Mendiola: A Road to Freedom and Justice
Today’s Labour Day in the Philippines. A public holiday celebrating or commemorating the importance of the workers and the day wherein freedom to express opinions about wages, working conditions, economy, society and the like are most tackled about. Yet there is one road in Manila that has been synonymous to Labour Day, activism, civic rights groups, protests and even the phrase “struggle for freedom and justice”—that is Mendiola. Headlines parati yan (that street is always on headlines).
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Heavily guarded and barb wired, Mendiola for the activists and protestors is a symbol of struggle against oppression and society’s ills. It is here where it is believed that they’ll be heard by the government whose mandate is supposed to protect the basic rights of every Filipino citizen, or the struggle for a change in the system begins.
Mendiola Bridge, or now known as Chino Roces Bridge (named after a freedom fighter journalist during the Martial Law era), has been a witness of every protest, every rally, every struggle, every event that shaped the Filipino history and nation. However, it rose to prominence during the years of Marcos Era when activists (mostly leftist students) would like to invade Malacanang to oust the then budding dictator.
And the most recent event was in May 2001, exactly a decade and a year ago, the so-called “EDSA tres” when supporters of the ousted president Joseph “Erap” Estrada were angered by his arrest in charges of plunder. From EDSA Shrine, they stormed Mendiola in hopes to oust then President Gloria Arroyo, but failed. The event caused mass looting and extensive damages in Manila, which prompted the executive power to declare a state of emergency for two days. Six people dead, hundred injured, including media men who were covering the event as it unfolds into fury on a hot summer day.
Years passed and Mendiola is still is the most popular protest site in Manila, and perhaps in the entire country. Countless protests and civil rights activities are being held here regularly, from solemn gatherings to sometimes violent rumblings between the protestors and the police. The street holds the nation’s most glorified and its most darkest in its history–a symbol to road to freedom and justice. Indeed, it has witnessed a history of a nation and people, a fight for freedom, a struggle for justice, a fight for a better society. Padayon!
Photos were from the march for justice for Maguindanao Martyrs in 2010, HabagatCentral Photo archives at http://habagatcentral.multiply.com/photos. Archival video uploaded at Youtube.