Independence Day

published in The Philippine Online Chronicles

Independence Day protest

“A, kaya pala makabayan ka!” I get that all the time. I was born on June 12th, the day of Philippine Independence.

When I was a child my birth date had it perks. I always got to celebrate with a party at home because June 12 is a national holiday. This was cause for envy for my classmates who loathed going to school on their birthdays. Malls always had holiday discount sales and television networks regaled their shows with festive station IDs. I reveled in celebrating with the whole country. I felt that the whole country was partying with me. I awaited the re-enactment of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s waving of the Philippine flag in Kawit, Cavite as if it were C.O.D. department store’s holiday presentation.

It was Christmas in June. It was a lot more awesome. It was my birthday.

Historically, June 12, 1898 marked the end of a three-century rule under the Spanish colonial government following the outbreak of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Gen. Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine sovereignty and independence from Spanish colonial rule.  He had just returned from exile. He was transported back to the Philippines by the United States Navy after fleeing the country following the defeat of the Spaniards by Filipino revolutionaries.

Neither the Spaniards nor the Americans, however, accepted the proclamation. The Spanish government later sold the Philippine Islands to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, signaling the beginning of US colonial rule over the Philippines.

College introduced me to debates on whether Aguinaldo was really a hero or a traitor of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Or if the Battle of Manila was genuine or merely staged for the eventual occupation of Manila by US colonizers. It was also in college that I got my first real taste, or rather distaste, of celebrating “Independence Day” as I had been accustomed to.

To what did I owe the sudden change of heart? I became an activist, participated in discussions of Philippine Society and Revolution and re-learned history. A few years back, ironically on the centennial celebration of Philippine Independence, I spent my birthday for the very first time in a huge rally calling for genuine independence and sovereignty.

It was a lot more awesome. It was my birthday.

I am writing this piece on the eve of the fourth of July, the day in 1946 when the United States recognized the Philippines as a sovereign republic. But American rule was never lifted. It only took on a different and more deceptive form that fortified a stronger and more strategic semi-colonial reign on the Philippines.

US drones are now being positioned in and around Philippine shores. Mostly US-owned corporations continue to lord over our national industries. Millions of Filipinos are being demolished from their homes and dispossessed of their lands in favor of foreign multinational businesses and contracts. We continue to be raped by US mercenaries, to be disgraced by our own government’s coddling of crooks and exploiters in reverence of so-called “diplomatic relations”.

Pres. Manuel Roxas’ Independence Day message on July 4, 1946 imprinted the “puppet” creed on every one of his successors: “It is most appropriate to acknowledge on this day our lasting obligation to America for the fulfillment of our age-old dream.  In providing us the means to realize this dream, she has set a precedent without parallel in history.  Ours is the responsibility to be worthy of her faith.” And worthy of her faith we have remained since.

Independence is not something we should commemorate as a nation, not during these times. It is something that we are yet to achieve. 114 years after Aguinaldo declared independence and the flag of freedom now waves limply from his balcony.

So goes my disillusionment with “Independence Day”. Did I stop celebrating my birthday? Not at all. “Makabayan” just assumed an entirely new definition.

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.”

It is also a few days before July7th, the anniversary of the founding of Andres Bonifacio’s Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK).

To look forward to beginning all over again is now more than enough reason to celebrate. ###

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