EDSA People Power Revolution

On eve of EDSA anniversary, Marcos goes home to lead ‘Ilocano greatness’ festival

Bea Cupin

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On eve of EDSA anniversary, Marcos goes home to lead ‘Ilocano greatness’ festival

MARCOS AGAIN? Protesters gather at the EDSA People Power Monument on February 20, 2022, to mark the 36th anniversary of the People Power revolt that ousted Ferdinand Marcos, whose son is now leading the presidential race.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

A day before his first People Power Revolution anniversary as president, Marcos returns to Ilocos Norte to celebrate a 12-year-old provincial festival held for the first time on February 24

MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of the anniversary of the popular revolution that ousted his late father and namesake, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is back in his clan’s bailiwick to lead a festival celebrating the “greatness” of his home region.

Marcos will lead the “Tan-ok ni Ilocano (Greatness of the Ilocano): The Festival of Festivals,” at the Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. Stadium, late Friday afternoon, February 24, a day befor his first EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary as president.

February 24 is a national special non-working day this year. Marcos declared this through a last-minute Palace proclamation to celebrate the EDSA People Power Revolution, a four-day uprising that concluded years of resistance against Marcos Sr.

The anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution falls on February 25. Marcos initially declared February 25 a special non-working day but switched the holiday to the 24th, citing “holiday economics” or the practice of moving a holiday or non-working day to the closest Monday or Friday to create a long weekend. 

The President’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos, initiated Tan-Ok ni Ilocano festival in 2011 to “rediscover Ilocanos’ sense of pride, unity, and greatness,” according to a 2018 post on the Ilocos Norte government website.

It is the first time for the festival to be held on February 24.

The festival used to be held in November but was moved to February 2 in 2018 to “coincide with the harvest season that morning and in line with the bicentennial founding of the province,” according to a 2019 Business World article. It was held on the same day in 2019, observed through film festivals during the pandemic in December 2020, early February 2021, and April 2022.

Holiday economics vs historical significance

Historian Xiao Chua said he understood the practicality of switching holidays – if only Malacañang had done it sooner, a view shared by many others.

“Since Marcos brought back ‘holiday economics,’ people were thinking earlier that the EDSA holiday falls on a Saturday was ‘sayang (a waste).’ Now, he makes a surprise sudden last-minute effort to dignify the event – which is commendable only that it should have been done earlier so people could have made their plans. But for now, this is commendable,” he said in a text message to Rappler. 

But holiday-moving, while practical, said Chua, takes away from an event’s significance. “As a historian, I am not a fan of moving holidays to other days because it confuses people and is making them about vacations instead of commemorating,” he added. 

The 24th of February is a significant day in the EDSA Revolution. On February 24, 1986, the dictator Marcos addressed the nation on television to say that he would not step down as defections in the military increased. On that day, rumors were rife that the dictator had fled. The Marcos clan, including Marcos Jr., would leave Malacañang the next day, February 25, for the United States where they spent the next few years in exile.

Long before the President made an oath to “consecrate himself to the service of the Nation,” there were worries that with him in Malacañang, the decades-long project to forget the revolution that ousted his father and the horrors of Martial Law would finally succeed. 

As candidate and as president, Marcos has tried, for the most part, to avoid the difficult but necessary discussion about the dark days of Martial Law – nearly a decade of violent repression and human rights violations under his father – as well as the Marcoses’ plunder of the country’s coffers during this period. The clan, with Marcos as executor of their late father’s estate, owes up to P203 billion in estate taxes. 

Marcos was silent, for instance, on August 21, 2022 – his first Ninoy Aquino Day as chief executive – breaking the tradition of his predecessors to issue a statement on the anniversary of the assassination of his father’s nemesis, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., upon his return to Manila from exile on August 21, 1983.

Aquino’s death set off a chain of events that led to a snap presidential election in 1986, that eventually sparked the EDSA Revolution.

Remembering EDSA

All presidents after Marcos Sr. commemorated the EDSA Revolution in one way or another – by declaring special days (non-working days or holidays only for schools), joining commemorative programs, or just issuing messages, as in the case of Rodrigo Duterte, who had openly expressed admiration for the late dictator Marcos.

In declaring February 24 instead of February 25 a special non-working day, Marcos said its celebration could be moved “provided the historical significance of the EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary is maintained.” In a post on Friday, February 24, the Official Gazette said moving the “holiday” in relation to the EDSA anniversay was done “without diminishing the latter’s significance.” 

February 25 as a special event is not codified in Philippine law, which means it’s up to every president to decide if it’s going to be declared a special non-working day. 

On both February 24 and 25, various groups will commemorate the historic bloodless revolution, which happened not just in EDSA but across the archipelago. Malacañang has not said where Marcos plans to spend the 25th, or if he would acknowledge the event explicitly. 

Xiao said celebrating the People Power Revolution should not just be about long weekends. “To really dignify the event and the People’s Revolution, they should make it a day of reconciliation where they express regret about the past misconduct and tell people around them to stop maligning the people’s revolution and the victims of human rights violations,” he said.

Neither the president nor his relatives have apologized for the sins of their late patriarch.

A December 2022 survey of the Social Weather Stations, released only on February 23, showed that 62% of Filipinos believe that the “EDSA Spirit” is alive, with 37% saying it is not. The same survey showed that while a majority or 57% said it was important to commemorate the People Power Revolution, 43% believed it was not. Finally, 47% said “a few” of the promises of EDSA were fulfilled, with 28% saying none of the promises came into fruition. – Rappler.com 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.