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The Yellow-Ribboned Movement

A friend of mine argued that the ever-infamous yellow ribbon has lost its meaning. Once a symbol of hope and unity became diluted in a sea of yellow shirts, yellow pins and yellow-ribboned everything. The icon has become a sell-out and my friend was turned off. It was like the time when Green Day went astray from their punk roots to become increasingly pop with each subsequent album release. They generated more sales, but lost a few hundred die-hard fans. To her, yellow-ribbon wearers were just joining another pop culture bandwagon.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Backtracking a few weeks before our conversation, I found myself in an exact sea of yellow as I volunteered to do the documentation for the preparatory meeting for the All Leaders Summit. By then Noynoy had won and had been christened aptly as P-Noy. He was just a few days shy of being inaugurated as the 15th President of the Philippines. Participants of this meeting involved almost 300 leaders coming from all over the country. Leaders who supported P-Noy throughout his campaign came in droves, resulting in a full house at that Ateneo conference room. Each talk and workshop was focused on proactive citizenship and leadership. In a nutshell, they were hatching a plan to get the Philippines back on track, after a decade-long plunge into darkness. Mid-way into the first day, the group was broken into smaller groups for a workshop and I was tasked to take down the minutes for a subgroup of NCR leaders.

I was struck at how much hope and excitement my group generated. I was surrounded by people at least 10 years my senior. With their graying hair and wrinkled skin, I initially expected them to be jaded and closed-minded, much like the impression that surrounds adults. But they were the exact opposite. In fact, these were the people that lived through a dictator, several EDSA revolutions and bouts of corruption. Rather than being diminished, their hope was magnified and made stronger by their experiences of injustice. It was clear the P-Noy’s journey ignited this desire to move forward.

In my group, there was a woman garbed in accessories containing different incarnations of the yellow ribbon. Her wrists were covered in bracelets, pins adorned her yellow shirt and her ears weren’t spared either. She spoke of what wearing the yellow ribbon meant to her. She told us that seeing the yellow ribbon pinned on her clothes reminded her to be a good citizen and follow traffic regulations. It’s simple yet the idea resonated with the other members of the group and in a heartbeat, they were excited. The discussion glowed with enthusiasm as suggestions came pouring in. As this point, I couldn’t keep up. The facilitator of the discussion had to help me write down their ideas. One man exclaimed, “It starts with paying our taxes properly.” Another one said, “I-pagbawal na talaga ang pag-ihi kung saan-saan.” I could hear chuckles from the group. My mind and heart were racing, giving me a feeling that something great was happening at that very moment. Right then and there, the symbol of the yellow ribbon began to look so much more alive in my eyes and the whole point of it became so much clearer. This was more than selling out. One way or another, we wear the yellow ribbon because it stands for our commitment to the new government. We wear it because it is a promise to hold our end of the bargain. We wear it because it unites us Filipinos and nothing gives us strength more than knowing that millions more are in this same crusade.

I wish I could tell all of this to my friend but I couldn’t explain everything in one go. Because yes, the yellow-ribbon is everywhere. I’ve seen Filipinos wear these pinned on their shirts and backpacks. In rush hour traffic I’ve seen bumper stickers in countless cars. Households proudly display these oddly-shaped lanterns. And to me it is quite clear that the whole archipelago has become our EDSA and the onset of the Aquino administration marks the emergence of a yellow-ribboned revolution.

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