It was an outrage, a fire that burned in her and grew into a bigger flame after she read a post of her friend, Itos Rapadas, in facebook. She then took it upon herself to spearhead something for all of us, Filipinos. This is what we now know as the ‘Million People March’.
Calls on divulging names of the organizers for this protest began to stir into big ripples. The pressure was on: “Who are they?” “We need to know.” “May karapatan kaming malaman kung sino nag umpisa nito. Ba’t nyo ba tinatago?” The comments continued. She was a big secret. People insisted, until finally it was told. She put a post on the page for the march and revealed herself. Peachy Rallonza-Bretana was her name.
Peachy, just like many of us, was disheartened, disappointed, and frustrated with the behavior of many of our public officials. Just like many of us, felt wounded and betrayed by lawmakers who did not serve us but made us serve them using our tax money. It was then that, I believe, she created her cry to all of us: a simple heed, a simple plea; and we responded. But now knowing that she was someone just like us, a regular citizen who bleeds for the country, we changed the mechanics of this gathering: “Organize yourself.”
The day was fast approaching. Facebook announcements and reroutes were given. A lot of Filipinos helped fellow Filipinos in information on what to do, where to pass, and what to wear. Since we were all organizers, we were all moving to make this gathering a success: A post on a call for artists, poets, musicians to volunteer their talent; another one reminding people to bring their water and food; other posts on making sure that we go and be heard. It was a flood of different concerns for this one day. And so we all went.
August 26, 2013: the day of the march. It started at 9:00am, but there were those who came earlier. I was with my mother and sister, met a friend or two, and stayed with family members. I then walked around to see how things were, how things worked. It was a different kind of rally. People worked in patches. In one corner was a group from Baguio with their ethnic instruments. There was another with their walis tingting shouting, “Walisin ang korupsyon! Linisin ang bayan!” There were the bikers. There were the nuns, indigenous people, and school faculty. There were students with their drums and tambourine that made people dance as they crowded around them. There were the reds shouting their messages. And there were people like me, who walked around to get the feel of the whole event.
Everyone was free to do their own thing. The religious people prayed, while others made sure they brought food and banig for the picnic. Somewhat like the main stage, a little corner at the Luneta park was where we did our ‘oink’ sound. It was where Cardinal Tagle made us sing Pananagutan, a song with a very strong message, and it was where we applauded ourselves for being Filipino. We were all one with the fight to abolish pork. We were all one with the call for transparency and accountability.
As I continued to walk around, I realized that we have created again a new definition of protest. Just like the term peaceful, in many minds of people, could have never become an adjective for revolution, yet we defied that idea and showed the whole world that it could be done. This time, we recreated the definition of a protest one more time. We showed each other that we can be individuals, we can be different, but then stand as one. We went to gather with fellow Filipinos and express our woes in the way we wanted to express them, and yet we stood as one. We had different approaches, different ideas, maybe different colors—anti PNoy, Pro PNoy, abstain-the-stand on PNoy—we came from various understandings on what is happening to our country; and yet…we stood as one. We were all organizers to this event. Therefore we were free to do what we wanted to do in this event, but we chose to stand as one people, one country with one cause. We were willing to set aside the differences and work together as one. And as organizers, we even left Luneta park clean. We became responsible for our own trash.
And with this realization I say, let us continue to be organizers of this country, the way we expressed it on this historical day. Let us be vigilant on the activities of our government officials. Let us continue to monitor them and make our voices heard—may it be through social networking, or in the next gathering if need be. This will not be the end of this, for this is just the beginning.
Peachy, as I see it, represented all of us. This gathering was not done by a group of any sort. It was started by one. So this was the power of one voice that snowballed. And because we knew she was one, we had to take responsibility.
So as I finish this, I would like to say: It is time. Organize yourself.
Our beloved Philippines is our responsibility.
Mabuhay tayong lahat. Mabuhay ang Pilipino. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.
Songs sung in the Million People March
Kawatan by Jograd de la Torre