Kung hindi dahil sa sigaw-sigaw na yan, wala silang tatakbuhan ngayon – Newly-elected UP Diliman student councilor Gem Garcia, in response to statements by some groups in their Campus that activists were puro sigaw-sigaw
Gem was referring to the radical youth and student movement during Martial Law (the sigaw-sigaw crowd) and the fact that the taken-for-granted existence of many student institutions (publication, council, etc.) owes its existence to the said movement, something my mother, as the first-ever chairperson of the UP College of Social Work & Community Development student council would attest to.
In fact, the UP Diliman student councils were reestablished during Martial Law due to the efforts of the Sandigan ng Mag-aaral Para sa Sambayanan, or SAMASA, the predecessor of today’s STAND UP. In other campuses such as PUP, UP Manila, UPLB, etc., it was also the red alliances who opposed the dictatorship’s policies in campuses at a time when most people were still afraid.
But Gem could also have been talking about politics in the national level: the fact that we are able to hold elections is due to the sigaw-sigaw crowd, including the student and youth activists.
I was at EDSA 1, but only because my mother was carrying me in her womb when she went there during those historical four days. In the few times I would ask about People Power and the dictatorship and what she and my father did then, she would only mention in passing their presence in EDSA then. For them, the ousting of Marcos was like setting fire to wet grass. It may take a long time, but you once you got the fire going, there it was.
And if there was someone who poured gasoline into the dictatorship from the very start, it was the sigaw-sigaw crowd.
In the book Serve the People, UP history professor Dante Ambrosio shared that during the very day of the declaration of Martial Law, there was a 50,000-strong rally in Manila to protest what they perceived as an impending threat of Martial Law. And when they did learn about the declaration, he went with a buddy to ride on buses and exhort the passengers to oppose Martial Law.
Even before 1972, the sigaw-sigaw crowd was already calling on the public about Martial Law. As KARAPATAN’s Tita Marie told us during the International Human Rights Day rally last year, they had popularized the chant of Anong sagot sa Martial Law? Digmaan! Digmaan! Digmaang bayan! These slogans even found their way into a pre-Martial Law graduation ceremony in UP.
And when the Declaration came, thousands of youths would spread the resistance to all corners of the nation in the ultimate act of heroism.
Some, like the Ateneo’s Edgar Jopson, would go amongst the workers and rebuild the labor union movement, an important part of the strikes that preceded EDSA 1 and would also contribute to EDSA 2.
Some, like Prof. Ambrosio, would stay in the campuses to organize the next generation of student activists who would form the next wave of opposition to Marcos. They would also be the ones to organize the nationwide campaign to reestablish student institutions in campuses.
And some, like UP’s Romulo Jallores, would organize the peasants and indigenous peoples in the countryside to launch a people’s war that would demoralize and limit the effectivity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, then and now the most important tool of our local dictators.
Some people take pains to airbrush the Left out of EDSA, as Tonyo Cruz once put it. But I personally wouldn’t mind. With the situation in our country today, more and more people are asking the question What was EDSA for? They may not realize it, but they have just stated a radical position: improving society takes more than just replacing the heads of state. It takes radical shifts in our culture, economy, and politics.
The mistake of some people is exactly their lack of remembering.
The sigaw-sigaw crowd fought Martial Law because they had a clear vision of what comes after and clear answers to many important questions: How will we give land to the landless? How will the workers get just wages? How will there be enough opportunities for decent jobs? How will every child be able to go to school?
EDSA is the end of a dictatorship. But it is only the first stop in the road to change. And the sigaw-sigaw crowd will always be there, doing what it does best: pushing the struggle when no one else will.