115th Philippine Independence Day: What shall our own history is going to teach us?

Although it was short-lived, the Philippines made it to become Asia’s first republic. It was proclaimed at the balcony of General Emilio Aguinaldo’s ancestral house in Kawit, Cavite in the afternoon of June 12, 1898, so ending Spain’s almost 400 years of colonial rule. The Philippine flag, for the first time, lay unfurled and waved in the air, accompanied by bands playing the Marcha Nacional Filipina composed by Julian Felipe, a music teacher and composer who was appointed by Aguinaldo to lead the National Band of the First Philippine Republic, which later on became the Philippine’s national anthem.

At the height of Philippine Revolution fought between Spanish authorities in the Philippines and the Filipino insurgents in the year 1896 to 1898, Aguinaldo went on a voluntary exile to Hongkong in compliance with what he has signed on December 14, 1897 known as The Pact of Biak-na-Bato which was a truce created between Spanish Colonial Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera and him to end the Philippine Revolution by giving him (Aguinaldo) and his fellow revolutionaries amnesty and monetary indemnity by the Spanish Government. He later on used the money to purchase firearms instead. Upon his return from exile in 1898, the truce signed between Filipino revolutionary fighters and Spaniards at Biak-na-Bato no longer observed and kept.

The ratification of the Declaration of Independence by the Malolos Congress on September 29, 1898 and the framing of the Malolos Constitution on January 21, 1899 should be forever remembered in Philippine history for such achievements. The Malolos Congress, by the way, was the constituent assembly of the First Philippine Republic.  The Constitution, aimed to protect the people (with individual and national registry rights) against the abuse of power, was written right after the American Navy's total annihilation of the Spanish flotilla in what was known as the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American war. Both the United States of America and Spain failed to consider an independent rule of the emerging revolutionary government led by Aguinaldo. Under the Treaty of Paris in the year 1898, which ended the Spanish-American war, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States. The Philippines has yet to struggle for independence against another colonial power--the United States of America. Filipino-American war broke out in 1899 until 1902.

America's colonial mission for the Philippines should be defined as one of tutelage and to prepare the country for eventual independence. But it may also be for some important reasons:

  • The American leaders during that time were so much concerned about the Filipino people’s incapability of a self-rule government, that in the process they also feared about the fact that if they would not take control of the islands another powerful country might do so.

    • The Americans during that time expressed a great desire for commercial opportunities in Asia by which the Philippines, being just strategically located, could offer best for that purpose and later on, they realized, could also serve well militarily. 

    • Some prominent figures in American politics during that time who supported  American Imperialism believed that it was the duty of the “White race” to govern the inferior races of people by bringing them the joys of civilization.

    • Many Americans during that time believed it would be just right for America to annex the Philippines and that it would be good for both countries.

    • Before the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, Commonwealth of the Philippines was formed with Manuel L. Quezon as president. After half a century of waiting, the United States of America finally granted the Philippines its independence on July 4, 1946, becoming the first country in the world to have gained independence after World War II. It was not until the late Diosdado Macapagal’s presidency that the observance for Philippine Independence was moved back to the original June 12, 1898 date and that the July 4 date instead has since become the Philippine-American Friendship Day.

      Philippine Independence, which was first echoed by our noble ancestors who fought against Spanish colonizers and later on against American imperialists, must have proven the capacity of the Filipino to exercise his right to freedom, self-determination, and sense of nationalism. The struggles, sacrifices, and courage of our great men paving the way for the birth of our nation, should be such that we must not forget because, as a nation and a people, we have duties to fulfill and obligations to answer. One of such duties is to preserve, maintain, and keep active the right to liberty of every citizen towards nation building, unity, and prosperity.

      Our quest for “independence” did not end with the Western colonizers now all gone and neither have we totally attained it. There is another breed of oppression springing from within one’s own: A Filipino enslaving his countrymen and women. The divide-and-rule tactics and other dirty tricks of the past colonizers can still be seen and, in fact, applied today, substituted/transfused into what some, if not most, of our politicians/oligarchs becoming masters of such a craft.

      Celebrating the birth of our nation, for some, if not most, of the Filipino people of today, is nothing more than just a misguided sense of nationalism and somehow reduced to as just, as what columnist Randy David in his June 11, 2010 column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer titled “On our nation’s birthday” puts it, “a vehicle for the realization of popular aspirations. It has since shed much of its progressive function. Today it mostly finds expression in pop markers of national identity--patriotic logos on T-shirts, caps, watches, bags, and bandannas, etc.--than in sustained efforts to develop our country and people, build on our cultural heritage, and map the future of our nation in a complex and uncertain world.”


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