My country can’t become a better place.
That was what I thought before that battle happened.
Decades ago, I was within a slowly flowing river of people. It was a sea tinted with many spots of yellow. I had a spot of yellow on me as well, but I only wore that color because I did not want to cause more trouble for my parents.
The sun was sickening during that day.
I was not interested in joining that sea of people during that wild but festive February day. After all, the history and present of my country was filled with defeats, division, and dictatorship. I could not see how this little archipelago in some corner of Asia would be able to get out of its shameful pile of sins.
And so, with thinly masked reluctance, I moved in circles. I looked at various directions as my ears took the sound of calm prayers and cheery songs, which I honestly didn’t tune out completely. Combined with the scenes of yellow-spotted people trying to fight without violence, the long and wide road was surprisingly interesting and calming.
Still, I felt fear. What if a soldier fired at one of the civilians? What if one of the civilians lost their cool and unleashed violence on one of the soldiers? What if this attempt at a revolution failed?
Chaos reigned again in my heart as I flowed along with the slow river of people. Left, right, up, down…my gaze moved to various directions as hope and despair clashed inside me. The prayers and songs were becoming unclear in my ears, while the scenery was becoming blurry in my eyes, but their clarity did not vanish completely.
Suddenly, I realized something while my eyes and ears caught clear fragments of hopeful sights.
I guess I’m not as cynical as I imagine myself to be.
Honestly, I found it hard to believe that I thought that back then.
A few moments after that hopeful thought presented itself in my mind, my fears started flooding my mind again.
There were tanks, and tanks were bad news.
I immediately tried to erase that one hopeful thought of mine when I saw the soldiers and their tanks and armored vans. With what I have known about the fellow Filipinos that I have met, it never ended peacefully. Someone would shoot. Someone would shoot back when shot. Blood will be inevitably spilled, even if many people fought without violence.
I began to think of going back to where my family was, but then I realized that I was within a river of people and that I forgot the exact location of my parents and siblings. I didn’t want to go through the trouble of pushing through people, so I decided to face forward, toward the tanks and armored vans that were standing in the river’s way.
As I anxiously waited, I slowly realized that I was hungry for hope.
The fear of the revolution failing filled my heart, yes, but still, my eyes and ears searched and took all the hopeful things that it could sense in the surroundings, consuming them all like a street kid who had not eaten for many days. Soldiers shouted orders to the crowd, but the civilians faced towards the opposition and kept their hold on each other’s arms, while nuns knelt with their rosaries in front of the armed metal giants and prayed.
It was an amazing sight. It was surprisingly awesome. In all those stories that I have known back then, attempts like this never ended peacefully. Despite the fears that were eating my heart, I was still amazed.
I guess I’m hungry for hope.
I began to stop erasing my hopeful thoughts when I thought that. All that time, I thought that hope wouldn’t come, but I still kept on hoping. I kept on hoping as the revolutionaries peacefully stood in the soldiers’ way for what seemed to be an eternity.
And what happened next surprised me again.
The soldiers retreated.
No shots were fired.
The voice of a broadcaster from Radio Veritas and the voices of the steadfast civilians…they suddenly became clearer.
The events were so surprising that I ended up crying quietly.
The sun suddenly became relieving while I cried.
Of all of my memories of those February days, that battle…that battle where no one died…that battle where no blood was spilled…that was the memory that I remembered the most.
That memory was what kept me going through life.
That memory was what led me to industriously helping my country get out of its shameful pile of sins, where it buries itself in again today.
That memory is what keeps me moving under the sun that sickened and relieved me at the same time.
That memory is what enabled me to confidently say…
My country can become a better place.