Almost 54 percent of Filipinos are under the age of 24. They were all born after 1990 and some of them became voters after 1996. By 2016 a big chunk of this group (5-10 million of them) will turn 18 and be eligible to vote as well. This is a new generation calling the political shots now in the Philippines — and they are no longer beholden to the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan, their Yellow colours, ‘Loser’ hand gestures, and hollow emorhetoric. To them, the 1986 EDSA “revolution” is just another boring chapter in their school books that follows the equally theoretical (perhaps a bit more exciting) chapter on the Martial Law years presided over by former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Buried by all the vitriol lobbed by a bunch of middle-aged balding grey-haired Ateneans at their fellow alumni happening to come from this generation who glibly struck an unfortunate pose beside former First Lady Imelda Marcos is the otherwise sensible view that, hey, these kids are entitled to form their own opinion about the political landscape today. The Jesuits did not train them to think for nothin’. I’ll defer to Oscar Franklin Tan who wrote in his Inquirer piece Alienating youth from Edsa…
The members of the Edsa generation must accept that the members of the next are perfectly entitled to form their own opinions regarding Edsa, and will do so whether or not they choose to contribute to this. Their perspective will increasingly be not about what happened but how—or even if—Edsa is relevant to them today, and validly and understandably so. Painful as it might be, they are likewise entitled to reject Edsa as an unfulfilled dream.
Thing is, this elder “Edsa generation” should recall the way things were back in the heady years between 1983 and 1986. As they donned their yellow shirts and waved the Loser salute, they were a force to reckon with — a bunch of kids back then who wouldn’t and couldn’t be told how and what to think by the old farts. Fast forward to today, and they are now the old farts presuming to tell the young guns what to think — that the Martial Law years were eeevvvilll years.
Old farts may take the perceived truth in that notion for granted. The trouble is, they assume that the youth think the same. Unfortunately they don’t. Those who lament how Filipinos have “forgotten” the purported “horrors” of the 1970s and say that the new generation of Filipinos need to be “reminded” of said horrors got it only 5 percent right. There is nothing to “remind” this new generation — because they never lived through the 1970s to begin with. Rather, the concept of the evil of the Martial Law years needs to be sold to them the way a car salesman would — by allowing them to kick the tires and take the product for a test drive.
And so, good luck with that sales pitch. How does the typical Aquino fan convince today’s skeptical kids to even at least have a taste of the Yellow Kool Aid? That’s the challenge faced by the Old Guard who remain loyal to the Aquino-Cojuangco clan today. Thanks to the disaster that was the presidency of Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III (a disaster, that is, specially to all who are deeply-invested in that presidency), stepping up to that challenge has become just short of an impossibility.
It is made specially difficult by the ubiquity of social media today, on which are shared hundreds — even thousands — of photos of the way the Philippines looked back in the 1970s. Images of a country with cities that were leafy and traffic-free, populated by fresh-faced people frolicking in pristine parks form a stark contrast to the dark sooty Gothamesque Metro Manila of the 21st Century and the disaster-scorched barren hinterlands surrounding it populated by a destitute and broken people. Coming from even further back — to the 1950s and 1960s — are images of Filipinos standing proud as they behold the impressive arsenal that equipped what was once one of the mightiest armies in southeast Asia.
Worst of all, what makes it specially difficult for the Philippines’ aging nationalists to encourage Filipinos to salute the national colours with the same dignity and respect that harks back to the 50s, 60s, and 70s, is a Philippine President — BS Aquino himself — who would rather see his people salute his family’s yellow colours than stand up for the ol’ red-white-and-blue.
The tragedy that is “the Philippines”, indeed. It is a national tragedy that will forever come to be regarded as the legacy of the rule of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan and no longer that of the “evil” Martial Law years.