninoy spoke in Chicago for “half-dozen” times, Anong said, and Chicago was supposed to be last city, too, where Ninoy was also supposed to speak. But the senator bypassed Chicago on his way home to the Philippines for the last time.

Another speaker was Elsie Sy-Niebar of Via Times Magazine of Chicago. She said she was working in the Senate, where a senator, who was her boss and chair of finance committee, told her co-employees to fill up “the time card/sheets that the Senate owed each of the employees salaries amounting to P10,000 (US$5,000 at US1$ to P2). But I never signed up.” She later worked at the Department of Public Information, where her duty was to censor news stories” submitted by newspapers, which were just allowed to publish.


Another speaker, Almira Gilles said she was in Seattle, Washington when EDSA Revolution broke out. She was worried of the safety of her family, who were living at St. Ignatius Village behind Camp Aguinaldo. After trying hard to reach them, she was relieved to learn that they were safe and were giving away sandwiches to people at EDSA. Because they were always affected by teargas explosions, when the wind blows to their direction, her family learned to cope up with the tear gas fumes by soaking handkerchief in water with kalamansi (lemon) so they could not inhale the fumes. Now, she said, the legacy left by EDSA Revolution was the heavy vehicular traffic that does not seem to go away.

Consul General Generoso D.G. Calonge of the Philippine Consulate said that as a Philippine Army Reserve during the EDSA Revolution, he was put on the spot by then Economic Minister Pacifico Castro, who asked him a question pointblank while he was wearing a military uniform, “If you were still in service today, which side will you be on?” Calonge answered, “Sir, I would surely be on the rebel side.”

Minister Castro had just witnessed one of the aircrafts of the government’s 700th Special Wing being hit by one of the rebel forces near the old MIA (Manila International Airport), now NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) when Calonge was asked the question. He said he saw in the eyes of Minister Castro “his days were numbered.”

Calonge also said two highpoints he believes led to the EDSA Revolution: 1) 1978 elections when Sen. Ninoy Aquino challenged Marcos to hold elections even if he were in jail; and 2) the funeral of Ninoy Aquino, which he said was the “beginning of the end.”

He also said that although EDSA Revolution created a “seismic” event and shook the world, international scholars only gives the Philippines credit “tangentially.”

Calonge said EDSA even shook the U.S. when it gave President Cory Aquino $200-M after delivering a speech at the joint U.S. Congress, letting a U.S. Senator to quip, “it was the most expensive speech before Congress.”

He said EDSA continued the non-violence tradition espoused by Mahatma Gandhi, the Solidarity movement in Poland, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, Romania, Soviet Union, the fall of Berlin Wall (unification of Germany) and others.

But posed a question – What might have been if the EDSA Revolution were bloody, like the U.S. Civil War? Would it really bring about a cathartic change in us?

Dr. Juanita Salvador Burris, a social researcher, reminded the participants that 16,000 people were killed during the 16 years of martial law. She urged the participants to say prayers in the quiet of their homes. “These are really the movement people created. They were not only from UP but they were walking on Azcarraga, Philippine College of Commerce and hundreds where consciousness was really growing. We are 7,000 islands right now. We are 100-M people. But where is the change? Where is the pagbabago? Where is the structural change? The social classes are the same. The same elite people are the same. Bongbong Marcos, the next generation, is here and is running for vice president! So, changes are the same, yet they seem to be changing.”

Divine Aleonar, Global Pinoy Singing Idol 2012 USA Champion, belted the popular signature song of EDSA Revolution: “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo,” (Tribute of the Filipinos to the World) during the Pagkikita.

As Rosales reminded the participants change should come from within, quoting Socrates, “Let him, who ruled the world, first move himself.”

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