And it was all yellow

It used to be just another holiday marked in our school calendars and I barely knew much about it, with its tale taking up only a third of a page of my age-old Philippine history book, but the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution was actually a huge deal. And who knew that one day I'd find myself working for a Commission whose sole purpose is to celebrate the said shiniest event in our country's recent past which toppled down a ruthless, decades-long dictatorship. Let's blame it on the generation gap or that Hekasi was never my favorite as well as strongest subject (obviously) and leave it at that...

Naturally, the anniversary commemorations are even bigger deals, grander than the one before, as the Commission wishes to rekindle the Filipinos' love for country as well as remind them of the same celebratory spirit they once had after they rose above the dark days some twenty plus years ago. They've done this every year, with a little tweaking added to the same template, same formula. We were made, I thought. We've got it all covered. Before we knew it, it was already February and we were ready.

But 2013 and its major tragedies was the ultimate gamechanger that upon much consultation, the President himself found it best to revamp the usual plans entirely. And with only five days to prepare, and, not to mention, cancel/redirect all those guest invitations and press releases of the pre-set plans already sent out, we were faced with a challenge larger than all our own personal problems combined. But we were up for it anyway!

EDSA 28 was definitely something else. With the theme "Kapit-Bisig Tungo sa Pagbangon," the Commission broke away from its traditional celebration at the monument located along the thoroughfare and looked beyond the historical event in order to recognize the people who have quietly kept the spirit of People Power alive by standing by their fellow Filipino in times of greatest need.

For the anniversary celebration proper, we prepared programs for the President's inspection of recovery projects after the said calamities and also organized town hall meetings where survivors/beneficiaries share their experiences then gratitude to the several agencies that has somehow helped them get through the setbacks. Our office was divided into teams composed of a project officer, writer, videographer, and mobilization officer and these subgroups were sent to the provinces affected by the recent disasters, including Typhoons Pablo, Santi, and Agaton: Cateel in Davao Oriental, Loon in Bohol, Bantayan Island in Cebu, Tacloban and Tanauan in Leyte, and Guiuan in Easter Samar.

By some act of fate (or through the hand of "God" aka our boss), I was assigned as the writer/project officer in Cateel AND Guiuan. Getting from Manila to one place then  the other was a rather long process involving long flights and even longer road trips. It includes a two-hour flight from Manila to Davao City and a six-hour drive from Davao City to Cateel. Then immediately after our opening ceremonies there, we were back on the winding and zigzag roads and made it to Davao City in only four hours instead of six, thanks to our daredevil driver. We had to rush back because we had to catch our hour-long flight to Cebu (as there are no direct flights to Guiuan or any point in that region from Davao). In Cebu we spent a mere seven hours for a quick shuteye and geared up for our flight to Tacloban, Leyte. I left my teammate to her new assignment then barely slept through the four-hour land trip to Guiuan. What a way to get baptized into the business, eh? I'm just thankful I made it out alive, whatever happened to the events we organized!

A couple of memories need noted: an 11pm initial coordination meeting with such a hardworking and caring governor in their version of the White House; still found the time to do a little side trip at the interesting Subangan, the Davao Oriental Provincial Museum; so much grace while all hands on deck and working under extreme pressure, i.e. shortlisting, briefing, and rehearsing with beneficiaries who will share their survival and success stories to the guests of honor as well as writing, continuously editing, and finally printing scripts and sequence guides; finally seeing Mr. President and his cabinet members up close; the lovely Cebu in what feels like a split-second and my 4am Crave Burger craving; arriving in the Yolanda-ravaged Tacloban and the rest of Leyte and Eastern Samar; and the heartbreaking cancellation of our Guiuan event, the supposed final leg of the provincial visits, due to bad weather conditions.

It's sad I missed out on all the other segments of our event, especially the main celebration with the flagraising ceremony and Salubungan reenactment in the Cebu Capitol. But, you know, I'm glad to be of service wherever and whenever I'm called for. There's a place and time for everything. We left a team in Manila for the wreathlaying ceremony and when we got back, we still had to pull through with our youth workshop and the musical the participants were staging after in partnership with an international band, conduct a comprehensive post-mortem meeting over delicious Filipino dishes all afternoon, and finish off with an fun, educational fiesta party for a thousand streetchildren for two consecutive Sundays.

Bias aside, I think it all went great and was more meaningful to most, especially to me. In our attempt to share this piece of history to the rest of the country and the world, we made history ourselves. As I drafted the thank you letters we sent out to those who, in one way or another, extended assistance in making EDSA 28 a resounding success, I can't help but shed a tear or two. It was quite an experience and I wouldn't have traded it for anything else. I have grown in just a matter of five days in the field, albeit still all over the place, multitasking as always. An emotional, mental, and physical high I will look forward to again next year, for sure. I too am celebrating deep inside. Finally, I now understand it all.

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