My wife gave birth to our first child on Valentine’s Day, one day before the scheduled anti-Arroyo rally in Ayala, Makati. Despite having almost no sleep for two days, I felt great going into the Friday protest action. There’s this unusual high one gets upon seeing a newborn baby (and knowing that Beng was alright through all of it). I guess that’s where my energy came from. There was also the momentum leading up to Friday’s protest that seemed to energize everyone.
Several protest actions prior to the Ayala action served to drum up support for the big event. There were also important public announcements coming from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, the UP community and other concerned sectors.
The Ayala rally had less than a week of preparation. Plans were only solidified on Wednesday, two days before the mass action. Still, the turn out was really encouraging.
We estimate the crowd to be anywhere from 10-12, 000 people. There were the militant groups, the Makati employees, priests, seminarians, nuns, religious, lawyers, students, artists, urban poor, workers, farmers, Opposition figures, business folks and of course, the media came in full force (though they weren’t exactly rallyists, we felt their ”participation” just the same).
Four bands performed, even if they were given one day’s notice. First to rock the stage was Bobby Balingit of the legendary WUDS. He got the Makati crowd, including the mestizas and business types, up on their feet dancing (and to think Bobby hails from the punk tradition of the 80s). Next on the stage was Brownman Revival who gave a rousing rendition of “Maling Akala” that got the crowd electrified. Clenched fist raised, Dino Concepcion chanted “Makibaka! Huwag Matakot” as the group wound up the Marley classic “Get up, stand up”.
Veteran rock group The Jerks delighted the crowd with Sayaw sa Bubog, Rage, and Isa pang Kanta. The band Talahib rounded up that day’s performers.
The politicians were there but they had the good sense of not taking too much of the limelight. It was a good move on their part and it helped neutralize the Malacanang propaganda that this was all politicking.
Bayan delivered one of the biggest numbers among organized groups, but the Makati people (community residents and employees) probably made up the biggest bulk of the participants. The Opposition, including the Edsa 3 coalition, also delivered a big crowd that day.
Confetti rained on the protesters. Last time we saw that was February 24, 2006 when a state of emergency was declared and Bayan forces regrouped in Makati.
A man on a makeshift skateboard rolled ahead of Bayan’s marching forces. The guy has been a common sight during Bayan rallies especially in Manila. I remeber first seeing him in a Free Satur rally last year.
There were various creative placards and signs that day. The biggest one was “Moderate your greed. Exterminate your breed”, which hung near the stage. The extermination obviously referred to the greediest of ‘em all, whose picture appeared in the giant tarp. Bayan had colorful placards too, being featured a day before on the news as spoofs of several TV series. A business group had a sign which simply said “Bring it on!”, a response to threats by Malacanang to unleash the BIR on anti-Arroyo business groups.
The media provided another highlight. The set up of ABS-CBN made you think they were covering the Myx Mo concert series. The cameras, including the ones mounted on cranes, were simply awesome for a rally. Astig and Dos! ABC 5 had their satellite dish at Paseo and Ayala. GMA 7 brought its big vans the size of a small house. Our hats off to all media people who covered and in a way, “joined” that day’s rally.
My pet peeve is how rallyists (and I’m not just referring to one group in particular) try to smother the TV cameras with flags. Instead of having a huge crowd as the background for news reports, what we see are flags competing with each other for 10 seconds of fame, at the expense of the bigger interest of the rally organizers ot project the numbers of the crowd. We’ve been trying to correct this as far as Bayan is concerned, but some groups assembled along Paseo that day just don’t seem to understand that it is better that TV viewers see the big crowd than see just flags in the background.
Joey de Venecia did put some effort in his speech. He’s a businessman and speaking at protest actions is probably a first for him. He did good though and the crowd appreciated him.
Two ordinary folks approached the main stage where I was standing, They had a plastic bottle with coins. They said they were collecting Piso para kay Jun Lozada. They turned over their humble collections for that day to the emcee, Bibeth Orteza. Scenes like that give you an idea of the sincerity of the people gathered that day.
Another rally is set on February 25. We hope this one would be bigger and better.