Friday, June 12, 2015

The Date Is Wrong, But Let's Enjoy Our Independence Day Nonetheless (While We Still Can)

Art found on the back of the obsolete five peso bill depicts the June 12, 1989 declaration of independence.  Yep, I was alive already when this was still being circulated.
Today is supposed to be the Philippines’ 117th Independence Day.  But it’s a misleading statement.  The Philippines isn’t really 117 years independent.  When Emilio Aguinaldo gathered his supporters at his home in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898 to declare the Philippines’ independence, he intended it to be a means to direct other nations to recognize the independence of the country.  However, this didn’t accomplish anything, as neither Spain nor the United States recognized Philippine independence.  To add insult to injury, Spain transferred the Philippines to United States’ control through the 1898 Treaty of Paris.  So, basically, the declaration of independence on June 12, 1898 didn’t have any actual substance.

That’s why I don’t think celebrating Independence Day on June 12 is proper.  It felt kind of delusional if we think that Aguinaldo’s declaration of independence on June 12, 1898 actually contributed in giving the Philippines independence.  Personally, I think that the more rightful date to celebrate our Independence Day is on July 4th, since it was only on July 4, 1946 that the Philippines actually received a de facto, self-ruling identity for the first time.  In fact, for some time, our Independence Day was correctly celebrated on the 4th of July, while June 12 was reserved for Flag Day.  However, for a reason that perplexes me, Diosdado Macapagal thought it a brilliant idea to declare in 1964 that June 12 is the appropriate date to celebrate our Independence Day.  He argued that since it’s the date when the Filipinos declared and exercised their “right to self-determination, liberty and independence”, and that it was a “legitimate assertion by the Filipino nation of their natural and inalienable claim to freedom and independence”, then it was only right to commemorate that date as the Philippines’ Independence Day.

For years, this bugged me.  Just saying something to be true without it being an actual reality doesn’t make it true.  It’s pretty basic.  When the Philippines said it was an independent country in 1898, but it really wasn’t in reality, then it wasn’t.  It would have been another story if the June 12, 1898 declaration has a direct influence in bringing about a legitimate independence happening on a future date.  But it didn’t.  After declaring independence, the Philippines didn’t have actual independence until nearly half a century later.  The Americans and the Japanese ruled the Philippines during that span.  And when we finally got our independence, it was something given to us by the Americans – we didn’t really win it.  Aguinaldo’s declaring Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 had nothing to do with that happening.  So, no, June 12 is not a better date than July 4.

Nevertheless, regardless of my issue with the date, I do value Independence Day.  It’s a holiday after all.  But, more than that, it is nice to reflect on the value of having freedom.  I’m grateful that I wasn’t born in an era wherein, being a Filipino, I could be forcibly asked to do hard labor without payment through polo y servicio.  Or have an encomendero lawfully exact excessive taxes from me or take my property by whim.  Or be tortured or beheaded by the Kempeitai.  Or witness the women I know and love be raped by Japanese soldiers.  Yes, I am actually blessed and fortunate to live in a time wherein the greatest bane of being a Filipino is just having corrupt politicians in our government (no sarcasm… okay, maybe a bit).  And Independence Day makes me realize that.

So we Filipinos really need to enjoy and appreciate our Independence Day.  Especially considering the fact that the looming possibility of Chinese invasion is just around the corner, and we might not enjoy our independence for long (LOL.  I hope I’m just overthinking it.  But the likelihood can’t really be dismissed easily).  Independence and freedom are things that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  117 might not be the actual years the Philippines are genuinely independent and free, but, at the very least, I pray the country will enjoy 117 years more of being so.

1 comment:

Freddy Panes said...

This is indeed the real story but Pinoys want to do it their "style." Thanks for this thought provoking article, I share the same sentiments. Leaders like D. Macapagal are playing into and understand the Filipino mentality. He is one of the most nonsensical president we ever had: declaring Tagalog as our national language. Cebuano should have been because cebuano has the most number of Pinoys speaking it.
At least for now we have a president that speaks Cebuano.