How should people go to the streets? How should people react to the burial last Friday?
In anger and in the spirit of revenge?
Or with "the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed,
the courage to change what can be,
and the wisdom to know the difference?"
So asked Monsignor Gerry in the words of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, in another staggeringly beautiful homily, where his voice broke when he spoke of his own lived history at EDSA. There, people wearing yellow, a color Ninoy changed from the color of cowardice to the color of courage, came out at the call of the Great Cardinal to stand in the dark without flinching, without rancor, with only the grim determination to yield not an inch to power.
But in truth, Niebuhr was wrong. Everything can be changed. Except right and wrong. We but need the wisdom to know the difference between what can easily be changed and what demands drastic measures.
In that confrontation, what could not be changed—the military backing a kleptocracy—changed sides and joined the people to install, in the teeth of a rigged election, a woman clothed with the sun of a brand new day.
In what spirit then should protests be conducted?
From my own lived experience, I can say I felt no bitterness—13 years after my father was taken away to prison and "the glory of the Philippine journalism," as American historians described his Free Press, was destroyed in a single night.
I felt no bitterness or even passion. At the end of every day working to subvert the government—alongside many others from every walk of life, I went back home for dinner and enough night's sleep to be refreshed for another day of subversion.
I can say the same of everyone who protested at greater risk.
Indeed, over a long five years—counting from the massive noise barrage that swept across Metro Manila when Ninoy ran from a prison cell against Imelda—and three more years after the government extrajudicially executed him—we persevered without rancor or hate in weekly street protests; some massively impressive, some palpak (massive failures), until Marcos called for his doom in a snap election, and a woman in yellow took up his challenge.
With the same serenity as before, we entered the campaign for an election sure to be rigged. And in that same mood we challenged our defeat in a rigged election. Comelec tabulators walked out over the cheating and we walked into the Palace victorious. Then add four nights and days of courage.
In all that time not I or anyone involved—and we were millions, felt the slightest rancor; only the serenity of the already victorious.
For the greatest battle was behind us and we had won. After Ninoy was killed and we staged the greatest funeral since Gandhi's we conquered our fear. That is the greatest victory of all.
It may not be the spirit of these times, which are no longer ours who are old; but it was the spirit of our time when we were young once and brave.
How the young today will conduct their protests is for them to decide for themselves as they start making their own future in the present without regard to the past. Remembering this only: that anger is exhausting and self-defeating but a serenity born of moral victory is self-sustaining. And instead of tiring from exertion finds nourishment in the trying.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.