Sunday, August 2, 2015

People Power - From the Philippines to Egypt

Recalling the 1986 Revolution in the Philippines

People Power - From the Philippines to Egypt

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Watching Egyptians celebrate the resignation of long-time ruler President Hosni Mubarak, I can't help indulging in a bit of nostalgia. It was twenty five years ago this month that Corazon "Cory" Aquino became president of the Philippines after millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in support of reformist soldiers who had mutinied against longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Even before the crowds began to grow in Cairo's Tahrir Square, I had already been thumbing through my old photos from 1986, reviewing fixer-infused/poorly washed 8x10's and re-editing old Tri-X negatives.

On Friday, after covering a water main break at Penn I headed to the Egyptian restaurant Aya’s Café at 21st and Arch for some "local reaction" to Mubarak's resignation.

There I met some non-Egyptians who walked over from Market Street. When the news broke, James Hill (right) sent an e-mail to coworkers suggesting they meet for lunch at Aya's, figuring, "if there is any day we should should eat at here, it should be today." He brought a small Egyptian flag he made himself after printing a copy off the internet.


As if there weren't enough similarities between Egypt and the Philippines, sitting with Aya's co-owners Adel Khalil (left) and his nephew Tarek Albasti and photographing them as they watched the news from the Al Jazeera website on their iPhones, all I could do is think about the 1986 version - Filipinos listening to their AM radios.

At least one thing does remain the same today...people around the world are STILL reading newspapers. Even after reading tweets or watching live videos - we still turn to newspapers as a vehicle of thought - a way to put everything in perspective.



And today, Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III (Cory's son) offered his support for Egypt. "We stand in solidarity with Egypt and all people who long for peaceful and meaningful change," he said in a statement, reminding us that the "people power" in Egypt shows that "aspirations for a more free and fair society are universal."

So, as well as the Egyptians, my thoughts today are also with the Filipino people. Their "People Power" not only lead to Marcos' downfall, but it inspired citizens around the world - from the Tiananmen Square protests in China and the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989 through the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, up to today.

Oh, and those old photos? I didn't quite get them together after Cory died in 2009, but I will have a gallery up here with many more before the Feb. 22nd anniversary of the Revolution.

In the meantime, check out the website “Revolution Revisited,” by photographer Kim Komenich. Working for the San Francisco Examiner with reporter Phil Bronstein, he was in the Philippines before, during what's now known there as the EDSA Revolution. He won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography (Bronstein’s coverage of the fall of the Marcos regime was also a finalist for the Pulitzer that uear, for International Reporting). Komenich is revisiting the country now, interviewing and photographing some of the people from his old photos "to see how they have gotten on with their lives." He is also shooting video, and has plans for a movie, a book, an exhibition and an iPad app.

Inquirer Staff Photographer
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About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at tgralish@phillynews.com.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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