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Stories from the sidelines: Street vendors on the Marcos burial

MANILA, Philippines – As night fell on Wednesday, November 30, the number of people gathered at the People Power Monument swelled to as high as 15,000, all protesting the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Most of them are millennials, supposedly too young to know what they are fighting for, according to Marcos defenders. (READ: A Marcos brand of amnesia)

The young protesters, in turn, have used this criticism to fuel their call that Marcos – who ruled the Philippines with an iron first for 21 years – does not deserve a grave at the national shrine for heroes in Taguig City. (READ: Protesters to Duterte, Marcoses: 'This is what democracy looks like')

But as the crowd raised their fists and waved their wittiest signs at the People Power Monument, a handful of eyes watch them from the sidelines, keeping their own thoughts on the Marcos burial issue to themselves as the protesters buy candies, cigarettes, and bottled water from them.

Forty-five year old vendor Alicia Palamos went to the People Power Monument knowing she would be able to sell more there compared to her usual spot near Quiapo Church.

She earns P500 a day in Manila selling cigarettes and candies, but at the protest, she earned P200 more.

As she sold her goods to the protesters, she said she was happy that younger Filipinos took to the streets to express their outrage. 

Natutuwa ako kasi lumabas sila ngayon. Kasi ‘di ba, sa panahon ngayon, parang tahimik na tahimik eh. Pero ngayon, nandito sila (I'm happy because they went out today. Because these days, it seems people are silent. But they're here today),” said Palamos.

She feared the day when Marcos, whose regime was marked by corruption and human rights atrocities, would be regarded as a hero simply because he was buried at the national cemetery for heroes. 

Kasi sa totoo naman, hindi naman dapat nailibing doon sa Libingan ng mga Bayani. Kasi ‘di ba, pagdating ng panahon, bayani na siya. Kagaya natin, alam natin ‘di siya bayani. Pagdaan ng panahon, lalabas na siya ay bayani, ‘di ba?” she said.

(In truth, he shouldn't have been buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Because in time, he would be [regarded] as a hero. In our case, we know that he isn't a hero. As time passes by, he would be regarded as a hero, right?)

Jocelyn Mercado did not share her fellow vendor's view.  While she is not a supporter of the late strongman, Mercado is hoping the protesters would just move on since Marcos was already buried. (READ: Imee Marcos 'delighted' over SC ruling, tells critics to 'let it go')

'LET IT GO.' Mercado carrying her goods at the People Power Monument. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

'LET IT GO.' Mercado carrying her goods at the People Power Monument.

Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Para sa ‘kin lang, nailibing na rin naman si Marcos eh. Dapat pabayaan na lang nila. Kahit ba halimbawa hindi natin sabihin na hero siya, pabayaan na lang natin. Kasi meron naman nalilibing doon na ‘di rin bayani, gaya rin natin, ‘di ba?” she said.

(For me, Marcos was already buried. Let him be. For example, we're not saying he's a hero but let him go. There are people there who were buried but are not heroes like us, right?)

Meanwhile, the protest was also a time for vendor Danilo Antonio to tell his wife Ging about the state-sanctioned atrocities during Martial Law.  

While both finished second year in high school, Ging said she does not know the full history of the Marcos regime.

Nakakalito kasi may pinaglalaban na binabatikos si Marcos. May pinaglalaban na kampi kay Marcos. Pero 'yung pinaka-point talaga nila, si [President Rodrigo] Duterte, kalaban nila (I'm confused because there are people criticizing Marcos. There are people who support him. But their point is that President Rodrigo Duterte is their enemy),” said Ging.

Dapat ang isang patay ay dapat ilibing, kasi patay na po ‘yun eh. Pero sabi ng asawa ko, ‘di po siya hero,”(A dead person should be buried because he is already dead. But my husband said he is not a hero," she added.

Danilo said he has been explaining to his wife that the abuses were committed under the Marcos regime. He said he knows this because he joined the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the dictator and exiled him to Hawaii. 

THE ANTONIOS. Danilo and Ging pick a spot beside a parked van at the People Power Monument to sell water, crackers, candies, and cigarettes. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

THE ANTONIOS. Danilo and Ging pick a spot beside a parked van at the People Power Monument to sell water, crackers, candies, and cigarettes.

Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

‘Di dapat ilibing ‘yun doon kasi hindi naman siya hero. Kasi inabot ko ‘yung panahon na nakaupo siya. Kasama ako doon sa 1986 na rally (He should not be buried there because he's not a hero. I reached the time he was seated in power. I was there during the 1986 rally),” said Danilo.

Mahirap ‘pag may Martial Law. ‘Di na kami makakapaghanap buhay nang maayos. Ayaw namin ng Martial Law kasi kawawa pamilya namin (It's hard when there is Martial. We won't able to work well. We don't want Martial Law because my family would find it difficult),” he said. 

Danilo said he is happy that he was selling his goods to the young protesters because “tama naman ‘yung pinaglalaban nila (they are fighting for the right thing)."

The vendors at the Nov 25 rally

Street vendors also went to the “National Day of Unity and Rage” on November 25, another anti-Marcos burial protest held at the Quirino Grand Stand in Manila

Maricon Flores sells a variety of items along the streets of Kalaw, United Nations Avenue and Taft, but she chose to sell umbrellas for P80 at the rainy grand rally.

TO THE RESCUE. Flores sells an umbrella to a customer. Photo by Khristine Montenegro/Rappler

TO THE RESCUE. Flores sells an umbrella to a customer.

Photo by Khristine Montenegro/Rappler

She was surprised about the “secret” burial of Marcos, but had also anticipated the rally, knowing it would be a good opportunity for business. 

"Kahit sino naman magalit dahil nga siyempre inaabangan ng buong bayan kung anong araw at petsa ililibing si dating presidente Ferdinand Marcos. Pero biglaan, kahit kami nag-aabang kami dahil [sa] hanap-buhay namin," she said.

(Anyone would be angry because the whole country were on the lookout for the burial date of the former president Ferdinand Marcos. But it was sudden, we were also on the lookout because of our livelihood.) 

Although Flores was at the stadium to work, she could not help but express her indignation over the actions of the Marcos family.

"Kasi kumbaga nilinlang nila ang taumbayan. Nilihim nila (They  deceived the people. They kept it a secret)," she said, referring to the unannounced date of the burial.

Vendor Osmon Roque, meanwhile, wants the protesters to accept the Supreme Court decision allowing the hero's burial.

 MOVE ON. Roque leaves everything to God and believes it is time to move on. Photo by Khristine Montenegro/Rappler

Tanggapin na natin ang katotohanan. Dinala na 'to sa Supreme Court, 'di ba? Nanalo. Tapos 'yung sa batas, sabi ni Duterte, nasa batas naman eh. Di naman sinabing kapag mandarambong, hindi ka pwedeng ilibing doon. Hindi specified eh. Nakalagay do'n, sundalo ka, naging presidente ka, puwede," he said.

(Let us accept the truth. This was brought to the Supreme Court, right? [The Marcoses] won. And the law, Duterte said, it's there in the law. It doesn't say that when you're a thief, you cannot be buried there. It's not specified. It only says there that when you're a soldier or you became president, it's acceptable.)

SLOW BUSINESS. Baylon sells foil covers to protesters who want to sit on the muddy grounds at the Quirino grandstand. Photo by Khristine Montenegro/Rappler

SLOW BUSINESS. Baylon sells foil covers to protesters who want to sit on the muddy grounds at the Quirino grandstand.

Photo by Khristine Montenegro/Rappler

Foil cover seller Jimmy Bailon remained neutral on the issue. But he said the protesters should have pushed for the demonstrations even before Marcos’ interment. 

"Kahit anong gawin nila, hindi na nila iyon mahuhukay kasi nasa ilalim na (No matter what they do, they can no longer dig up the body because it's already down there)," he said. – Rappler.com