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February 21, 2011

REINERIO ALBA

Emily Abrera, current Chair of the board of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and one of the commissioners of the Edsa People Power Commission (EPPC), gave a talk before the employees of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in Intramuros, Monday, 21 February 2011.

The talk was part of the commemoration of events leading up to Feb. 25, the day that is now officially celebrated in the country as the EDSA People Power anniversary. This year, the title and theme of the celebration is “EDSA 25: Filipino Ako, Ako ang Lakas ng Pagbabago.”

“And to think that people were able to walk up and offer flower in the face of these gigantic metal machine, if you think about it, it is so ephemeral and so poetic a gesture. That is art, is it not? And art in that time could stop army tanks dead in their tracks. Art is more powerful than we think. So the kind of work you are involved with is so powerful,” says Abrera.

Abrera likewise referred to current situations in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, countries which have been under autocratic rule for a much longer time than the Philippines. “In their memory, there is no longer that memory of what it was like to be free. These people are inspired by a movement such as ours. We were the first ever 25 years ago (to have done it) when mobile phones were not even around. And just like what’s been stated in the (EDSA People Power) song, that’s our ‘Handog Ng Filipino sa Mundo’ (gift to the world).”

“We wanted to resurrect this (EDSA) spirit among our youths. We have as our continuing goals exactly that:  making the lessons stick in the light of all the changes that have occurred and all the problems that seemed to have merely changed faces but not gone away. Surely, there must be answers, and clearly, we have to build a more lasting culture of transparency, good governance, and justice. There are questions we need to ask ourselves, and we need to find the answers to: How do we embed these lessons in a nation of 90 million Filipinos and growing? How do we rise above our past? How do we renew our faith in our own ability to effect change amid the daily bombardment of disappointments, deceptions, depressing news and other irritating hurdles.”

In closing, Abrera recited an ecumenical prayer, which she said she was tasked to prepare, and will be delivered on Feb. 25: “Father of all ages / You gave us the discernment to tell right from wrong / The strength of will to change for the better  / The fortitude to surmount challenges  / The perseverance to stay at the back of goodness. / Father,  you gave us the freedom to shape our own destiny / In unity and solidarity / And you sent us the heroes to light our way / 25 years ago, / We showed you Father  that these gifts you generously gave us were not in vain / When we, your people rose as one and in loving trust took our first step towards transformation.”

Later in the program, Abrera joined NCCA Executive Director Malou Jacob in opening the mini exhibit on EDSA 25 at the NCCA lobby. The exhibit highlighted newspaper clippings on Ninoy Aquino, the events leading up to the end of the 20-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos, including images of the People Power phenomenon in the country in 1986.  
 
Abrera is part of the now seven-man team of commissioners sworn into office by President Benigno Aquino III on Feb. 3.  The other members of the Commission include its chairman, Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, Jr. , former Trade Secretary Jose Pardo, actor-singer-composer Ogie Alcasid, Milagros Kilayko, Christopher Carrion, and former Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) chair Cesar Sarino.

Executive Order No. 82. (s. 1999) created the EDSA People Power Commission to institutionalize the legacy of the EDSA People Power Revolution. As a dedicated organization, the EPPC is tasked to institute activities and concerted action that will serve to enshrine EDSA People Power as a continuing and permanent source of inspiration for future generations.

On December 22, 2010, President Aquino issued Executive Order No. 17, which streamlines the role of the commission and whittled down the number of its members from 25 to just seven. EDSA People Power has become a historic uprising in February 1986 that toppled the decades-old Marcos regime and catapulted Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the President’s mother, to the presidency that time.

The NCCA also participated in the YesPinoy Foundation’s EDSA anniversary celebration titled “Expo 2011 for EDSA Babies” last Feb. 23, 2011 at SM North Skydome, EDSA. YesPinoy is an advocacy championed by its founding Chair, Jose Sixto “Dingdong” Dantes, who is also NCCA’s current Youth Ambassador in connection with the celebration of the Philippine International Arts Festival 2011.

Go to video of Emily Abrera’s speech.