My 3-year-old daughter recently asked me “What is People Power?” and quickly followed by another question–“why don’t we have class on Friday?” I am in awe that my child is so inquisitive about so many things. 

To be honest, it took me some time to think of a simple answer. Would it even be possible to just simplify the complexity and depth of that historical event? It got me thinking about how we would explain the People Power uprising to the younger generation. 

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It is a timely question. We have at least three generations now who didn’t live through the horrors of martial law. The challenge, however, is to ensure that they know about the tyrants and the suffering they have brought on to the people.  

On February 25, 2022, the Filipino people will commemorate the 36th anniversary of the People Power Uprising that led to the overthrow of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This year is critical for the Southeast Asia country more than ever as Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Marcos, runs for the Presidential seat in the upcoming Philippine national elections. 

Yes, the Marcoses are back and they are desperate for power. 

On top of that is the alarming amount of noise and disinformation peddled in the Philippine cyberspace during the electoral campaign. Recipients of these lies and vitriol are the youth, with social media emerging as the main source of information in the country. 

In a 2020 study, 94% of 18-29-year-old Filipinos use online social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and others. These very platforms are bombarded with manufactured stories of the dictator’s heroism and legacies to where it appears organic and untraceable to the Marcoses themselves. 

Despite massive literature and verifiable sources on the Marcos atrocities, a different version of history has permeated both online and offline platforms and no amount of parental control on my child’s devices can change that. 

The possibility of another Marcos going back to power is very real. It is as real as our tireless task of educating the youth of our own People Power which now serves as a testament for millions that the people united can stand up against tyrants and for democracy.

Inspired other movements

I remember all the stories of my relatives and older friends about the four-day-long protests along the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, popularly known as EDSA. Their stories vividly described how the Filipino people from different walks of life gathered despite the threats of bloody dispersal to put an end to the decades of oppression and abuses perpetrated by the dictatorship.

Not until recently did I realize how that moment inspired the movements across the region to launch a series of uprisings against authoritarian regimes.

Two years later, the uprising was followed by another historical movement led by Burmese students and former political prisoners who held demonstrations against the Military junta which led to the “8888 Uprising” that marked as one of the largest civil resistances that happened in Burmese history.

More than a decade after, Suharto, the President of Indonesia was overthrown from his position in May 1998 after a series of protests demanding his removal and calls for a new President.

In the 2000s, people-powered movements such as the Hongkong Umbrella Movement and anti-government protests in Thailand emerged and continue to inspire movements in the region and across the globe.

People’s power as a political weapon

To this day, the anniversary of the People Power uprising has been a venue for civil society and people’s organizations to remember its essence–that as long as there are tyrants, poverty, human rights violations, and state repression, the fight continues. 

Democracy means not only the exercise of the people’s right to vote. It does not end there. History showed us that for democracy to be fully realized, we have to defend it and, most times, fight, even die for it. 

It comes as demonstrations in the streets and symbolic acts of resistance. It comes in organizing, empowering ourselves, and linking arms with the broadest masses. Moreso, demonstrations as seen in people power movements are legitimate exercises, a political weapon of asserting our demands or as history shows–a means to overthrow oppressive leaders.

Now, as I look at my daughter, who is still and waiting for an answer, I tell her: “People Power is when Filipinos learned to say ‘no.’ No more hurting, no more bad people. It is a time when the Filipino people became their own superhero against an enemy by the name of Marcos. And they won the battle.” 

She may not fully grasp everything today, but I know, I just know that one day she will. Who knows, she’ll even be one of those superheroes.#

Alex Enano is a mother, a development worker, and currently part of the Asia Pacific Research Network secretariat.