I was nearing 6 years of age when strongman Ferdinand Marcos was forced to fly in exile after only somewhere around 2% to 3% of the Filipino population went to the streets for the so-called EDSA Revolution. Though young, I was already aware that such an event had big promises of change and social upheaval, the start of a society where every Filipino was equal in rights and privileges. After 27 years since that fated day, that promise remains to be fulfilled.
I remember all those years growing up how my parents were able to work hard and see the fruits of their labor blossoming to provide me and my sister the kind of middle class living that majority of Filipinos could only dream of having. One has to understand that while middle class style of living is pretty much standard in developed nations like Australia (where a number of my relatives live), in the Philippines it is rather exceptional. It is worth noting that despite the levels of success my parents were able to reach, as the years after the EDSA Revolution continued to progress, it became more and more difficult for my folks to be able to earn money from their garments manufacturing business. With changing economic forces around the world and antiquated local economic policies, my father’s employers suddenly closed shop, leaving him deprived of his retirement benefits. This also brought about the loss of my mother’s subcontracting business. Coupled with conniving and dishonest people that surrounded my parents like vultures, the years post-EDSA did not provide the kind of environment that would have allowed middle class people like themselves to prosper. I could imagine how much worse it would be for people who didn’t have much.
What does that story about my parents have to do with EDSA? A lot. Apparently, the greater freedom that EDSA was able to deliver provided a recipe for disaster to Filipino society. It only made means for the rich to get richer, the poor to get poorer, and the middle class to be strained close to poverty. Honest small business owners like my parents had to deal with red tape and inefficiency of government services as the BIR continued on their efforts to bleed them dry. All of this was happening while we keep hearing of corruption by post EDSA Revolution leaders, doing nothing with all their power and wealth to delude the ignorant masses to further enrich themselves. Now, I don’t really have to specify details about this. It’s pretty obvious how the Philippines is performing nowadays despite all that EDSA history.
It’s easy to blame the country’s leaders for the government’s shortcomings and failure to provide an environment that stimulates growth and creativity. However, are only the leaders to blame? The matter of fact is that Filipino culture is the culprit. Filipino culture is mired with impunity, mediocrity, and anti-intellectualism brought about by the “pwede-na” (that’ll do) and “bahala-na” (come what may) philosophy that is so pervasive in society. It appears that every neighbor of the Philippines continues to grow leaps and bounds while Filipinos keep on holding to unsubstantiated “Pinoy Pride” whenever individuals like Manny Pacquiao or Jessica Sanchez garner accolades for their INDIVIDUAL achievements that have NOTHING to do with being Filipino. While competence in other countries lead to success, patronage politics and other underhanded tactics remain key determinants for success in the Philippines. Such cultural traits continue to be present despite the 27 years that Filipinos have been celebrating EDSA, hardly the mark of an advanced society.
I’m not at all surprised that some discerning individuals think of the EDSA Revolution as a joke because it was unable to deliver it’s promises of a society where everybody had equal access to opportunities. It has become such a joke that emotionally-driven Pinoys tend to hit the streets every time they feel angst about something (EDSA 2, 3, etc.). I was gullible enough to be dragged to EDSA part 2 (2001) only to realize that upon arrival it was nothing more than a stupid street party pretending to promote a just cause.
No matter how many times the Philippines changes its leaders, it will always be the same until culture changes. It is only until Filipino culture embraces competence as the standard will we see people with track records of excellence hold important seats in government. When Filipinos start thinking critically will we see the kind of changes we long for.
Surely we Filipinos now enjoy the freedom it had delivered, but that undisciplined freedom is what keeps the Philippines in its current sorry state. This freedom we now enjoy has led to chaos that had deprived many Filipinos of a decent standard of living. Ask the people in the slums eating “pagpag” if they can feel the benefits of EDSA. While they might give trivial and safe answers because of how they have been misled, they will always feel that misery for their sorry state. Such widespread misery is enough to convince me that there is no change after EDSA.
Manuel L. Quezon once duped the Filipinos into believing that they are ready to rule by arrogantly saying, “I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by the Americans, because however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it.” Bad (the absence of good) will always be bad, Mr. Quezon! I’d rather have heaven any time rather than your hell! Labeling “hell” as Filipino doesn’t make it any better. The absence of good can NEVER be delightful in any way. Making changes without any progress is useless effort. You can also add to that the fact that change can be for the worse. Look at EDSA. It’s legacy is still keeping the Philippines poor 26 years onwards.