Monday, August 26, 2013

One with a million marchers on National Heroes Day

Following is a series of dispatches that I sent via SMS to Yvonne Chua and Avigail Olarte of Vera Files. These were originally posted on Vera Files' Facebook Timeline along with the other spot reports and photos of their correspondents and contributors as these came in. I just took a handful of photos because I was too busy composing intelligible dispatches without making those awful abbreviations ("2" for "to" and the like). Thank goodness for a QWERTY keyboard.

Gone are the days when you had to find a phone to call in and dictate your story to a newsroom deskperson. Said deskperson typed up the report, cleaned up the copy, sent it to the typesetting department, the galleys laid out by the stripping department, etc. Reports were read in hard copy (newspaper broadsheet or tabloid--remember those?) the next morning.

There was no command post. At one point when my feet were aching, I wished there was a temporary post set up at a Manila Hotel room where I could take five, then resume my role as eyewitness-participant. In my dreams, indeed. We worked from wherever we found ourselves while Yvonne and Avigail, receiving the reports and images at separate sites, processed these very swiftly and uploaded directly to Facebook and their website www.verafiles.org. Thank you, Ellen Tordesillas, Yvonne and Avigail, for acknowledging the effort behind my small reports and letting me do what I love to do--be a reporter for another day.


Traffic along EDSA was so light that vehicles from EDSA-Shaw Blvd. enabled some marchers to reach Roxas Blvd.-Pasay Rotunda in just 15 minutes by cab. 

Taxi driver Rodel Bolivar, father of five, said, "Duty ako 24 hours, pero nakikiisa ako. Tingin ko pinaghati-hati ang pera natin ng mga mambabatas, nilulustay, kaya marami silang pera. Kung malabo na, kaya na nilang mag-ibang bansa, magtago sa isa sa marami nilang bahay. Kung di sko duty, sasama na ako." 

Olivar added, "Yung pera natin, di na makukuha. Yung mga pulitiko, sinabihan na si Janet Napoles, kubrador lang nila, dito ka magtago sa resthouse ko. Alam nung mga senador kung paano itago yung pera natin, pati na yung para sa kalamidad. Sino ba di magagalit sa nangyari? Ang trabaho ng senador, gumawa ng batas, di maging construction developer."
 

Olivar also said before letting off his passengers, "Ito rally ng mga maaayos, matino. Di ito yung rally-rally na madahas, na bato dito, bato roon, na bayaran ng mga politiko. Palagay ko nasa five-star hotel si Napoles, pinanonood ang mga tao, tumatawa, sabi mga tanga ang mga rallyista. Pero isang araw, lulutang na lang yan sa Pasig River."

Cab and private vehicle passengers got off at Roxas Blvd.-Quirino Ave. intersection where the boulevard was already closed. Scores of cyclists, individuals with their pet dogs on leashes and groups headed to ground zero (Rizal Park), the rallyists distinguished by ubiquitous white shirts. The easy, relaxed gait of the people made it seem like they were simply on a walk or jog in the park.

Rallyists on both sides of the boulevard opened umbrellas, a sudden sprout of colors under the slight 9 a.m. drizzle. Their pace of walking didn't pick up. 

Queues outside blue portalets, divided among males, females and senior citizens, were orderly. A janitor regularly sprayed cleaning fluid and mopped the floors, saying just don't at the hole if you're squeamish. 

White t-shirts with silk-screened slogans sold fast for P250 each. One message read: "Pinoy kami. We pay our taxes on time & in full. You, our government, owe us a full explanation."

The Eco-Waste Coalition chanted at the foot of the carabao statue while holding up walis tingting: "Korupsyon, korupsyon, walisin, walisin!"

At 9:45 am, an announcer led the community singing of "Bayan Ko."
 

Members of the Eco-Waste Coalition, wearing green t-shirts, held up banner a banner that read: "Linisin ang lipunan sa basura, toksiko at katiwalian."

One buyer of an anti-pork t-shirt said about the cost of the shirt, "Two hundred fifty pesos ito. Di kaya yung fifty pesos puhunan ng senador o cut nya?"

At 9:50 a.m. there were chants of: "Makibaka, huwag magbaboy!"

Another t-shirt message had the image of a politician lying atop sacks of pesos: "Moderate your greed, exterminate your breed."

An entrepreneur selling Million March commemorative t-shirts and a La Salle alumnus said, "I should've had one thousand shirts made, not 50. At two hundred pesos each, they sold very fast. I'll call the printer to make five hundred more."

A contingent of Letranites escorted by a priest in white cassock chanted: "Pogi kami! Baboy sila!" 

The Quirino Grandstand was off limits--no permit for rallyists or media to rest or look at panorama unfolding. Guards said the orders came from Juliet Villegas. Members of Women Writers in Media Now, among them Sol Juvida, Neni Sta Romana Cruz, Karina Bolasco, Rochit TaƱedo, argued that the grandstand was built and is maintained by people's money.  

At 10:50 a.m. the size of the crowd was conservatively estimated at 300,000. People were egged on to shout: "Makibaka, huwag magbaboy!,"  followed by shouting "Oink!" six times, then "Ibagsak ang pork!"

While others stayed behind for the rest of the program that ended sometime after lunch when one group broke out to march to MalacaƱang, others ate their packed lunches, noticeably coming from biodegradable brown bags and banana leaves while some ate from styropor boxes. Others scattered to nearby restaurants along periphery of Rizal Park. A good number went to Ermita favorites like Hizon's, packed with rallyists in white. 

This couple just gave their names as Mr. and Mrs. Isip. Their t-shirts said it all.
Some marchers along Roxas Blvd. en route to Rizal Park.
Partial view of crowd from the Quirino Grandstand
Cyclists also filled a lane of the boulevard that was closed to regular traffic.
Another view of the crowd from the grandstand
Photos by Babeth Lolarga
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