I clearly remember that morning, seven years ago from today, when our professors told us that we’re not required to attend classes.
We can get on the DLSU bus, which comes and goes every hour and a half, bringing students and teachers to La Salle Greenhills, from where we walked short of a kilometer to the EDSA Shrine. It was 11 AM; the sun was scorching hot, and only a few hundred people, in groups of 10 or so, where hiding in the shade provided by the imposing EDSA-Ortigas flyover. Many of the other participants were having lunch; we have had ours at the “flying kaldero”-shaped canteen of LSGH. Before leaving the campus we had a glimpse of the President speaking of snap elections. We practically ignored it and went to the shrine.
The feeling was electrifying: two nights before I had come from the protest march at Mendiola. We assembled at Liwasang Bonifacio prior to that, where Teofisto Guingona gave his speech calling on the President to resign. I was confident nothing bad would happen, and nothing bad did: the daughter of no less than the PNP chief Edgardo Aglipay was an officer of the DLSU Student Council and was part of the protest crowd.
He knew — and he wouldn’t let anything go out of hand.
All of this had started earlier that week: everyone was spending too much time at the library where a TV was set up tuned to the impeachment proceedings. For many, it was just another telenovela until, without warning, Tessie did her dance number. It all went downhill after that.
So there we were, under the curve of the causeway that turns left from EDSA into Ortigas Ave., just waiting things out. I was greeting familiar faces from other universities — usually high school batch mates who went to ADMU or UP. Someone called my attention and pointed towards the north: just beyond the MRT rails the horizon was filled with banners and placards, in red, white, black, and blue. “Erap Resign”. That was the fever. People were up on the flyover now, hanging house-sized banners from the railings.
I regret I didn’t bring my Canon SLR then. The way the wind sways them, the light the slowly setting sun casts on the banners, the photographs would have been fantastic.
A few hours more and the area surrounding the shrine was overflowing with people, an unlikely combination of students, yuppies, and militants. A Cessna was flying by at around 250 ft. pulling an “Erap Resign” banner, people gave more notice and cheered to the chopper that took off from the nearby Ortigas Center helipad, sporting a neon orange mask-taped-on “Erap Resign” message at its side.
People were euphoric: even the flyovers were filled to the brim by 4 pm. Then the news came: AFP Chief Angelo Reyes has withdrawn support from Estrada. That was the reason for the snap elections message we saw earlier. The crowd cheered in unison when Reyes came on stage.
It was getting dark by the time Reyes finished his speech. Text messages filled my phone; my parents asking me where I was, and wondering if they should even try going to Ortigas. I told them it might already be too late in the day, and I was headed back. A friend accompanied me on the way back to MRT Ortigas station. But even as we were boarding the train, people were alighting in droves in either side of the station. “Erap resign! Erap resign!” they started chanting as they exited the trains.
I stayed home the day after, watched everything else in TV. I wonder if I would’ve been seen on TV with ABS-CBN’s swinging boom cam.
In the years that followed, especially when EDSA Tres came about and Gloria lost her popularity — what could have happened? What would have happened if Estrada finished his term? What would have happened if he was properly impeached? What would have happened if we had stuck with the institutions?
I still wonder to this day.
And I still regret not being able to bring the Canon.