Who were really behind Makati’s yellow confetti rallies?

Rafael E. Evangelista
Consul Rafael Evangelista says it was his Monday Group that thought up the campaign after Ninoy Aquino's assassination in 1983, not Senator Butz Aquino and his ATOM

Various stories have circulated over the years since the fall of the Marcos regime. Some of these stories are about the origins of the “Yellow Confetti Rallies” that galvanized the business community in Makati shortly after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983.  

Subsequent yellow confetti rallies in other parts of the country, particularly Cebu and Davao, replicated the Makati experience during that period. These Makati confetti rallies ended in 1986, the year that Ferdinand Marcos fled the country. 

One such story attributes the Makati rallies to the late Senator Butz Aquino and to the organization he formed called the August Twenty-One Movement or ATOM. This story goes: as a street parliamentarian, Butz was the pasimuno (leader) of the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 when he led ATOM, and yellow confetti then rained from Makati’s high rise buildings.

Without any intention of discrediting Butz Aquino, who indeed played a very important role — alongside Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino — in the phenomenon of what is now called the EDSA People Power Revolution, this story, and other stories like it, should be corrected and clarified. 

This version of the story could lead Filipinos to believe that it was ATOM that was responsible for the rain of yellow confetti coming from Makati’s high rise buildings that led to the protest that “washed away the dictatorship.” 

Another story that has circulated is that the Makati confetti rallies were a spontaneous reaction from Makati denizens to the excesses of Marcos, a story of spontaneity that scratches only the surface of what really transpired. There was indeed some spontaneous combustion in Makati, but not in this simplistic and romantic way.

Truth to tell, neither Butz nor ATOM had anything to do with the organization of the “yellow confetti” revolt of the business sector in Makati — except as participants in the marches that ensued after and as a consequence of the confetti storm that enveloped Ayala Avenue and its environs. 

The confetti rallies of Makati were the brainchild of 8 persons who wanted to mobilize the business community immediately after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983. They were Francis Laurel, Pec Castro, Gus Lagman, Pete Estrada, Tony Mapa, Lito Banayo, myself, and an 8th member who prefers to remain anonymous. (Of the 8 members, Pec Castro and Tony Mapa have since passed on.)

The 8 had agonized for days after Ninoy’s assassination on what they could do to show their solidarity with Ninoy’s cause. The group had been meeting for many months secretly in the back rooms of Makati every Monday (hence, the name they gave to themselves, “The Monday Group”), to discuss  how they could possibly help end the reign of the conjugal dictatorship.

One day in one flash of genius, the group agreed that since the Filipino loves fiestas, they would go the confetti route to mobilize the business community. The idea of organizing confetti rallies proved to be a brilliant one. 

The mobilization of the rallies however took painstaking planning and surreptitious implementation. An organizer for each major building in Makati, specially along the “triangle” formed by Ayala, Paseo de Roxas, and Makati Avenue, had to be located. Sworn to secrecy, the organizers were then tasked to organize and mobilize the employees and, if possible, the employers in the buildings where they worked. 

The instructions to the employees conscripted were simple: “Wait for an explosion (from a big firecracker called bawang that would explode from a building midway up Ayala Avenue), drop confetti (preferably yellow) from your offices, go down from your office buildings and work places, and gather on Ayala Avenue.”

The employees were of course informed that the rallies were meant to protest the assassination of Ninoy, and that they would have an anti-Marcos drift.

Marchers from the greater Makati area and from other parts of Metro Manila were also mobilized to converge on the Ayala “triangle.” In subsequent confetti rallies, known critics of the administration and other personalities from the opposition were also invited to speak to the gathered crowds.

The Monday Group had another stroke of genius when it concluded that it would be difficult to keep the marchers converging in the  Makati “triangle” in place for very long, unless there was a “glue” to hold the crowds. 

The marchers, tired and thirsty after their marches, would tend to drift away at the end of the marches, even with the best of speakers on hand to address the crowds. 

To fill up the “triangle” and to keep the area filled through the working hours, the Monday Group realized that the Makati employees would provide the needed glue. It became clear that committed employees, who were not exhausted by the marches, could stay for the duration of the rallies. For other employees, of course, the confetti rallies provided them the opportunity to play hooky from work.

In fairness, though, many employers and bosses were willing conspirators and participants in the rallies themselves.

In retrospect, none of the rallies during the so called “EDSA 2” had this “glue,” which accounted for why most of the marches of EDSA 2 quickly dissipated after the marchers reached their destination points in Makati.

Employees unite

The plan for the confetti rallies in Makati worked to perfection, far beyond the dreams of the Monday Group. 

The Makati “triangle,” in the first confetti rally that was called for on a specified Friday, exploded in a shower of yellow confetti as large crowds came down from Makati office buildings. It was the start of the business revolt that could not thereafter be stopped. 

In what seemed like a spontaneous combustion, this first confetti rally ignited other regular Friday rallies that lasted and spread until Marcos fled in 1986. 

People who were not part of the original organized rally groups started to join the Makati rallies in droves, thousands at a time. Employees started on their own initiative to cut up their PLDT yellow pages into confetti that was showered over Makati during every rally. 

The anti-Marcos mindset in Makati took on a death-challenging life of its own. Even when Marcos sent in armed Metrocom troops into the triangle the day after the first yellow confetti rally, the employees were not to be deterred. They unilaterally took to the rooftops and rained pickup missiles against the hapless troops. 

When Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut tried to hold his own pro-Marcos rally at the junction of Ayala and Paseo de Roxas, Yabut and his hakot crowds were subjected to much the same treatment as the Metrocom troops from the Makati rooftops. 

Today, the so-called revolt of the business community against the dictatorship is attributed by many to the yellow confetti rallies of Makati.

Until now, the Monday Group has never spoken or written openly about their organizing role in the Makati confetti rallies.

We have preferred to remain faceless for years. But in the face of inaccurate accounts of how the confetti rallies started, the Monday Group have decided to tell the story as it happened. Like everything historical, there comes a time when the true story of these rallies should be shared. 

In September, during the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, I have, on behalf of the Monday Group, decided to share our story. – Rappler.com

Rafael E. Evangelista is a 74-year-old retired capital partner of the international law firm of Baker & Mckenzie. He is currently the consul of the Republic of Lithuania to the Philippines.

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