Tuesday, August 04, 2009

People Power

Regrettably, it's only with Cory Aquino's death that the spirit of People Power comes alive once again; and yet, perhaps it need this great woman's passing for us to realize what People Power actually is.

For too long, we've thought of People Power as a mere exercise in crowds and numbers. Just because some people decide to come together and take their cause to the streets, we assume that that is enough to bring about a change. But apparently that isn't so. That's not what People Power is.

Easy enough for us to have been fooled. We thought we replicated People Power when we brought down Joseph Estrada in EDSA 2; how wrong we were! Apparently EDSA Dos was no more than a coup engineered under the cover of the people's indignation. And then came EDSA Tres, itself more pathetic than the last.

"People Power fatigue," they called it. "We don't want to mass to the streets any more because, well, what's the point?"

And yet, as we've seen these past two days, People Power isn't dead at all. People Power can still mobilize crowds. And not just any crowd but a fervent, believing, and hopeful crowd; not an angry crowd but a serene crowd. In fact, it would be a mistake to call it a crowd; call it a people instead, because unlike an aimless crowd as you would find in a market, they have a common and orderly purpose.

This common purpose cannot simply an abstract aspiration; this common purpose has to have a face, and for People Power, that focal point could only have been Cory Aquino. No other Filipino, living or dead, could have attracted the same amount of faith and devotion as she. It was not because of what she did or said, but simply because of who she was.

When we stood up in 1985-1986, it was because we could finally find someone to believe in. To be sure, we despised Marcos; but Cory Aquino was much more than a mere counterbalance to the dictator: Cory was someone we knew we could trust.

If People Power lost its luster in the years that followed, it was because we thought of it as mere political exercise. We put our trust in numbers instead of what was right. In so doing, we lost our faith in Cory; and worse still, we lost our faith.

That loss proved disastrous, because more than anything else, People Power was an exercise in Faith. You just have to remember the events and scenes of the 1986 EDSA Revolution to see that: it was a Cardinal who sounded out the call, and amidst those linked arms were cassocks and habits and rosaries. Not a red banner to be seen, not a slogan to be heard. You have to have faith in order to stare down guns and tanks. Could we honestly say that we can do any of that now?

But one person in all these years never lost that faith: Cory Aquino. Hers was a faith expressed simply, humbly, consistently, and without fanfare. In moments of crisis, the TV camera would catch a glimpse of rosary beads in her hand, or see her linking hands during the Our Father at Mass. Yet for all this, she was never showy or preachy; it all flowed naturally. Her faith was extraordinary because it was so ordinary.

Neither, I think, was this Faith compartmentalized. As we're seeing now, only at her death, this Faith permeated and touched many other aspects of her life, leading to faith in the Filipino, faith in the common man, and faith in the triumph of goodness.

It is this faith that comes once more at the forefront at this time of her death. It is this faith that we ought to recognize and remember as essential to People Power. Only with this faith is People Power possible.