‘Edsa is our people’s cry and God’s loving reply’
(Editor’s Note: Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, commemorates the 31st anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution with a letter to the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, longing for the wit and wisdom of the former archbishop of Manila amid new uncertainties and terror that wrack the nation, and also promising to keep the “spirit of Edsa” alive to rekindle dimming memories and frustrate attempts to revise the meaning of the “four glorious days in February 1986.” As a young priest, Villegas had served as the private secretary of Cardinal Sin, who died in 2005.)
Dear Cardinal Sin,
It is you I miss most these days.
I do not mean to disturb your peace. You already have passed from this valley of tears to the House of the Father, but please, Cardinal Sin, do not forget us in our present travails as a nation. I know you can receive this message. I believe. Nothing can separate you from us in the Lord. You love this country so much. You will not let us lose our hope.
I know you can hear me and I know you are here. As I know your love for this country, I also believe that in heaven your heart pleads to the heart of God to embrace this beautiful land. Cardinal Sin, embrace us and ask God to embrace your God-loving people. Do not look at the blessings we have squandered and the heroism we have ridiculed. Do not look at the news we have faked and the people we have cheated. Do not look at our uncaring attitude about the victims of extrajudicial killings now exceeding the number of victims during martial law.
Look at us in our fears and pray for us to God to heal our land. Give us courage. Give us hope. Shake us up from our timidity.
Thirty-one years after Edsa 1986, I hear our people ask: What shall we celebrate? What is there to celebrate? By the corner of Edsa and Ortigas, I want to sit and weep as I remember the four glorious days of February 1986 now dimmed. The glory now flickers in the darkness of fear and terror again. The songs of peace now drowned by the cuss words of hate that invite murder. The bloodless revolt now stained by the blood in our streets and gutters. The statistics of unresolved murder continues to rise and not a single one has been investigated and brought to justice.
Four days of bloodless revolution! Wow!
Now eight months of relentless killings of the poor in the name of “change”! It is a nightmare, Your Eminence! It is
The dictator ousted by people power is now buried among heroes. The lady of 1,200 pairs of shoes is now a representative in Congress. History books are rewritten. Historical memory is revised. The hero is now a villain. The plunderers are now heroes. Thank God, Eminence, you did not see these days we are going through.
Tears flow. Uncertainties choke us. It is hard to choose
silence and take the blows. How long can we endure? It is hard to fight for the right without question or pause and be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause. You remember that song, Eminence? That was your favorite line, I remember. Singing it again makes me smile and makes me cry.
Did you also cry quietly in the dark years of the dictatorship? Were you ever discouraged and did you also question yourself if what you were doing was right? Were you ever afraid or did you ever feel the urge
to stay in your zone of comfort instead of fighting the unbeatable foe?
Cardinal Sin, I feel the same and you know that. I know many feel this way. Teach us how to cope. Teach us your courage. Teach us your humor. Teach us your faith. Teach us righteous indignation. Wake us up from our pacifism and pull us into the fire of passion and courage again.
They are looking for you but you are not here. They are waiting for your voice but they cannot hear. They want to see you again but you seem so far away now. Is it wrong to miss you?
Can we still celebrate Edsa people power? I asked you that years ago and you said, “Yes, we must celebrate because Edsa is people! Please celebrate even when Cory and I are gone.”
For as a long as there is a child willing to right the unrightable wrong; for as long as there is a young man willing to reach the unreachable star even if his hands have grown weary; for as long as there is a war weary soldier willing to smile at a colegiala who bravely puts a flower into the muzzle of his gun; for as long as there is a priest willing to offer the Mass for the healing of this broken and bleeding land—
this land may be ruled by tyrants and killers, murderers may win in elections, plunderers may grin at the ignorant voters they had cheated, trolls may keep hurling invectives at their peace-loving countrymen, commanders may prostitute the meaning of Edsa—we will still celebrate.
For Edsa is not about the enemies of peace and democracy but the faith and bravery of a people who called upon the Lord in their distress and whose cry the Lord has heard from heaven. Edsa is our people’s cry and our God’s loving reply.
In your final years, Your Eminence, you saw how that spirit was diluted and some even wanted it reversed. But you were firm to remind me even from your sickbed that Edsa is heroic courage and will always be. What the pimps of that spirit have done cannot remove the purity of Edsa’s valor and the nobility of its lesson. The Edsa spirit is pure and worth celebrating always. It is people who have raped it.
Against all odds, Cardinal Sin, we will remember. We will give thanks. We will challenge ourselves to live for God and to live for country as you did.
Rest now, Cardinal Sin. You have left us lessons to last us many lifetimes. All we must do is to keep on remembering and to keep the fire aglow. You have passed on that torch to us and we will not fail you. Promise!
Hug me in my dreams. Embrace me in my prayer. Guide me by your memory. Please hug my parents for me in the Father’s House.
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