Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Petition for People Power

Yesterday, Friday, Oct. 5, I received an email from someone I vaguely remember having contact with recently, about Burma, and enjoining me to sign an online petition.

This came at the heels of another petition about the silly dialogue on Desperate Housewives commenting about the diploma mills in the Philippines. Anyway, I have to say that I have not, since signing an online Anti-Iraq War petition, been active in a political way, in both the virtual and real sense. Suffice it to say that there's been a kind of weariness and wariness to being politically involved these days. Surprisingly, the link looked legitimate enough (it is), and I put my name to it, after which I sent out invitations to those who I think might share my sentiments.

One of my intended recipients, it turns out, had sent me a similar email earlier from another account which I hadn't recognize at first. Thus came a series of exchanges. Not only have I been reaffirmed by a soul who shares my conviction, the whole Burma exercise for me in the past two days has once again opened my heart and mind and reawakened my sensitivities towards the plight of others in a strong way.

More than the convenience of a few mouse clicks, though, I felt that I cannot, as an Asian, sit quietly in front of the computer and watch the developments in Burma without as much as lifting a finger; hasn't the internet made our lives easier by just a click of the mouse after all? Thank you, 'Alphawave', my mysterious petition sender. I haven't yet replied to you directly and it makes me proud to do this in public way.

Below is my last reply to the kindred soul and petition recipient, my Traveller Friend. Please read on.

People Power in Burma: The bowls beg for your understanding and compassion.

Hello Traveller Friend,

This is in reference to the article you mentioned in your mail Common Dreams: "The Martyrdom of Burma's Marching Monks".

Last month, my associate and I were discussing EDSA 1 in the context of her MA thesis (Catholic Radio in the Philippines), particularly the role of the Church and Cardinal Sin in making EDSA 1 happen and why it turned out the way it did.

I was at EDSA 1, February '86, the month when my friends and I were supposed to be finalizing our thesis for March. As you may have read, we belong to the historic batch in UP (and that of other schools) who were given the PASS or FAIL mark because none were seriously going to school for classes anymore, but to attend street marches in Manila and Ayala actively almost every day since mid-January of that year. Even the teachers were not conducting regular classes and simply allowed the students to leave, although it really didn't start out as easy as that.

When asked about EDSA 1, there simply is no ready answer to what it was, why it happened and how. However, I liken EDSA 1 to a plant of a different variety, or genus, with roots way deep down in the soil. It is different in that, it feeds on a kind of humification and will grow slowly but steady in the soil like a normal plant would outside of it. If one were not attuned to the surroundings, this growing plant is hardly noticeable, save, maybe, for a harmless-looking growing heap of soil on the surface just before breaking ground. EDSA 1 is a circumstance that was a result of a convergence of forces. But it is not unique to the Philippines. Rather, it is unique to a people who are under a lifetime of oppression.

It must be understood that prior to EDSA 1, most everyone's begging bowls &mdash that which they hoped would be filled with, not just nourishment for the body, but for the spirit, particularly in the countryside &mdash were empty by then.

I was at EDSA 2, an offshoot of EDSA 1, meaning that "2" still shared something of "1" and that's why I believe it was successful. Others have since tried, and continue to try, to locally clone EDSA 1 but they will not succeed because they force matters into it; kind of like Dolly the sheep, you know? The genus EDSA 1 and 2, when it happened, had had its life. It was misunderstood by some, it surprised others, and was accepted by most. Those who didn't believe it was growing, or that it ever existed, mangle their understanding of it, of course.

Burma, I believe, has achieved a state in which the elements of this particular humus has been reached for its own plant to feed on and hasten its breaking ground. I believe the plant has, in fact, just broken ground, but that the soil in which it will grow is rough and its external environment, violent. I believe that this plant has roots deep in the ground as that of EDSA 1 and will survive. But won't be as 'easy' as what we had.

I remember watching on cable how cynical most American politicians were of EDSA 2 but that's because they never fully understood EDSA 1 itself, and will never adapt to nor condone any form of 'People Power'.

Sadly, many today, especially our youth, have forgotten the essence of the first two EDSAs because the stimulus that might have fostered any interest in it have been numbed by the very products that have become available to them after the dictatorship: the internet, Starbucks, malling, even the freedom to spread text chain messages and rumor in the halls of Senate and in media. They also have stopped trying to look into what nurtured a thing like EDSA 1, and its offshoot, EDSA 2, that it sometimes gets to the point of both EDSAs being reduced to trivia.

Even the forces behind EDSA 1, those whose individual voices and actions converged and contributed to the success of its being non-violent, are not one in assessing EDSA 1 and are not unified in what to make of it when it happened.

That Burma now looks to EDSA 1 for answers is indeed a tribute. They do need a People Power &mdash no, they now are undergoing a People Power revolution. But the process may yet be long and hard.

EDSA 1 is not an answer to a simple math problem; Ramos' defection was a necessary part of the equation, true, but Enrile's role in it makes for as much the same importance as Gringo's, his comrades and their troops, that of the Church and the collective hushed voices in the countryside. As a result, when it happened, it even left The Left in the sidelines gazing into space agape &mdash at least in the days that unfolded before Marcos and family were airlifted out of Malacanang, and pretty much soon after it.

I believe Burma is very close to achieving the state of EDSA 1 in its own terms. What is obviously different is that the monks are leading the uprising against the Hydra that is the military junta, and have been paying the ultimate price for making their voices heard. They have already shed off their clothes and material wants for robes and bowls, for crying out loud! It wasn't as if they were protesting because a TV series had been unplugged or a commodity had been banned as they already are living a life of sacrifice to begin with.

Now, oh, how much more of a sacrifice they are doing! I salute the monks, their families &mdash marching barefoot and unarmed &mdash and all the people of Burma in this effort. True martyrs of freedom they are. I hope they look to EDSA 1 not just for direction; they should be just as prepared for the consequences. They must avoid not having any recognition for the thing that has just been given life to &mdash the plant called we call 'Freedom' &mdash and just as eagerly learn from the mistakes and about other post-EDSA happenings, particularly that of taking freedom and democracy for granted as we now do in the Philippines.

Yes, how sweet it is to sit in the safety and convenience of one's corner and communicate freely with someone halfway around the globe. Thank you. I so value this exchange with you.

It is now my turn to prepare lunch and do the dishes. :)

With appreciation,

Allow me to make a plea as I believe now is the time for us as a people to look into our Asian neighbors and do something. The bowls of Burma, turned upside down, beg for your understanding and compassion. We are the recipients of freedom we struggled for. We are now on the other side where, once deprived of real news of suffering and oppression, we now stand witness to the very same, albeit more harrowing experience of fellow Asians. We should not allow their struggle to go down the bowels of history.

Clicking on the photos will bring you to's Flash show of more images of Burma. All images are copyrighted to Reuters, AP and AFP and are taken from the Financial Times's article In pictures: Burma unrest, except for the 2nd photo from below, which was emailed me. If you are the owner of this particular photo, please send me an email or a comment so I can make the appropriate attribution. If you would rather remain anonymous, however, I would gladly oblige.

If you wish to sign a petition, please send me an email and I will give you a legitimate link.


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