EDSA-3: a resolution of the unfinished business of 1898



The following is a brief account of the popular revolt that installed the revolutionary government in the Philippines.

The “sitting” president was swept into power by a popular vote on strength of a campaign promise to eradicate corruption and poverty in the country.  A year into his presidency, it became evident to many that he was incompetent to govern, indecisive as a leader and without a coherent vision for the country. 

Ironically, corruption in government and poverty both worsened during his watch.  His opposite position on a number of family-related issues also earned him the displeasure of the Catholic church. 

A year more of worsening living conditions for most Filipinos and the country was again ripe for social unrest.

It started as no more than a Friday get together dinner by a motley band of ageing ideologues — all “first quarter stormers” and survivors of martial law — at the function room of a beer joint in Quezon City.  This so-called “gathering of the tribes”  was hosted by Hermis of a Makati business group.

They reminisced the socially convulsive ’60s and talked of missed opportunities in 1986 and 2001.  Bart, the “mountain man“, commented that it would take twenty years of continuous economic growth and political stability to get this country out of the rot, but our system of electing a new president every six years prevents it from ever happening.  Ray proposed that we amend the constitution and shift to parliamentary system where a good government can be returned to power repeatedly and successively.  “Assuming it can be done at all,” Charles cautioned, “our well-entrenched politicians will simply change title from Congressman or Senator to MP (member of parliament), and we will be right back where we started.”  A heated but lively exchange of ideas ensued, with each one straining hard to be heard.

“What this country needs is a revolutionary government!”, Pinggoy, the “project man“, shouted through the din of urguments.  “Kuu ayan ka na naman“, Girlie quipped, “tumigil ka na, tingnan mo nangyari sa pagpasimuno mo sa pagpatalsik kay Erap lalo tayong napasama!”  The small function room reverberated with laughter and jokes, but Pinggoy was unperturbed:  “No I’m serious, let’s do the story right this time.”

Three Fridays later, the ideologues were joined by two newspaper columnists and three urban poor leaders.  Pepe, a former government official, joined the round table discussion later and rehearsed his “strong state versus soft state” dictum.  The two columnists did not say much throughout the evening, content on making notes and occasional word with Pinggoy who was seated beside them.  Pinggoy and Hermis took turn in sketching what ought to be done.  For his part, Pepe promised to consult with the “old man” and touch base with his network of miitary and police officers.

A group of urban poor and transport workers pitched camp at the people power monument along EDSA on a Friday morning and demanded the resignation of the president for incompetence, corruption and betrayal of public trust.  A few curious motorists slowed down, causing a traffic jam.  Pete, the leader of the demonstrators, urged motorists and passersby to join their cause.  

At noon a large group of students and farmers on jeepneys and buses arrived and joined the demonstrators.  The two columnists could be seen in a huddle with radio and TV reporters covering the lightning demonstration. 

Anti-riot policemen were later dispatched to the scene by the Quezon City police district but kept their distance from the demonstrators while awaiting further instructions from their superiors.

Meanwhile, Pepe and Pinggoy were plotting their moves with several military and police officers at the living quarters of an army general in nearby Camp Aguinaldo.  Girlie and Bing occupied the dining area with their team of “tweeters” and “texters”. 

Around this time, Dan, the “Amboy“, and Charles were on their way to Roxas Boulevard for a clandestine meeting with a top foreign embassy official, and Max, the “Jesuit“, was knocking at the door of the Archbishop’s palace.  The details of their missions were never revealed in public to this day.

In the evening, as the news of the unrest spread through the metropolis, thousands of people trooped to EDSA and joined the demonstrators.

On the second day of the unrest, a makeshift stage was set up by the demonstrators atop a flatbed truck and hastily wired with a sound system.  Prominent opposition personalities took turn in denouncing the president and urging the crowd to remain steadfast.  Popular local entertainers performed songs and dances to the delight of the frenzied crowd.

“Texting” was the preferred tool for mobilizing people, as in EDSA-2.  “Go 2 edsa wer ol hir” was the common clarion call to action.  And people flocked to EDSA in droves, carrying all sorts and colors of banners and placards and lending the mass demonstration with a festive, carnival-like atmosphere.  By the day’s end more than a hundred thousand people had jammed EDSA.

Speaking through the influential CBCP, the Catholic Church called on both the demonstrators and the president to exercise prudence and utmost restraint in resolving the brewing social revolt.  The US government, through its embassy in Manila, echoed the CBCP’s call and issued a travel alert to all its citizens in the Philippines.  (It should be mentioned here that during this time, the US government was too tied down by its floundering economy and protracted wars in the Middle East to do any “mischief” in the Philippines.) 

Suddenly, the Philippines was again on the radar screen of international news networks, broadcasting and printing developments of the event as they unfolded.  Senior international correspondents from CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera flew in to Manila and beamed their live coverage of the event to the world with a brief primer on EDSA-1 and -2. 

The third day of what was by now a full blown popular revolt dawned with a belated and futile attempt by Malacañang to contain, if not disperse, the mammoth crowd with a large composite contingent of police and military forces.  By this time however, the peaceful revolt had already achieved a “critical mass” across the country. 

In the afternoon, Ray announced from the stage that the top officers of the AFP and the PNP withdrew their support from the president and were coming to join the revolt.  The news was met with thunderous cheers and chants of “game over, resign, resign, resign …!” 

The defection of the military and the neutral stance exhibited by both the Catholic church and the US government were, as they say, “the last nails in the coffin” for the president.  A bloodless popular revolt has succeeded in taking down an inept and corrupt government.

A visibly haggard-looking president interrupted radio and TV broadcasts early in the evening and addressed the nation.  He was cut off the air in the middle of his address and whisked to a waiting military chopper by an air force general for an undisclosed destination.  Not long after, a small group of men and women with unfamiliar faces in civilian clothes appeared on TV and declared themselves as the caretaker of the new revolutionary government. 

The preceding narrative is a fiction, but its main characters, except for their names, are real people.

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 14 May 2011

Related images of the 1898 Philippine Revolution

Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan, a secessionist movement whose goal was independence from Spanish colonial rule through armed struggle.

Apolinario Mabini, the so-called “Brains of the 1898 Philippine Revolution” and the first Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Philippines.

Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines whose insidious novels and execution by the Spanish authorities in the Philippines have inflamed the 1898 Philippine Revolution. 

Emilio Aguinaldo, revolutionary leader and first president of the Philippines.




Leaders of the Philippine Reform Movement in Spain (L-R):  Jose Rizal, Marcelo Del Pilar and Mariano Ponce.




Group photo of Filipino Illustrados (enlightened ones) in Madrid.

The execution of Jose Rizal by the Spanish colonial authorities in the Philippines at then Bagumbayan field (now Rizal National Park). 


1899 Revolutionary Congress at the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan.

A company of Filipino revolutionary soldiers.

Filipino army officers during the period of the 1898 Philippine Revolution. 


1898 image of Malacañang Palace