But it was a good walk anyway. Firetrucks from various cities in Metro Manila, media vans from TV networks, police vehicles, and tents set up by the QC NDRRMC (which contained some pretty nice-looking camping beds) lined Commonwealth Avenue. The more interesting sights could be found several meters before Batasan Road, starting with the Block Marcos movement’s art installation “Martsa ng Mga Hindi Makapag-martsa,” which features pairs of shoes lined up on the road to represent the people who have been silenced (read: killed) throughout the ongoing war on drugs and the associated killings. The concept is good; it was just faintly disturbing how some people actually posed and smiled in front of the installation.
Various groups were also preparing their materials nearby; some people were sitting around, waiting, and others were listening to speeches.
An effigy of Duterte was being burned off to the side, when you turn right at Batasan Road. The group was denouncing the brutality of the drug wars and protesting Martial Law.
Further down the road were more people, who were huddled in groups. Anakbayan members seem to have split off to talk separately to different groups; one group was facilitated by a person talking about unequal land distribution, another group was talking about education, and another was talking about the economy. The mood was generally peaceful, even festive.
The real action was taking place in front of the Batasan Hills National High School, where a stage was set up for the People’s SONA. There were speeches and songs that lamented the fate of the country. There were also a smattering of foreigners; two men from Belgium shared that they were there purely out of curiosity. And there were people who were standing for different issues that seem to fall by the wayside.
Police presence was predictably heavy, which is only to be expected on a day like this, but they seemed in fairly good spirits despite having been at the location since 10 p.m. the previous night.
Nothing untoward happened, fortunately. People were able to freely air their grievances–and there are many; it’s still too much to hope for a single cohesive message, given the many problems the Philippines is grappling with.