[Welcome Remarks. Webinar. 25 February 2021]
Half of my life ago, I was priest-in-charge of the Sambayanang Kristyano ng Kristong Hari. That was the huge urban poor community of Commonwealth, QC, adjacent to the Batasan Pambansa that was fighting to be able to win the land of the National Government Center for their home. Imelda planned to get rid of some 50,000 urban poor families in order to make a national mall in the Capitol City of the country in the style of the national mall of Washington DC. But the urban poor community fought to make that land their own. Kristong Hari, with its team of community organizers and its people’s organizations led by the Samahang Maralita Para sa Makatao at Makatarungang Paninirahan (Sama-Sama), was part of that struggle.
When the EDSA People Power revolution began, we were preparing at night for a thanksgiving Mass the following day of a newly ordained Jesuit priest, Fr. Sunny Barana. That Mass was never held. At least not in our church. From our radios we heard the call of Cardinal Sin. It was electrifying, compelling. We were to go to EDSA. A group of military had made a move against the Dictator Marcos and his wife, Imelda, the “Conjugal Dictatorship,” and the Cardinal was calling them “our friends.” So we went. Our urban poor were disciplined and organized. Busses and jeepneys brought us to a certain point on EDSA. Then we marched to the gate of Camp Crame. Ground Zero. Adrenalin mixed fear with excitement, anxiety with prayer. We did not know what to expect. The military could come and open fire. Or a plane could come and strafe us, or bomb us to smithereens. But we were there at the call of the Cardinal. We were there to overcome the dictatorship which had plundered the country and had had conscientious objectors, freedom fighters, taken away, tortured and killed. We were there because we believed what we were fighting for was right. And we certainly believed we were not alone. All over the country, as here in Davao, people were rising in the same united power of the People, in the united determination of the People, empowered by God, to overcome the dictatorship.
Today we come together remembering that national moment which on this day finally chased the Conjugal dictatorship away. Here, we remember it from the lens of Davao, where we will hear testimonies from our own heroes, who in fighting the dictatorship endured incarceration, and much more.
Even as we do, 35 years later, I think we are invited to ponder not only its shining moment, but the years when the luster of that moment began to fade, and great hopes turned into disillusionment and disappointment. 35 years later, the dream of a Filipino people emancipated for a socially just society, where each without exception can flourish, is still a dream. 35 years later, the question of how government and people in government can best serve an empowered People is still unanswered. 35 years later, there are still too many poor, especially here in Mindanao, because development continues to be focused in Manila. 35 years later, the appropriate role the institutional Church, its clergy, its religious, and esp. its laity, is to play in a diverse society is still unsettled, just as in the BARMM the role of Islam in a diverse Bangsamoro needs to be settled and respected. 35 years later the cries of the ever-more marginalized Lumad in our national or global self understanding, or even in our understanding of God calling us to get up and go to our EDSA today, need to be heard. In remembering, we have our uncertainties. But in remembering perhaps we can remember how we as a People are being called from within to a shared future. Perhaps it is there that our People Power lives.
A meaningful commemoration of EDSA to all!