In the midst of heavy traffic and honking cars, a Virgin
Mary stands serenely in a corner of the highway.
The Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue, also known as EDSA, is
the most famous highway in the Philippines. It paves the
way for millions of commuters on their way to work or
school. But that’s not what makes EDSA so special. It’s the
20-foot statue of the Virgin Mary facing the highway, her
head slightly lowered, her eyes cast down, her arms
outstretched with doves on her hands and cloak. Her
presence calms and encourages the souls of Filipinos
crossing the highway. She is known as the Queen of Peace:
the Lady of EDSA.
In 1986, millions of Filipinos joined hands to throw out
the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. They gathered in front of
the Virgin Mary who stood on top of a shrine. Guided by the
Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin, rich people, nuns, priests,
workers and students all linked their arms in protest of
Marcos who ruled with a cruel hand. Marcos’ soldiers were
instructed to annihilate the demonstrators, to run them
over with their tanks, but they could not. The Filipinos
formed human barricades to block the tanks, nuns went to
the soldiers and hung flower garlands around their necks,
students gave them food, the protestors talked to them, and
the soldiers were won over.
It was a peaceful revolution. There was no violence, no
blood shed. Not a single person was injured or killed
during the revolution. It was called People’s Power I. And
it was successful.
Corazon Aquino immediately replaced Marcos. Marcos escaped
to Hawaii and died.
A chapel sits quietly on the bottom of the shrine. It is
never empty. Filipinos around the area run to the chapel
every now and then. Some pray, others stay there for the
cool air, and others beg for money.
Right above the chapel is an open space lined with plants
and engraved pictures of the life of Jesus Christ. The
engravings start with the picture of The Last Supper and
end with His resurrection. In the last picture, the
words “He Is Risen! As He Promised. Alleluia” are engraved
in different languages. Three statues of half naked men
stand near the last engraving, their arms raised, the three
of them all helped in carrying a large basin on top of them.
Like the three men, Filipinos find this shrine the place
for solace and for unity. In the year 2001, millions of
Filipinos once again gathered in front of the shrine to
overthrow President Joseph Estrada. It was known as the
People’s Power II. Activists stood on the open space above
the chapel to lead the people on, Filipinos shouted chants
to show the world that they wanted Estrada out. It lasted
for four days. It was once again peaceful, and once again,
The Virgin Mary stands on a platform right above this open
space. Underneath her is a poem written in Tagalog, the
language of the Filipinos. It talks about the peaceful
revolution and the pride that the Filipinos feel over this.
Bells of Peace hang upon a small tower built in the midst
of the open space. There are eighteen bells of different
sizes. The biggest bell is dedicated to Pope John Paul II,
the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The second biggest
bell to Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, for his
determination and commitment to peace. The third biggest
bell is dedicated to Corazon C. Aquino, the President of
the Philippines at that time. The remaining bells are
dedicated to every Filipino who at EDSA in 1986 showed to
the rest of humanity that the only way to peace is peace.
The Shrine of Mary in EDSA is the center where the
Filipinos who desire for justice and peace come together.
She strengthens the Filipinos’ faith in the Catholic Church
and she encourages them to fight for what’s right and
pure. Her calm and serene face is a silent call to the
Filipinos that they should remain peaceful and continue to
love one another. She gives them solace with her
outstretched arms in a frozen embrace to her people.
Let freedom ring.