Moments after the documentary aired tonight, a friend sent me a congratulatory message, which included the following line: "The nuns were a casting coup." I could only reply: "It helps that God was the casting director."
Sisters Ping Ocariza and Terry Burias belong to the Daughters of St. Paul congregation. They had never attended street demonstrations before; that day they helped stop the tanks at the intersection of Edsa and Ortigas was the first time they joined a mass action. They happened to be at that exact corner because of a chain of accidents: They had signed up for the morning shift that Sunday, February 23, instead of the afternoon. When the tanks arrived they had lost track of their fellow nuns, who had gone back to their vehicle. In the confusion, they had found themselves asked (or pulled, according to Sister Ping) by others in the crowd to move to the front, right where the tanks were. (Because they had no families to look after, they had been told.) At that crucial juncture, they had found themselves leading a rosary —- without a microphone, Sister Terry recalls. ("It was probably the most beautiful rosary I ever said," she added in Filipino.)
In contrast with the thorough preparations of the rebel soldiers (which went for nought, after the planned coup was discovered), the nuns had no idea, when they woke up on Sunday morning, that they would be called to offer their prayers and their lives, at that fateful intersection. They had no inkling that, like millions of other ordinary Filipinos, they would be called to perform on history’s stage, right before the footlights. Deeply scared and yet strangely, serenely peaceful during the encounter with the tanks, they couldn’t possibly have planned on the iconic role they would assume in the Edsa story.
In hesitant English, Sister Terry summed up what happened to them in Edsa. "In our smallness, God used us as his instrument."