When she came first to public eye, she was offering flowers to soldiers aboard tanks deployed to quell anti-government crowd on EDSA on February 1986. Thirty years after, it is the turn of Sister Ping Ocariza to receive flower from a soldier.
“Soldiers salamat, iba na talaga ngayon, baligtad na, sundalo na ang namimigay ng flowers,” was all Sister Ping could say upon her exit from the EDSA People Power 1 Experientila Musem in Camp Aguinaldo on February 25.
(“Thank you soldiers, it’s really different now, it’s the other way around –our soldiers giving away flowers.”)
Cpt. Frank Sayson, of the AFP-Public Affairs Office, who offered flowers to the now 59-year-old nun of the Daughters of Saint Paul and other guests who visited the musem as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the world-renowned bloodless revolt.
Sister Ping was among the thousands of individuals, mostly young students, who went to Camp Aguinaldo on February 25 to view the EDSA People Power Commission’s Experiential Museum.
The museum showcased the events that led to the EDSA People Power I bloodless revolution in February 1986 that toppled the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos –including military abuses.
At the height of the anti-Marcos protests on EDSA in 1986, Sister Ping bravely joined the rally and was among those who blocked military troops and tanks. But instead of fighting with the soldiers, she offered flowers as a sign of peace.
Sister Ping’s act was caught by cameras and became an instant symbol of unity between civilians and the military.
Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, commander of the AFP-Civil Relations Service (CRS), said that this is the AFP now –transformed and very close to civilians.
“We have gone a very long way from the martial law years. We are now at the height of our transformation program which aims to have a world-class armed forces that is a source of national pride,” Kakilala said.
“We have our Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan which is designed to bring our troops closer to the people through our peace and development teams,” he said.
Kakilala said that the 125,000-strong AFP now serves as a partner of the national government in delivering service to the people and a ready force during humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations.
“We have expanded our reach in supporting government development and HADR projects as a cohesive force. But as a military organization, we remain ready to protect our people and the state against any threat,” said Kakilala.
Lt Col Marlowe Patria, commander of the 7th Civil Relations Group (CRG), said that the mood was very festive with people from all walks of life converging in Camp Aguinaldo –not only to see the museum but enjoy the AFP static display.
“We saw young and old alike having fun taking selfies and groupies with our troops and assets on display. It was festive,” said Patria, whose group even set up a free “internet shop” for those who would like to post their photographs on social networking sites.
“This is your Armed Forces –protector of peace and partner in development,” he added.