A day after the Luneta rally, it came to me, like an epiphany. We exploded in anger not because we hated President Duterte himself, although some actually do. Regardless of political differences, our blood boils in fury because Duterte practically declared himself the country’s No. 1 Marcos loyalist.
Duterte now speaks on behalf of the Marcoses and the Marcos loyalists. He wants to revise history, and to make us embrace Marcosian corruption, legal shortcuts, and brutality as legitimate and acceptable. He now speaks the language of trolls — misinforming, twisting, revising the shambolic Marcos record.
It is a gross betrayal and direct humiliation of the people who overthrew the Marcoses.
And so exactly a week after Duterte bestowed a hero’s burial for Marcos, a broad protest movement responded with a National Day of Unity and Rage on November 25 at a park named after the Philippines’ national hero.
Challenging Duterte’s 21-gun salute for his idol, the dictator, over 21 areas nationwide launched protest actions. OFWs too mounted mass actions in about a dozen countries.
At the Luneta, martial law era chants “Marcos, Hitler, diktador, pasista!” and “Makibaka, huwag matakot” united millennials and the once-young from all walks of life.
The Luneta crowd was a curious mix of millennials, activists, veterans of the anti-dictatorship movement, freethinkers, middle-of-the-road types, even some Duterte supporters. Some would say strange bedfellows.
But they didn’t mind. If there is anything strange, it is seeing a President who promised change, but chose be the dictator’s grave digger and best friend of the Marcoses. Indeed, what kind of change is that?
Never mind being strange in this strange times. It is completely unacceptable that a president is a Marcos loyalist. He must recant. Period.
I have hosted other rallies but like EDSA Dos at EDSA Shrine, the Luneta was a crowd crackling with energy, fury and wit. They raised the placards and protest art they brought and made — throughout the rally. We had to give justice to them, by reading what they wrote.
The furious speakers had the sharpest and wittiest rebukes for Duterte and the Marcoses.
“History cannot be revised or edited! No cheating!”
“How come Andres Bonifacio was never given a decent burial, and see our government give honors for this crook?!”
“Our profession won’t accept this revisionism! This is an outrage!”
Most of the speakers were young, university students. They are outraged and cannot hide their disappointment that leaders betrayed them.
Those who were once young came out again, speaking with the same militancy and high level of commitment to change. They recounted what they went through, the arrests, the torture, the censorship, the world-class thievery, the national shame.
But their biggest lesson was how fiercely, creatively and brilliantly fought the dictatorship.
There were many highlights at the Luneta. It is hard to keep tabs on all of them.
There was Juana Change, reminding the once-young and introducing the young ones to the arrogant and profligate Imeldific. Her caricature drew loud jeers and boos and expletives from the crowd.
There was the “Liwanag sa Dilim” action. Stage lights were turned off. And responding to the call to raise and light up their phones, the crowd turned the rally in a magnificent, epic sea of light.
If you think we are drifting to a time of darkness under a Duterte-Marcos alliance and wondering who will bring the light back, there is your answer.
If you’re looking for inspiration, who to look for at a time when pretenders and rehabilitated crooks pose as saviors, the lights remind us of a constellation of heroes and martyrs, mostly young, who offered their lives for democracy.
There was youth firebrand Vencer Crisostomo who spoke after youth activists joined, hugged and kissed the veterans onstage. It wasn’t scripted or planned. Heck, Vencer wasn’t supposed to speak. But he did, and did he speak.
There were the leaders of Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA): Bonifacio Ilagan who did not mince words but spoke from the heart. Edith Burgos who spoke like she were anyone’s Lola, wife and mother — and delivered the message of the dictatorship’s impact on families as much as its consequence to the nation. And the leader of the Kulasas, Mother Mary John Mananzan OSB, who proudly said she is an activist “forever” and promised to carry on the fight until the very end.
There was Ferdinand Gaite, the 80s activist-turned-unionist as a government employee. He taught the audience to sing what is familiar, familiar because absolutely true: “Marcos, Marcos magnanakaw…” and the prescient “US-Marcos falling down, falling down, US-Marcos falling down, with First Lady”
Bayang Barrios serenaded the crowd, and so did Kuyang Jess Santiago. His trademark long hair is still there and his funny, if self-deprecating, song made for more self-introspection.
And then there were the veterans of the First Quarter Storm of 1970, alumni of the Kabataang Makabayan and anti-dictatorship who went to the stage. Now old and graying, they led the crowd in singing the militant “Ang Masa” song.
They didn’t bother to translate it or say what they meant by choosing it among countless activist songs in the Radical Playbook. They didn’t have to, for its meaning was humbling exercise in self-introspection and social solidarity.
“Ang masa, ang masa lamang ang siyang tunay na bayani… Tagapaglikha ng kasaysayan.” Democracy. People power. Collective action.
For millenials and young professionals who are bombarded daily with the false gospel that we are stupid, cowardly and cursed people — that was a throwback they could be long waiting to hear.
If Marcos is no hero and he was a dictator, who took his dictatorship down? Who were the heroes? And who in effect is Duterte humiliating, provoking, and slapping on their faces?
The answer come from the veterans and from their song: We as a people are the heroes we are waiting for.
Ultimately, Duterte must decide. He has choices. Either he locks lips with the Marcoses and pave the way — wittingly or unwittingly — for another Marcos in Malacanang. Or he save his platform of change from slow but sure ruin due to his evil alliance with the Marcoses.
And lest Duterte and the Marcoses forget, the people can also make and enforce their choice.