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REMEMBERING: The Silent Majority breaks its silence


In the run-up to the 35th anniversary of People Power that ousted the Marcos dictatorship, let us remember what Mindanawons did to fight for freedom.
This piece by Fr. Rudy A. Malasmas on the birth of the Yellow Friday Movement in Davao City was among the essays featured in the book ‘Turning Rage Into Courage: Mindanao under Martial Law,’ published by MindaNews in 2002, on the 30th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos.

Malasmas passed away on July 11, 2010). 

The year 1985 was crucial and memorable. The whole country and the people lived under a dark cloud of torment under the Marcos one-man rule. Mass arrests, jails bulging with political prisoners, economic plunder by the dictator and his cronies, murders, disappearances, a military corrupted into compliance against a helpless population, living ever in fear, caught in the crossfire between the dictator’s’ military and the avenging killer sparrows etc.

When would all these end? 

Then it happened. Ninoy Aquino, the people’s champion against the oppressor, was shot dead by Marcos soldiers. That bullet shot awakened the whole archipelago. I, for one, managing the Ateneo de Davao Grade School and High School, had lain quiet in the attitude that provided the dictatorship did not disturb the school, I’d keep ensconced in myself. But the bloodied corpse on the tarmac woke me up. I had known Ninoy at the Ateneo de Manila. Enough was enough. I would rise up in anger. I would have my feeble voice heard.

Up until then, the protesters in Davao had been the reds, the leftists. They marched in angry platoons, men and women waving red flags. Some friends and I had a strong feeling, a perception that thousands out there were angry, too. But they, like us, were not reds, were against a shooting war. This was the horde, the mas of the SILENT MAJORITY, seething with anger but not organized, leaderless.

We would rouse them, draw them out of their homes and into the streets, men and women, young and old to shout imprecations at the dictator’s evil empire. 

Under the leadership of Atty. Jesus Ayala, a few of us organized a mini-motorcade of six vehicles sporting yellow banners and ribbons, the color of Ninoy. Three to start at Bankerohan – three at Magsaysay Park. At the stroke of 5 p.m. when people were pouring out of offices to go home – our vehicles moved slowly across Davao, honking our noisy horns, calling the attention of one and all to our silent message: “We are not communists. We are angry, too. Come join us.” To our joyful surprise, our vehicles honking horns were joined by the jeepneys along the route and the noise barrage was music to our ears. Thus was born the YELLOW FIRDAY MOVEMENT of Davao.

After the initial motorcade which ended at Rizal Park, dozens of vehicles converged and people were asking us: “When is the net motorcade? We’ll join.” The following Friday, vehicles swelled in numbers – the mood became festive. Friday after Friday, with buildings along Claveria and San Pedro raining torrents of confetti. 

The Silent Majority had broken its silence. 

From yellow noisy motorcades, the silent majority (professionals, laboring men and women, fisherfolk, religious) mustered enough courage to leave the relative safety of motorcades, to foot marches and rallies – painting the streets of Davao yellow – all in a bloodless show of force. In no time, the sea of yellow engulfed the red. 

Another surprise: Even Macros’ military now flashed the Laban hand sign. 

The yellow spread to Tagum, Digos, Mati, Panabo, Toril – keeping up the pressure – until the day Ramos and Enrile and Honasan signaled a mutiny and were caught. 

The rest is history. 

(I end on a personal note: I, a Jesuit Priest, parading in yellow, used myself as a bait to attract the silent majority to come out from the safety of their homes and make their shouts heard in the fight for freedom. Freedom from our local oppressors).

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