Bumper to bumper traffic, honking buses, the scent of exhaust, startling potholes, and the allure of bright billboards… This is the EDSA we experience today.

30 years ago though, EDSA meant something more. EDSA, especially to my generation, meant courage in the face of fear and oppression, unity for a greater good, and the willingness to sacrifice for your fellow Filipinos. 

EDSA meant People Power. But now, some of our countrymen say that People Power is dead.

These Filipinos proclaim that the EDSA Revolution is just a ghost, whose remains have long been buried and its essence wasted.  

But these Pinoys who have lost faith are mistaken. EDSA cannot die; People Power is in our DNA.

Haven’t we all come across the iconic depiction of men and women lifting their neighbor’s kubo on their shoulders, selflessly bringing the house to safety?

During times of crisis, when a super-typhoon, massive flood, or earthquake hits our country, don’t we rush to a volunteer center with donations and a strong desire to reach out to those affected?

Do we not find joy and fulfillment in building homes for poor Filipino communities, carrying blocks of cement and painting walls with bright, happy colors along with friends from Gawad Kalinga and Habitat for Humanity?

These are all manifestations of the bayanihan spirit that is woven into our cultural fabric.

Around the country, we find strangers united in noble missions that extend beyond family ties, tapping a shared humanity and nationalism.

In the world of social enterprise, I have seen firsthand how social entrepreneurs, government agencies, corporations, microfinance institutions, cooperatives, and NGOs come together to find solutions to lift our countrymen out of poverty through business.

These mini-movements transformed the lives of the farmers turned agri-preneurs in Nueva Ecija, who now supply to Jollibee, the urban artisans of Rags2Riches, and Hapinoy’s successful sari-sari store owners.

In the youth sector, we see organizations made up of eager young Filipinos seeking to uphold noble values and uplift marginalized sectors.

Every year since 2002, we would award the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO Awards) and, just this year, we met the SOLACE organization that protect the rights of forgotten Filipino detainees in Mandaue City as well as the Kanlaon Theater Guild from Bacolod that educates communities on disasters through their talent, creativity, and volition – just two of thousands of youth organizations that have joined the TAYO search.

Finally, when the legislature was rocked by the Napoles-PDAF scandal two years ago, we still saw thousands upon thousands of our countrymen congregate to decry the corruption and push for reforms in an overly abused system.

The commonality is, much like in the EDSA Revolution, these people took matters in their own hands and took a collective stand, not against a dictator, but against violence, poverty, corruption, and suffering.

These are modern-day examples of the EDSA spirit, the bayanihan instinct, and People Power.

Call it what you will, these revolutions, however sizable or small, are alive and thriving in the Philippines.  And to deny that this exists is simply misleading and fraudulent.  

Much has changed over the last 30 years. From being one of the poorest countries in the 80s, we are the fastest growing economy in the ASEAN.

Then considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, we have pushed for justice against the most powerful in all of the three branches of government.

People Power has also evolved from being centralized and primarily focused on political reform to one that includes a social and economic agenda and is dispersed throughout our country.

Historically, People Power was the well we drew upon when things took a turn for the worst; when corruption was at its highest, the rule of law least respected, our human rights and freedoms abused and trampled upon by the few for their own gain and benefit.

The challenge today is to evoke this revolutionary spirit not only in times of crisis, but in moments of opportunity as well.  

The challenge is to never forget that there is greatness in us.  And that if we stand together, much like 30 years ago at EDSA, even the most insurmountable can be overcome.

First Published on Manila Bulletin

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