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July 4 is Philippine Independence Day, Too!


Aguinaldo Mansion, Cawit, Cavite. General Emilio Aguinaldo. National Anthem. Three-stars-and- a-sun. June 12, 1898.

They are all related to the Philippine Declaration of Independence. But, for history buffs like me, the Philippine Declaration of Independence story is still an issue connoisseurs could debate over for ages. It is more than a document, an event, or a History lesson. The whole commotion over Philippine Independence from Aguinaldo’s declaration to the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos is comparable to the trending and well-watched HBO series Game of Thrones. And sadly, yes, our heroes are either out of the homeland, lost, or, most likely, dead.

Kalayaan SF 2014 Celebration in Union Square, San Francisco

Kalayaan SF 2014 Celebration in Union Square, San Francisco

Last June 21, I have attended “Kalayaan” – an event organized by the Filipino community and the Philippine Consulate General in the Bay Area to celebrate the Philippine Independence Day which is officially marked to be on the 12th of June. The event was attended by Filipino-Americans and other interested parties and they were entertained by non-stop cultural performances which originates from different regions and eras of the Philippines. The “Kalayaan” event was held in Union Square – perfect venue to celebrate Philippine Independence because the Union Square monument in downtown San Francisco commemorates the Battle of Manila Bay in May 1, 1898 – days before the subsequent Cavite declaration. In my station, an American visitor asked me, “Independence from who?” And I answered him “Spain. But our independence day from the US is July 4.” Other Filipinos around the booth and the guy looked puzzled and amused at the same time. It has inspired me to share this bit of history which not many people are aware of. Not many people are aware that July 4, 1946 is also Philippine Independence Day.

Whether it was due to a conspiracy between Spanish and American forces or not, it is safe to say that Emilio Aguinaldo was free enough to declare whatever declaration he wants to declare in his own Cavite mansion, given that during the time, aside from being a tactical military superstar, Spain was getting busy with other matters. The grandiose and historical event for Filipino leaders that day was just shrugged off by Spain and the United States because they are busy with their own affairs concerning the 1898 Treaty of Paris (or the Treaty of Sell-Philippines-to-the-United-States).

For $20 million, the ‘Philippine Islands’ became a United States Commonwealth. In general, a Commonwealth is a “State” (Like the Commonwealths of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Virginia). However, unlike the four commonwealths (but like Puerto Rico), the Philippines did not belong to the union and perhaps it was due to our forefathers’ thrust to free the Philippines of foreign oppression. There were collaborators on both the American and the Japanese sides but they all wanted to get away from alien invasion. We know about the 1943 Japanese occupation of Manila and the subsequent Death March and all that specifics. It is undeniable that there was a lot of ruckus in Philippine history. Spending my whole scholastic life in the Philippines, I remember getting confused back in middle school when my teacher cannot downgrade the explanation on why the Philippines did not have a President in 1901-1935 (Macario Sakay and Miguel Malvar are considered as unofficial ones.) but there were two Presidents in 1944-1945 (Sergio Osmeña and Jose P. Laurel).

July 4, 1946 Independence Day ceremonies at the Luneta (Photo: Arnaldo Dumindin)

July 4, 1946 Independence Day ceremonies at the Luneta (Photo: Arnaldo Dumindin)

Philippine Independence was declared in July 4, 1946. The then 48-star Spangled Banner was replaced by the flag of the newly-christened Republic of the Philippines in Manila. This event was not shrugged off but celebrated by the world instead. Who could even shrug American media off? The ceremonies included Manuel Roxas being sworn in as ‘first’ President of the Republic of the Philippines and General Douglas McArthur, a Could-have-been-American-President (Republican), even rendered a speech in the ceremonies. It was a good thing the video didn’t show him with the iconic pipe on his mouth.

Since then, the Philippines was celebrating July 4th as their Independence Day, paying homage to the United States, the liberator (and not considering Jose P. Laurel as a Philippine president, but a collaborator). It was only in 1964 when President Diosdado Macapagal signed into act the designation of June 12 as the ‘Independence Day’ and he also declared Jose P. Laurel, the Japanese collaborator, a legitimate Philippine President. It has been since.

Withdrawing the historical details, we still get to get a view of how tangled our ideas are as a political entity, even more so, as a nation. Even after more than half a century, the Philippines, the political entity, is in search for real liberation. The Philippines is not free of discrimination from people of its own. Look at how everybody looks at whiter complexion to be the yardstick of beauty and the non-Tagalog accent to be less-likeable. The Philippines is not free from abusive capitalism. The country’s major assets belong to fifty rich families in the Philippines and the gap of the rich and the poor is so big that the rich and higher middle class Filipinos can equal rich first world families, and the poorest of the Filipinos experience the bout of hunger similar to those of African states. The Philippines is not free from external and internal political oppression. The Philippines is being bullied and pressured by other powerful countries while the Congress is dubbed as “Philippines’ Largest Criminal Syndicate”. The Philippines is not free from the crooked bureaucracy, the shackles of ignorance, absence of critical thinking, and poverty caused both by indolence and disparity of the pro-elite system. These should be the determining factors of independence. It sounds like mere rhetoric. Well, yes. Ideally, an independence day is a holiday mark in the calendar and not a transcendent boom from within. But, wait. What? That shouldn’t be the view. If we lose the “divine providence” side of history in the celebration of Philippine Independence or Kalayaan, our Filipino dream, which is to see the children of our nation in prosperity, we will also be throwing its quiddity to the black hole of forgotten history.

Perhaps, these were reasons why its people, the Filipinos in diaspora, the Filipino immigrants, the Filipino-Americans, chose to free themselves of the cage that is the archipelago. They have searched for opportunities in foreign lands and they have experienced the sense of liberation and growth that they see as a shot to the void if they are to stay in the Philippines. Now, this makes things worse for the archipelago – when its children go away and never go back. As Filipinos of a more liberal state, we have this ultimate obligation to give back to the Philippines and its people. Let us help them shatter the cages of ignorance and poverty in our own little way. With the growing power of the media, the oceans are not enough hindrance to send our help back to the Philippines. This help is not margined by aid you do during typhoons. It is rather a sense of investing your talents and your resources to further the progress of the long-term goal which is the Filipino dream. There are a lot of ways to get in touch with the thrust – exercise suffrage, invest on properties and businesses in the Philippines, share the world about Filipino tourist destinations, teach your children the Filipino languages you know, empower them to serve the Filipino communities, give preferential option to the Filipinos needing help, keep abreast of news from the archipelago, inculcate yourself with our heritage and history, and be the best walking advertisement of the nation – a Global Filipino.

This way, we continue the footsteps of our deceased champions. For as we give back to the motherland and its people, we are aiding Philippines to undated yet legitimate independence.

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