Tuesday, February 25, 2014

EDSA 4EVER: a few notes on February 25th and its conflicting meaning to Czechs and Filipinos



February 25th is a historical date full of significance for Czechs and Filipinos alike. Yet, its meaning to each of these two nations could not differ more. While Czechs on this date commemorate the 1948 communist takeover that ushered in four decades of dictatorship of a single political party that was getting its orders from Moscow, Filipinos celebrate the exact opposite – finally getting rid of a dictator who was in power for more than two decades, and restoring democracy in 1986.
February 1948 in Prague

It’s one of those historical ironies that in a way tie our two nations together. The experience of having lived in what was effectively a one-party system (KSČ – or Communist Party of Czechoslovakia – behaved much like KBL – or Kilusang Bagong Lipunan/New Society Movement) should make one truly appreciate political and civic freedoms that other, more fortunate nations (like Americans or Brits) tend to take for granted. That it is not necessarily so - judged by the continuing support for the unreformed communist party in the Czech Republic and equally unrepentant Marcos clan in the Philippines – is certainly a source of frustration to the more historically conscious among us.

However, that is not what I want to say on this memorable day. As a Czech by birth and Filipino by choice (no, I don’t have the passport, but my daughter does and sometimes I think I envy her) I play a sort of a double-game each February 25th. Today, I again started it on a somber note, sparing some thought for the victims of the communist dictatorship who perished in its jails and died on its borders trying to escape to freedom, but I choose to end it on a happy note, celebrating the continuing legacy of the EDSA People Power Revolution that reached its glorious victory on February 25th, 1986.

February 1986 in Manila
I know many Filipinos are convinced it was their example that ended up powering many similar undertakings that followed – both in Asia (1988 pro-democracy uprising in Burma and 1989 student-led protests in Beijing that were both brutally crushed by the military) and in Central and Eastern Europe at the end of 1989. And while it is true that our very own Velvet Revolution bears uncanny similarity to EDSA Revolution, I know for a fact that the events in far away Manila played hardly any part in inspiring what was in effect a reaction to the fall of Berlin Wall. 

Having said that, I do believe there is a genuine connection between those two events, even if only a philosophical one: rising up with bare hands to face the injustice armed to the teeth and ended up victorious, proving that the might is not always right (in fact, it hardly ever is).
February 2014 in Kiev

And if there’s one thing that makes this year’s EDSA commemoration special, it is the knowledge that Ukrainians have just accomplished their own version of people power revolution (or are about to, as the process of forming the national unity government is not yet over), thus proving that the EDSA blueprint is still viable (sadly, the EuroMaidan protest in Kiev turned out to be far from being bloodless, which is why things will take longer to calm down). 

So let me conclude by saying this: long live the spirit of EDSA, the spirit of people power, and may all the nations that are still being denied their freedom soon be able to enjoy it.