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Philippines’ 1986 People Power Revolution

October 15, 2012

Time magazine's 1986 "Woman of the Year," Corazon Aquino of the Philippines

How exceptional that Benigno Aquino III is the Filipino president who’s had a hand in brokering a peace deal with his country’s Muslim rebels. The deal sets parameters for the peaceful establishment of an autonomous Muslim region in Southern Philippines to be called Bangsamoro. “We are men and leaders who want to make a difference and we have decided the time has come for us to choose the moral high ground,” stated Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia, whose country helped broker the deal. Thus the constituent signers of the preliminary peace pact are signaling the end to 40 years of violence resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands. (1)

This brings to mind the 1986 Philippines coup. The amazing People Power Revolution as represented by a pious Roman Catholic widow named Corazon Aquino — the current president’s mother (now deceased). It was an astonishing, thrilling, demonstration of peaceful struggle. A seven-part program of non-violent resistance called for by Corazon Aquino when she was defrauded out of her presidential-election win by the corrupt incumbent, Ferdinand Marcos.

So the People Power Revolution was waged with rosaries and flowers. “A whole country up in flowers,” Time magazine said. (2) After only four days, the people were victorious. And Corazon — or Cory as we called her — Aquino was the first democratically elected president since Ferdinand Marcos’s 20-year dictatorial reign started in 1965 (really 1972 by the time he’d consolidated his power base).

Meanwhile, Ferdinand and his shoe-loving wife, Imelda, skulked across the Pasig river and were taken by U.S. helicopters to Clark Air Base where they caught a U.S. Air Force plane to Guam. The Marcos eventually settled in Hawaii with all their ill-gotten gains. Though Imelda had to leave most of her 2,700 pairs of shoes behind. And Ferdinand Marcos lived only three more years until his September 28, 1989, death. (3)

But during those uncertain four days in February 1986, we American Roman Catholics prayed our rosaries to the nub, practically substituting “Hail Cory” for “Hail Mary.” Morning and night.

In the Philippines, tens of thousands of people stopped tanks in their tracks by proffering candy and cigarettes to soldiers inside. They hugged. Nuns armed only with rosaries knelt in front of oncoming tanks. The tanks turned around.

A priest led thousands in the “Lord’s Prayer” when troops arrived to retake a state television station that had been commandeered by a group of citizens. People outside in the vast crowd who’d come to protect these “rebels” began to shake loyalist soldiers’ hands. Sharing McDonalds’s hamburgers, doughnuts and orange soda with them. The troops withdrew. (4)

It’s been observed that Marcos made a mistake by not airing the funeral of Corazon Aquino’s husband, Benigno Aquino II — a hugely popular contender for the presidency. He was shot dead on the tarmac of the Manila international airport upon his return after three years of exile. Marcos was somehow suspected in the assassination. (5)

With no television or screens of any kind to transfix or lull them into a stupor, millions of Filipinos lined the streets of the funeral procession. That was the start in 1983. Millions more crammed the streets after the shady 1986 election in which Marcos was declared the victor. (6)

Not a Facebook Revolution or a Twitter Revolution, but a People Power Revolution.

Did saying the rosary help from thousands of miles away? At very least, perhaps Filipinos did derive the strength they needed just from knowing that we were watching and praying for them.


1. Associated Press in Manila. “Philippines brokers peace deal with Muslim rebels.” The Guardian. October 15, 2012. Retrieved from

2. Chua-Eoan, Howard. “People Power’s Philippine Saint: Corazon Aquino.” Time Magazine World. August 1, 2009. Retrieved on October 15, 2012 from,9171,1914971-2,00.html

3. Retrieved on October 15, 2012 from

4. “People power in the Philippines.” Retrieved on October 15, 2012 from

5. ibid.

6. ibid.


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