Monday, February 28, 2011

People power and generosity

The extraordinary acts of ordinary people are among the lasting treasures I have of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

Inspired by the brave women and men who heeded Cardinal Sin's call to EDSA, we (in the provinces who were away from the action) felt we still could respond and bridge the distance through solidarity.

Days before February 25, 1986, leaders from various sectors in Cebu echoed the appeal for support for those who were congregating at EDSA. We at the Namfrel provincial office offered to receive  donations as fellow volunteer, Marilou Chiongbian, offered their ships to bring whatever goods were collected to Manila.

Donations and commitments were aplenty and came in various forms. Business organizations and individuals gave food, water, medicines, and even sleeping mats and blankets. Others handed in cheques. Volunteers, like me, were tasked to receive the donations and issue receipts. It was so inspiring to witness such outpouring of generosity.

During my shift ordinary individuals would walk up to my desk, dip into their pockets and gave whatever money they had saying, "para ni sa mga tu-a sa EDSA" (for those who are at EDSA). "Daghan kaayong salamat noy/nang" (thank you very much sir/ma'am), would be my reply. Holding a few bills and sometimes just coins in my hand, I would ask for their names for the record. But in humility, they would say that it is not important and a receipt would not be necessary. They would turn around and walk away – in anonymity, and little aware that each of their small individual acts was fuel for the unfolding revolution.

While that which they had given may have been little in amount, it was undoubtedly large in import and in significance. I can only surmise what they had to forego to be able to offer what seemed like the little that they had with them. The powerful memory of those generous acts, the humility under which they were offered, and sacrifice along with anonymity have never left me. I was so moved; ever in gratitude to have witnessed these inspiring acts of humanness.

Unconditional giving from multitudes kindled the spirit of people power, not just by those during EDSA, but also by those who came before. Their selfless giving and sacrifice made EDSA the counteroffer in order to achieve the long sought liberation and win against oppression, greed and tyranny of those who started out as shepherds of the Filipino nation.

It is 25 years after EDSA but still the fight against the large and widening gap between the rich and the poor, and abject poverty and the denial of opportunities for quality life for many, seems insurmountable.  But I believe that the spirit of people power still lives; and the only way to win over the forces of greed and inequality is still through individual generosity.

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