I get that all the time. I was born on June 12th, the day of Philippine Independence. Good thing my parents didn’t think much of it in 1981 or else my name would be a spin-off from Bayan, Filipina, Kalayaan or, God-forbid, Luzviminda.
When I was young it had it perks. I always got to celebrate my birthday with a party at home because, well, June 12 IS a national holiday. I remember my classmates’ envy year after year because I didn’t have to go to school on my birthday. As years went by I gradually got to taking pride in celebrating my birthday on the date the country actually won its independence. That plus, of course, the holiday perk.
That was then. Somehow some things found their way into my worldview that transformed Independence Day into much more than a “holiday” concept.
Historically, June 12, 1898 signifies the end of a three-century rule under the Spanish colonial government. Then college introduced me to debates on whether Emilio Aguinaldo was really a hero o a traitor. Or if the Battle of Manila was genuine or just staged for the eventual occupation of Manila by US colonizers. But I’d rather leave the dispute to historians and academic speculation (read: I already made up my mind).
A few years back, ironically on the centennial celebration of Philippine Independence, I got my first real taste, or rather distaste, of celebrating the nation’s so-called “freedom”. To what did I owe the sudden change of heart? I became a tibak, participated in discussions on ‘Philippine Social Realities,’ eventually chose a career path that was way far from what my mother envisioned for me. But, more importantly, aside from mere arm-chair discourse, I owe my turnabout not from simply hearing big words such as malakolonyal-malapyudal-imperyalismo-pambansang demokrasya for the first time. More importantly, REAL social conditions endowed me with the consciousness to re-evaluate “Philippine Independence.”
Exactly 108 years after Aguinaldo declared independence and the Flag of Freedom waves limply from the Balcony of Betrayal:
Still no completely Philippine-controlled basic industry to speak of.
Still no land to till, despite acres and acres of agricultural soil, for a huge bulk of the population.
Still millions of Filipinos dispossessed or being demolished from their homes in favor of foreign multinational businesses and contracts.
Still being run by a government opting to change the Constitution, the very embodiment of independence and democracy, to appease foreign interests.
Still being silenced for crying democracy when democracy is denied.
Still being raped by US mercenaries, still being shamed by own government’s coddling of crooks to maintain ‘diplomatic relations’ with a country that blatantly disrespects our “independence.”
Still a sham.
So goes my disillusionment with “freedom”. Enough reason, perhaps, to stop celebrating my birthday? Not at all. Instead, gives “makabayan” an entirely new definition
Independence is not something we can celebrate as a nation, not during these times. It is something that we are yet to achieve and which, 108 years after Aguinaldo waved his flag, numerous unnamed martyrs continue to fight and die for.
To quote Anne Frank, born June 12, 1929, “There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.”
To look forward to beginning all over again is more than enough reason to celebrate. ###
*column i wrote for NOYPI, News Outlet of the Young Pinoy