From left, Patrick Jalasco (grandson of former President Fidel V. Ramos), Deputy Consul General Kira Azucena, Loudette Avelino, Ryan Natividad of UniPro, Jane Orendain, Therese Rodriguez, Gertrudes Pajaron, Aleli Alvarez and Iris Zalun (president of UniPro).  (Filipino Reporter photo)

Special to the Filipino Reporter

Where were you when President Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines and the EDSA Revolution brought in a new era in the Philippines in 1986?

I was in New York and can vividly remember the time.

New York City was a significant beacon spotlighting the dramatic times during that period.

On its 29th anniversary, the New York Philippine Consulate General presented Usap Usapan: New York during EDSA Revolution 1986 last week featuring several activists who remembered the time.

They include Loudette Avelino, Therese Rodriguez, Aleli Alvarez, Gertrudes Pajaron and Jane Orendain.

“It’s important to pass along these stories and lessons to the 2nd generation,” said Deputy Consul General Kira Azucena.

Kudos indeed for the evening provided such an opportunity for younger Fil-Ams who were present last week.

UniPro president Iris Zalun, UniPro director of public policy and foreign relations Ryan Natividad and Marge Quimosing, president of the Junior Chamber International Phil-NY attended and served as “Reactors.”

The speakers gave a backdrop of events happening in the Philippines at the time: President Marcos had announced on live TV that he would call an election.

Widow of the slain Ninoy Aquino, Cory Aquino ran against him.

It was announced that Marcos won by a very large margin.

There were reports of massive election fraud.

Members of COMELEC bravely walked out in protest.

Demonstrations began and grew all over the Philippines.

Then there was EDSA where multitudes of people converged in protest.

There were also anti-Marcos demonstrations in New York and around the U.S.

Jane Orendain cited that while there were competing opposition groups in New York, the snap-election brought all parties together.

They put their differences aside to rally against a fraudulent election and the dictator Marcos.

They were demonstrating every day across the street of the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue and 45th Street in Manhattan.

“Five to six groups would work together to make signs,” Jane said.

“There were demonstrations in New York and Washington, D.C.”

Loudette Avelino recalled when she and other activists boarded buses in Queens to go to Washington, D.C. to visit U.S. Congress and lobby against Marcos.

It was a snowy day in February, Loudette recalled.

Their group walked the halls in the Capital providing info about what was happening in Manila to legislators and key staff.

Feet aching and voices hoarse, they headed back to New York City when they heard that military tanks had arrived at EDSA.

“Someone on the other bus turned on the radio and heard that the tanks had moved to the demonstrators in Manila,” Loudette recalled with emotion.  

“We took out our rosaries and prayed ‘Please don’t fire on the people...please don’t fire on the people.’”

The military did not fire on the people at EDSA.

Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos had already defected.

It was a peaceful, dramatic and compelling revolution.

Finally Marcos and family fled the Philippines.

Loudette said that on the day they heard Marcos had left the country, “We entered the Consulate Building Office. Francisco ‘King’ Rodrigo led the volunteers to secure the Philippine Center and 66th Street, the residence of Marcos.

“We also went to 66th Street, the town house which was the residence of Marcos. When we got there, it was unlocked and in disarray,” she described.

“We checked every floor.”

“When Marcos left, Fil-Am leaders began planning what to do the next day.”

King had called out for volunteers and over 300 people signed up.

Therese said, “During the Fall of Marcos, 500 of us met at the UN Church after Marcos left for Hawaii.”

“There were also investigating teams to search artworks, etc. As they recovered the wealth of Imelda they would catalog items and cash,” Ding recalled.

And so these women and other activists continued to maintain the vigilance of the Philippine Government properties and monitor the transition of the Aquino Administration.

Many of them were present daily at the trial of former First Lady Imelda Marcos in New York.

She was accused of looting the Philippine treasury of $222 million to buy New York skyscrapers, jewelry and art.

(She was acquitted of the charges.)

“King” Rodrigo became the next New York ambassador with Loudette serving as executive assistant in New York.

Not only did the speakers relate the events and activist activities of the time in New York during the EDSA Revolution, they also talked about the darker side of the Marcos dictatorship.

Therese related that during the demonstrations in New York and the U.S., people were photographed and videotaped and opposition activists were outed in slide shows and published photos.

“That’s a death threat,” said Therese.

Loudette had recalled that a former security guard at the Philippine Consulate advised her to “be careful.”

Aleili and Ding talked about lawyers who volunteered to advise and represent activists who might be arrested.

When asked by UniPro president Iris Zalun why they got involved, Aleili said having studied at University of the Philippines, “It’s in your DNA — and for love of country.”


From left, UniPro president Iris Zalun; Ryan Natividad, UniPro director; and Kristal Aliyas of CORE.  (Filipino Reporter photo)

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