EDSA: Freedom highway is countryï¿½s busiest artery
By ELIZABETH C. ZAMBARRANO
It has been described as a little microcosm of societyï¿½a little worldï¿½- holding cups of dreams, laughter and tears.
But writer S. Quijano was not talking about an idyllic scene. He was referring to Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), the countryï¿½s busiest artery of commerce and transportation.
Stretching some 54 kilometers, EDSA serves as a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Filipinos passing or doing business in Metro Manila.
EDSA forms a major part of the circumferential roads in Metro Manila. From the south, it passes through five cities ï¿½ Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and Caloocan. Its southern endpoint is at the rotunda near the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City while its northern point is at Monumento in Caloocan City near the Andres Bonifacio monument.
When the avenue was constructed in 1940 by engineers led by Florencio Moreno and Osmundo L. Monsod, it was first named as North and South Circumferential Road. But at the end of World War II, the American occupiers changed the name to Highway 54.
But in 1959, by virtue of Republic Act 2140, the highway was renamed in honor of Epifanio de los Santos, a famous son of the province of Rizal.
During the late 1970s, the highwayï¿½s name was abbreviated by bus conductors to EDSA.
Epifanio delos Santos, famously known as Don Panyong, according to historian Gregorio F. Zaide, was one of the intellectual titans produced by the Philippines after Rizal.
He was a lawyer, journalist, historian, philosopher, bibliophile, biographer, painter, poet, musician, literary critic, antique collector, and librarian. He was the first Filipino to be admitted to the Real Academia Espaï¿½ola, which even Jose Rizal failed to achieve.
He was born April 7, 1871 in Malabon, Rizal province. People from Rizal province consider him their provinceï¿½s first intellectual. He topped the bar exams. He was a member of the Malolos Congress, and served as fiscal of Nueva Ecija.
At the time of his death on April 18, 1928 at the age 57, he was the director of the National Library and Museum.
His assistant then, the late Senate President Eulogio Rodriguez, was a prime mover in renaming Highway 54 to EDSA, but he died before his dream was realized.
It was Juan Francisco Sumulong, a lawmaker from Rizal province and a classmate from his law school days at the University of Sto. Tomas, who continued the campaign. "There are praiseworthy sons of the province. Why are we always borrowing from the honor of others?" Sumulong asked.
In between name changes, the Americans wanted it called (Gen Douglas) McArthur Highway, supporters of the late President Ramon Magsaysay wanted it named after him, while loyalists of Rizal fought for 19 de Junio, the national heroï¿½s birthday.
EDSA won, supported by a number of associations including the Philippines Historical Committee, Philippines Historical Association, Philippines Library Association, Association of University and College Professors, Philippine China Cultural Association, and Philippine National Historical Society.
Eyewitness to history
EDSA has also been dubbed the "Freedom Highway" for being the site of two peaceful demonstrations that toppled the administration of two presidents, Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada.
The first people power revolt ï¿½ EDSA 1 ï¿½ was a revolution without precedent. Men, women, and children armed only with crucifixes, images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, songs and rosaries formed themselves into human barricades. Armed only with their courage and determination, they forced the retreat of heavily armed Marines supported by tanks. The Marcos forces surrendered to the might of the people. Corazon Aquino took over power and Marcos fled. Thus, the country regained democracy through people power.
Some portions of the event were replicated in 2001 when the people rose up anew on January 21, 2001 during EDSA II. The protesters forced President Joseph Estrada to step down and installed President Arroyo.
EDSA has since been a witness to progress and the flow of the current times.
The road, once envisioned by President Manuel L. Quezon to become the most beautiful highway in the entire country, now has mammoth structures including hotels, restaurants, palacious houses, shopping centers and schools along its side.
"Ang EDSA noon ay parang marshland. Parang deserted at ang prominenteng gusali lang ay ang Institucion Tereciana, the forerunner of Poveda," said Manila Bulletin Editor Nits Trinidad.
Now, Camp Crame, SM Megamall, the People Power Monument, and Poveda in Ortigas are some of the roadï¿½s landmarks.
Pink fences and pink urinals are all over the sidewalks. Walls with MMDA grafitti and a jungle of billboards on the skyline can be seen.
The Metro Rail Transit, or MRT Line 3, of the metropolisï¿½s railway system, runs along most of EDSA, from Taft Avenue in the south to North Avenue near the SM City Mall in northern EDSA. Future expansion of the MRT will extend it all the way to Monumento.
But gone were the days when one could take an early morning walk along the stretch of the highway and breath fresh air.
Tens of thousands of smoke-belching vehicles ply on EDSA every day posing health hazards and heavy traffic.
Thereï¿½s hope though. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) continues to undertake various programs to ease traffic congestion along the highway, reduce pollution, and instill discipline among commuters and motorists.