The EDSA Revolution, also known by its proactive and rather gung-ho name "People Power," was a movement that drove then-president Ferdinand V. Marcos into exile. As it recently marked its 30th anniversary this year, we revisit the events that culminated into the few days, back in 1986, that changed the course of Philippine history and politics in the country.
We may know the story and imagery—no shots were fired, tanks all over EDSA, people giving flowers to soldiers—but some information and behind-the-scenes happenings may have already been lost in the retelling, like...
1) The EDSA revolution is known as the end game that put a halt to Pres. Marcos' dictatorship. The catharsis was said to have begun with the assassination of exiled politician and the president's political nemesis, Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., when he came home from the US on August 21, 1983.
2) Although the two key people in the revolution, then-Deputy Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, were hailed by many as heroes, there are published accounts that the so-called "bloodless revolution" began as a botched coup d'état attempt by the two.
3) Ramos is actually a cousin of Marcos, who joined Enrile because they both believed Ninoy's widow, Corazon "Cory" Aquino, was cheated in the snap elections that year.
4) In the book People Power: An Eyewitness History (published by James B. Reuter, S.J. Foundation), the late Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, said Enrile called him, near tears, to ask for help and said he would be dead within the hour; Ramos also asked the cardinal to rally the people for support.
5) The plot was for rebel troops to assault Malacañan Palace at 2 a.m. on February 23, capturing or killing the president, with Enrile proclaiming himself the head of a ruling junta. (Source: Veritas Edition, October 1986)
6) On the morning of February 22, 1986, Cory left for Cebu to campaign for civil disobedience. It was one of a series of rallies she would hold nationwide if cheated in the snap elections. (Source: Asiaweek, March 9)
7) When you see people doing the "L" sign with their fingers in pictures of the People Power Revolution, they weren't calling the then-leaders of the regime "losers"; they were making the sign in solidarity with Ninoy's Lakas ng Bayan political coalition, with the people's version standing for "laban."
8) It has been said that Ninoy's favorite song was "Tie A Yellow Ribbon," which became his comeback song. Makers of yellow shirts, ribbons, buttons, and other paraphernalia made a killing that time as many vendors started selling them along EDSA. Yellow became the color of civil resistance in demonstrations that began with Ninoy's death, and with Cory Aquino wearing it in demonstrations.
9) Years before social media, word about the revolt actually spread over radio. It was said that without Radio Veritas, it would have been impossible to mobilize people in a matter of hours.
10) Cardinal Sin had called on the contemplative nuns—the Poor Claires, the Pink Sisters, and the Carmelites—and asked them to fast and pray for a nonviolent resolution of the events. Remember, all this communication was being done pre-smartphones!
11) At 10:30 p.m. on February 22, Marcos went on TV live from Malacañan to tell people he was still "in control of the situation" and called on Enrile and Ramos to "stop this stupidity and surrender so that we may negotiate." He also announced troops would surround Camp Aguinaldo if they didn't budge, saying the Palace "could annihilate them with heavy artillery and tanks." (Source: The Sunday Times, February 23)
12) That same night, near midnight, Enrile granted an interview to '80s news presenter Harry Gasser, and his message to Marcos was "Mr. President, I hope you're listening. Enough is enough. Your time is up." He said not to miscalculate their strength and dismissed negotiations because of the lateness of the hour. He also denied the existence of an assassination attempt on the president. (Source: Sunday Times, February 23)
13) There were several orders coming from Marcos' Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver in order to deal with the "rebels." There were reports he wanted to cut off power and water at the camps to isolate them on February 22, but it was scratched because it would have affected the Philippine Heart Center where Marcos' mother was confined. Ver also ordered his men to destroy the helicopters behind the Ministry building the next day but they said an explosion could provoke hostile action and lead to a "bloody mess" Marcos wanted to avoid. (Source: Breakaway, pp. 43 and 48)
14) On February 23, actress Nora Aunor showed up along with Armida Siguion-Reyna, Enrile's sister. A known Marcos supporter who campaigned for him in the snap elections, the Superstar was reportedly booed and called "sipsip" and "balimbing," with people mobbing her vehicle and making her weep (Source: Malaya, February 24). But upon facing Enrile and explaining she never took a single centavo from Marcos, he gave her a hug that reportedly lifted her off the ground. (Source: Quartet)
15) That day, screenwriter Amado L. Lacuesta, Jr. recalled seeing a barricade of sandbags along EDSA. He thought they were puny and could not even stop a pushcart, but the people there did not seem worried and were even waving banners, laughing and cheering. He saw a crudely made placard that read: "Subok sa krisis, takot kay misis." Pinoy humor at its finest. (Source: People Power, 1986)
16) Also on the same day, eyewitness reports said when they saw the tanks on EDSA, people who were headed to presumably help reinforce the camps outside jumped off the buses and almost instinctively formed barricades. Soon, EDSA-Ortigas was jammed with buses and an assortment of cars, as well as civilians forming a sort of human barricade. (Source: Mr. & Ms., March 21)
17) One teacher who was there said that their leader, a priest, had a flash of inspiration and asked the women to stand in front of the barricades. They were hoping soldiers would find it impossible to shoot women. Trembling, she and the housewives, nuns, businesswomen, and others took the frontline, singing and praying. (Source: Nine Letters, p. 18)
18) One of the prominent personalities of the EDSA revolution was singer Freddie Aguilar. On February 24, he recalled trooping to Crame and setting up a makeshift concert stage. "Yung mga taong aantok-antok, nagising sa rock 'n' roll. Nagdatingan din yung mga merong camera. Para may ilaw, people turned on their flashlights at itinuro sa amin. It was really something." (Source: www.staurtxchange.com)
19) Another prominent personality then was the late broadcaster June Keithley. With Radio Veritas' transmitters knocked off the air, she was beaming a radio broadcast from a station barely a kilometer away from and unbeknownst to the Palace (Source: Nine Letters). They refrained from giving out the call sign and frequency so as not to alert Marcos' troops and only gave out a phone-in number, which was soon barraged with calls. (Source: Malaya, February 28)
20) By February 24, officials in Washington were already meeting with urgency, drafting a presidential message from Ronald Reagan urging Marcos to resign. Reagan knew Marcos should be "approached carefully" and "asked rather than told" to depart, but he refused to do it himself. Then-US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth was asked to do it. Marcos rejected this and went on TV again to say he was still in control. (Source: In Our Image, pp. 419-420)
21) Just hours after, tear gas had been set off outside Camp Aguinaldo. Several anti-riot units emerged, followed by hundreds of loyalists. They were faced by civilians including young seminarians and priests, and could not advance through the determined crowd anymore. The crowd sang the National Anthem and refused to budge. (Source: Business Day, February 25)
22) The Air Force defected on the same day. Seven Sikorsky helicopters landed inside the camp, much to the suspense of everyone there. (Source: Asiaweek, March 9) The airmen came out waving white flags and flashing the "L" sign. (Source: Time, March 3) Amid cheers and clapping, the rebels hugged the crew and nuns gave them flowers. (Source: Bulletin, February 25) Suddenly, the rebels had air power and this was considered a major turning point.
23) The Naval defection also came soon. The commodore held a conference with 50 officers and told his men he supported Enrile and Ramos for what he believed was a cause worth fighting for. The officers cheered and soon, a rebel frigate anchored off Pasig River and reportedly trained its guns on the Palace. (Source: Veritas Special, October 1986)
24) Amid confusing reports that Marcos had left, the president went on air at 9 a.m., declaring a state of emergency, and castigating the media for partisanship and irresponsibility in announcing his regime had fallen (Source: Malaya Sunday Magazine, March 23). Enrile learned Marcos was indeed still in Malacañan and instructed Ramos to take over Channel 4, and for helicopters to fly over the Palace with rockets. (Source: Quartet, p. 85)
25) The rebels eventually attacked the Palace, and when the bombs fell, the Marcos kin went to the ground floor were they huddled and remained unscathed. The damage was negligible but it was more a show of power. (Sources: Malacañan, p. 121; Breakaway, p. 83; and Business Day, March 23)
26) In retaliation, Gen. Ver ordered an attack on Camp Crame. The squadron commander said, "Yes, sir." But being part of the rebels, he told his men to proceed bombing Malacañan instead. (Source: Veritas Special, October 1986)
27) Marcos was still wheeling and dealing amid the attacks but finally, on February 25, he and his family fled to Clark Air Base in Pampanga where they were met by US Ambassador Bosworth and people massed outside the main gate chanting "Cory! Cory!" (Source: People Power, p. 171). By 9:52 p.m., DZRH was first to announce that the Marcoses already fled the country (Source: Malaya, February 8). At 10 p.m., the US Air Force TV station confirmed Marcos' departure (Source: Manila Times, February 26).
28) The corner of EDSA and Ortigas Ave. became the go-to place for rallies and thus, the EDSA Shrine was built there in 1989. Designed by Francisco Mañosa, its centerpiece is the image of Our Lady of Peace sculpted by Virginia Ty-Navarro.
29) The structure that commemorates the EDSA Revolution is the People Power Monument at EDSA corner White Plains Ave., a kilometer away from the Shrine. It was sculpted by Eduardo Castrillo and finished in 1993.
30) One of the more popular anthems of the EDSA Revolution was "Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo," composed by Jim Paredes and recorded by several Filipino artists—a la Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" in 1984 and USA for Africa's "We Are The World" in 1985.