Confetti, car horns, and balloons in Manila
Like Rip van Winkle after a 20-year sleep, Filipinos awoke Wednesday to a new and uncertain era for their nation. The hundreds of thousands who stopped tanks in the streets of Manila and helped oust Ferdinand Marcos tried to resume normal life.
But the jubilation, shock, and pride of turning out a government through massive nonviolent protest was evident throughout the capital city.
``I have not seen a sad face yet,'' said Agapito (Butz) Aquino, brother of slain oppositionist Benigno Aquino and brother-in-law of newly installed President Corazon Aquino.
``It's like Liberation Day and New Year's Day wrapped into one,'' he said.
Celebrations broke out spontaneously, as many people took the day off from work. Caravans of cars, decorated with yellow balloons, drove down streets honking in two-beep measures that sounded like chants of ``Cor-y, Cor-y'' (President Aquino's nickname). One car sported a sign saying ``Happy new era!'' Yellow confetti was thrown out of office buildings. Truckloads of soldiers, waving at passers-by, tied yellow ribbons to their rifle barrels. (Yellow, adopted as the Aquino campaign color, was associated with Benigno Aquino who, upon his fatal return to Manila in 1983, was to have been greeted with yellow ribbons.)
Again and again people here said they felt that events of the last few days were ``a miracle.'' Prayer vigils and displays of courage played a large part for the millions who took to the streets to protect defecting ``reformist'' military from pro-Marcos ``loyalist'' military.
Their courage, they said, was in part inspired by Mrs. Aquino's willingness to campaign openly around the countryside despite death threats.
When asked about her safety, Aquino said Wednesday she was sometimes nervous when in front of crowds, but added: ``When I believe in doing something, I go all out for it.''
The spirit of cooperation in confronting Mr. Marcos since the discredited Feb. 7 election has lingered following his exodus Tuesday night. On one television station Wednesday, a plea went out for people to bring toothpaste for soldiers still grouped in the opposition stronghold Camp Crame. During the recent ordeal, networks of people organized food donations, transportation, communication, and schedules for street vigils.
``We are one nation again,'' said one Manila waitress. ``We taught ourselves that we can unite as a people.''
Such was the surprise of this ``people's power'' revolution that some here keep asking the whereabouts of Marcos, fearing he may return. (He was reported en route to Hawaii as this went to press.) People were also concerned that he had not left a letter of resignation in his hasty departure.
Crowds remained fascinated with what was left in Malacanang Palace, the mansion occupied by previous presidents, including Marcos. After thousands passed through the deserted palace Tuesday night, the military closed it off to check for booby traps, thought possibly to have been left behind by Marcos allies. Aquino seemed anxious to use the palace as an office in order to speed up consolidation of her new authority.
One sign of the joyous and unifying spirit in the Philippines today was the apparent lack of concern over whether Aquino had any legal or constitutional authority. The assumption that she had truly won the presidential election, however, was enough for people to accept her self-designed inauguration Tuesday and designation of a Cabinet Wednesday.
``The people claimed this victory for her,'' said Butz Aquino.
Nonetheless, President Aquino said Wednesday that previous pro-Marcos members of the National Assembly were ready to join her supporters in proclaiming her the winner of the election.
The public euphoria was offset somewhat by concern over just how long Aquino's political honeymoon would last. She said that her first task was to help the jobless and underemployed. How to achieve such a goal could soon divide her followers.
``I think she has just six months before the halo is off,'' said Mr. Aquino.