I went to the Inauguration  

Posted by Laya in

Fortunately for me, my new landlady knocked on my door at 8:00 am on Wednesday, June 30, 2010, to ask me something, or else I wouldn't have woken up in time to make it to Luneta and would have been contented to watch it on TV instead. I had been debating with myself for the past few days whether or not I would make the effort to go to the Aquino-Binay inauguration. (It's a holiday! It looks like rain!  You'll go alone and there'll be a huge crowd. So what? You went to Cory's wake by yourself too, and waited in line for four hours along with hundreds of other people. You can watch it on TV. Nothing beats the real thing. There are too many people there already, your presence won't matter. What does it matter, this is history in the making!)

In the end, it was that "history in the making" thing that convinced me. I had read stories in the past, about people who attended presidential inaugurations, and about how it felt to be there, when Quezon, when Magsaysay, became president. When I was still in Mindanao watching events such as this on TV, my siblings and I would sigh and say, Ah, if only we lived in Manila, we would surely be there as well. Now, here I was... why was I dawdling?

A friend and I had been discussing it for days --we both voted for Noynoy Aquino-- and saying that we wanted to attend the inauguration. However, she bowed out at the last minute because she had to go home to the province. I knew everyone at home would be asking, did you go to the Luneta? Why didn't you? You were THERE!

So I donned something yellow, and sallied forth to Luneta. As I left the house, the little back alley I lived on was full of noise... all the neighbors had their radios on, and were listening to the broadcast coverage of the inauguration. I found a taxi immediately when I got to the main road. He said he had passed on Nagtahan just previously and met the convoy from Times Street going to Malacanang. It seemed I was just in time, since there would be protocols at Malacanang and I could still reach Luneta before the convoy did. The taxi let me off on UN Avenue, one block away from Roxas Boulevard, because the rest of the way was closed. I walked a bit on UN, crossed over to Kalaw, and joined the rest of the crowds headed in one direction-- Quirino Grandstand. It was some time past 10:00 am, and I heard the program would begin at 11:00 am.

Everybody I passed or walked with or behind seemed in a festive mood. There were old people and teenagers, friends and neighbors, even entire families dressed in varying shades of yellow. Some brought food (I brought a can of Nescafe Latte, which I was chug-a-lugging on the way, as I was too excited to have a proper breakfast). People all around were smiling.

After a few minutes of walking, I finally crossed Roxas Boulevard and plunged into the stream of people and vendors on the sidewalk. There were so many things being sold... food, commemorative pins and badges, yellow hats and umbrellas, caps and t-shirts, even birds. I stopped to buy a button for my bag (and promptly lost it after I'd walked a few steps, but luckily spotted the loss and was able to retrieve it before someone else picked it up or trampled it). The crowd was getting thicker, although there was still ample space to walk. Music was blaring from loudspeakers.

Things got a little tense at the gate into the grounds, though, because there already was a bottleneck and some people at the back were pushing. I got into a line that made the wrong turn and came up against a barrier, and we all had to go around and look for the gate. Finally we found it, and after some pushing and being pushed, got through.

At first, looking at the crowd, I was afraid I'd never be able to see anything, because there seemed to be so many people there. When I got a little further, though, the crowd thinned out and there was ample space to stand and look around. The day was overcast and there was no direct sunlight, but it was still kind of hot and many people had their umbrellas up, prompting people at the back to call to them to take the umbrellas down, the yells of "Pa-yong! pa-yong!" blending into the general chant of "Noy-noy! Bi-nay!" and "noy-bi!"

It seemed I had arrived just in time, as the big LED screens ahead showed the ex-President and the new President getting out of the car. People around me began shouting "Babay Gloria, umalis ka na (Goodbye Gloria, go away now)" and when she finally got back into the car a while later, a lot of them waved at the screen and laughed. "Sa wakas, aalis na rin siya! (Finally, she's leaving!)" I heard a woman beside me say.

I realized that the oath-taking was traditionally at noon, and that there was still some time before that. Vice President Jejomar Binay was arriving in his electric jeepney -- I learned later there was some to-do about his being "late." After that, things kind of blurred into one song number after another, with the accompaniment to "Sabihin mo, ikaw ay Filipino" serving as background music for the most part. Charice Pempengco rendered the National Anthem beautifully (Ha! Let the NHI find fault with THAT! I thought) although some people behind me complained afterwards that it was very fast. I remembered, though, that the anthem was originally a march, so I figured the tempo was just about right. Noel Cabangon also sang "Mabuting Filipino" which I had previously heard him sing at an event we held last year at PLM, and his iconic "Kanlungan" which had people around me singing too.

Finally, the Vice President stood up to take his oath, and after him, the President. People around me were rapt, craning their necks and listening to the words being broadcast over the speakers. The Laban sign was being flashed everywhere.

The President's inaugural speech was well-received by the crowd, who cheered spontaneously at key  points and laughed when he said "magtatapos na ang pagtitiis ng sambayanan... Ito naman po ang umpisa ng kalbaryo ko. (The people's sufferings are about to end... now my calvary begins.)" I looked around me; everyone was intent upon his words (a rare occurrence!), as if he were speaking to each and every one of us. I thought to myself; this is why I'm here. That is MY president up there. Let him prove to be worthy of the trust that we have placed in him, in who he is, in who we hope he would be.
(Read transcript of the entire speech, with English translation here.)

A weird thing happened as I stood there, looking and listening. I could see only the roof of the grandstand from my vantage point, but had a fine view of the LED screen in front. As I watched, as I listened, it seemed to me that I could hear at times the voice of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, as I had heard them speak in recordings and video clips before. It seemed to me at times that their faces overlay that of their son's as he spoke. The thought occurred to me again: Had Ninoy and Cory ever thought, when they looked at Noynoy as a boy, that he would be the Benigno Aquino who would become President someday?

After the president's speech, there was a "people's pledge" where representatives of various sectors, as well as the audience, promised to work with the government to reduce corruption and make the country a better place. It was a proud moment for me, as I stood there with my right hand raised and watched everyone around me raise their own hands and repeat the words of the pledge as they were spoken.

Even when the program was already over, people seemed to be reluctant to leave. Many still stood in their places, looking thoughtful, as I headed for the exit. Now that I had seen my president sworn into office (how I'd worried before that even though he'd be elected, something might happen to prevent this day!) I suddenly realized that I hadn't eaten a thing yet that day. As I walked down Roxas Boulevard to look for somewhere to eat, the clouds that had been so thick during the entire program parted, and the sun shone brightly.

This entry was posted at Thursday, July 01, 2010 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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