#EDSA27: Teaching 1986 People Power to teenagers
In class, I discuss the historical importance of the 1986 People Power for the Philippine media in the context of these two:
One, that we must value and protect press freedom as a pillar of democracy, with emphasis on Article III, Section 4 of our Constitution which was ratified after the 1986 People Power: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, or expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble to petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Two, that the first People Power experience (as well as the second in 2001) strongly showed the power of the mass media as an instrument to move people into action. In 1986, we know the story of how Jaime Cardinal Sin called on Filipinos via Radio Veritas to go to EDSA to protect the rebel soldiers who failed to stage a coup d’etat against then President Ferdinand Marcos.
In Journalism schools, the basic courses – meaning, the foundational ones – are taught by the most senior members of the faculty. This is to make sure that the foundation of future media practitioners will be guided by the expertise and wisdom of the teacher.
In our case, I am the most senior member of the faculty, not by virtue of age, but by the number of years in the teaching profession as well as the number of years spent as a media practitioner. Kalayaan College was established by renowned educator Dr. Jose V. Abueva in 2001. I started to teach there in 2004 and became the first Coordinator of the College’s Journalism Program.
But how does one my age teach about the true meaning of People Power for us, Filipinos, when I was only seven years old when EDSA One happened? How do I tell the story? How do I teach the lessons learned?
The lessons of the 1986 People Power are always connected to the story of the martial law years. Upon declaration of martial law, the media was the first institution to feel the pangs of martial rule. Independent print and broadcast media were ordered closed, while media practitioners critical of the Marcos administration were arrested and jailed. Campus publications were also included in the target.
While I was not even born at that time, I had the privilege to be taught and be mentored by practicing journalists during those difficult years for the Philippine media. As a journalism student at the University of the Philippines, I had as professor no less than Luis Mauricio, former editor of the critical Graphic magazine who was included in the first wave of journalists imprisoned right after martial law was declared.
He taught Journalism 100 (History of the Press). His lectures based on Jaime Ramirez’s and Rosalinda Ofreneo’s respective books were excellent, but his stories of his experiences when press freedom was repressed stuck to me. I remember them very clearly up until today and can re-tell his story to my own students now as he told them to us.
I also learned from the stories told over and over by Luis Teodoro, another journalist imprisoned during martial law. He was not only my professor, he was also my first editor as I stepped out of college. His stories are best summarized in a paper he delivered in a program in 1999 commemorating the imposition of martial rule in the Philippines. I was there at the program and heard him agonized as he remembered those dark years for the Philippine media. Dean Teodoro said:
“... The practice of above-ground journalism was left mostly in the hands of those who were either uncritical of the regime, or supportive of it. This removed from the profession some of its most respected and capable practitioners, making the profession so much the lesser for it. This had an impact as well on the younger journalists who no longer had the benefit of learning from the experience of their older colleagues through the informal newsroom apprenticeship system, for decades the process through which the younger generation learned from the older.”
I was moved by the stories and their stories I re-tell my students.
Democracy was restored in 1986. Democratic institutions, including the free press, were subsequently re-installed.
Years away from Sept 21, 1972 and Feb 22-25, 1986, I also became a part of or a witness to stories I re-tell my students semester after semester. Curtailment of press freedom comes in various forms. I remember braving a strong typhoon to interview newspaper dealers and vendors around Metro Manila to check whether there was indeed mass buying of a particular issue of a newspaper.
That issue was perceived to be critical of former President Joseph Estrada. I also remember that I was there at the Gokongwei-owned Manila Time’s office on its last night of operations. Editors and staff were putting to bed the final issue of the paper. Non-Manila Times journalists were there to show support. It was a sad ending to a story that started with a P101M libel suit against the Manila Times.
The youth today go to the social media to share or vent their thoughts and feelings. This is what freedom means to most of them. How does a teacher then make a deep and lasting impression of the value of freedom?
We teach the lessons of history by remembering the stories and repeating them semester after semester, generations after generations. We remember the effects of repression and we remember the fruits of redemption. We remember; we teach. This is how we make sure that the freedom we earned in the past, we will never lose again in the future.
Historian A.L. Rowse said: “Bound as our lives to the tyranny of time, it is through what we know of history that we are delivered from our bonds and escape – into time.” Hence, we remember; we teach. - Rappler.com
Evelyn O. Katigbak is the Chairperson of Kalayaan College’s Department of Journalism and was a former Newsbreak Contributing Writer.