Come Fourth of July, fireworks will be indispensable in the American night skies while the free and brave party over barbecue, burgers and hotdogs. I remember the extravagant celebration of the Bicentennial Bastille Day in France, which occurs on July 14, which bears many similarities to the American July 4 except that the red, white and blue doesn’t come with stars, and it’s French food and not hotdogs and burgers. In India, they fly kites on August 15. Indonesians play tree climbing games with prizes on August 17. People of Ghana dance on beach parties on March 6. Canadians have picnics and parades on July 1.
In the Philippines, we raise the flag early in the morning on June 12; and then we go home.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should shoot up fireworks and go out on street parties because that’s the correct way of celebrating Independence Day. But there is an obviously stark difference in the way we “celebrate” Independence Day. Is it a celebration after all? Do Filipinos appreciate June 12 at all? Independence Day does not bring a sense of community and family to the Filipino, like the Christmas season or the local fiestas.
On June 12, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from his ancestral home balcony in Kawit, Cavite with the unfurling of the Philippine flag, the playing of the march which we now know as “Lupang Hinirang” and a reading of the act of declaration, before a small crowd of97 Filipinos in very trifling proportion to the inhabitants of 7,107 islands. The proclamation was actually promulgated on August 1, 1898 when many towns had been organized by the Aguinaldo administration. Despite the number, these are “towns”, not even provinces. It would be very safe to say that those in attendance on June 12 and on August 1 were remotely representative of what is considered as the “Philippines” then and now. Much of the revolution for independence was concentrated in the Tagalog provinces in Luzon, which is represented by the eight rays of the sun in the middle of the triangle in the Philippine flag. The call for freedom for Spanish rule was not even echoed in the whole of Luzon, much less in Visayas and Mindanao. As a matter of fact, Bicol then enjoyed a flourishing abaca industry and did not see a need for a change in the status quo. (That’s why the honorable men known as Quince Marteres are acknowledged by historians, as mere fall guys, not actual revolutionary leaders.) Throughout Spanish colonization, the Cordillera tribes enjoyed relative independence from Spanish rule. So, in their perspective, what “independence” are you talking about? In the Visayas, “Spain had already formally surrendered on November. 6 & December 23, 1898 to the Negros Republic and the Federal Republic of the Visayas based in Iloilo respectively, even before Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was proclaimed Philippine President in Malolos, Bulacan on January 23, 1899.” Moreover, the “Independent Visayan Republic, had never been under the authority and jurisdiction of Aguinaldo’s “Katagalogan” Republic in Luzon.” (https://www.istorya.net) Mindanao was never a part of the Spanish colonial government; but was administered by the sultanates of Sulu, Lanao and Maguindanao, and indigenous tribal leaders throughout the Hispanic colonization; hence, they had no need for a declaration of independence. On July 4, 1946, “actual” independence was granted to the Philippines by the Americans after annexing the Cordilleras, the Visayas and Mindanao, and schooling the Filipinos on self-rule. Now, what is there to celebrate on June 12?
Why don’t Filipinos “celebrate” the June 12 Independence Day? Because the Filipinos today are not descendants of the Filipinos who declared the June 12 independence. Because in true context, the declaration was initiated by and for the Tagalog provinces. Because after all, authentic independence was not gained on June 12, 1898. Even if we celebrate it on July 4 (which we actually did from 1947 to 1962, in case, you don’t know), independence was not borne from a united determination as a nation. It was an award of sorts, after American training on administration, more like a graduation. Now, you don’t throw a party for the anniversary of your graduation, do you? You hang your diploma on the wall (like a flag on a pole). But you don’t celebrate the date of your graduation every year. As a matter of fact, we often forget the exact date. Celebration of independence is not initiated by presidential proclamation or republic act, but by the spirit of unity as a nation.
Well, anyway, thanks for the holiday.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17