By Connie Destura, Emmanuel Solis and Gina Rodriguez
LEGAZPI CITY ---- The people of Albay -- its top officials and the ordinary folk, including the elders and the youth -- believe in patriotism as a “shared responsibility.
During Monday’s 119th commemoration of Philippine independence in the province, they said showing unity in the community is one way of sustaining the sacrifices made by the country’s heroes in attaining the country’s freedom.
In parts of the province, a moment of prayer was also said for the “true heroes,” referring to the fallen soldiers in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, where clashes between government troops and a terrorist group have caused the death of scores of government soldiers.
“Today, we’ll be honoring everybody, the national leaders, soldiers, teachers and senior citizens who are contributing much to development,” said Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara in his message after the raising of the Philippine flag at the Peñaranda Park, also called “Freedom Park” that is located across the Provincial Capitol here.
He said the day’s event, which has for its theme “Kalayaan 2017: “Pambansang Pagbabago, Sama-Samang Balikatin (change in the nation, a shared responsibility),” is not just a way of “remembering the past but also a way of honoring the present.”
Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal, in his message, said the true meaning of freedom is unity among the people in the community by way of shared responsibilities.
“Umaasa ako na magsasama-sama ang lahat para di masayang ang ipinaglaban ng ating kababayan (I am hopeful that everyone will come together to honor the sacrifices of our fellowmen),” he said.
Rosal said everyone has a role to play as the country is confronted with “daily battles” against problems such as poverty and peace and order.
So-called “freedom doves and balloons” were released in the air at the close of the flag-raising ceremony.
A Holy Mass at the Albay Cathedral followed by a parade of troops preceeded the flag-raising at the Peñaranda Park.
The participants in the parade included personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, among them those from the Navy, Air Force as well as the Philippine National Police; Bureau of Jail Management and Penology; Bureau of Fire Protection; and Philippine Coast Guard.
After the flag-raising rites, a wreath-laying ceremony led by Bichara and Rosal followed at the Legazpi City Hall compound as the 58th Charter Day of this city is also observed today.
Under the “Integrated Reorganization Plan,” which involved the restructuring of local governments, Legazpi became a city under Republic Act No. 2234 on June 12, 1959.
The day’s events, that were capped with a civic-military parade at 3 p.m. in a major thoroughfare of this city, were witnessed by surviving veterans of World War 2, senior citizens, members of masonic lodges, provincial and city government employees and women’s organizations and ordinary citizens.
Amalia Agarin, 55, a housewife from Barangay Buyuan, Legazpi City, who has a son working at a fast food chain in Kuwait for three years now, said the essence of Independence Day celebration will not be lost on today’s generation.
“We will continue telling our children, the way our own parents did, that we cannot take for granted the sacrifices made by our heroes,” she said.
Agarin said she will impress on her children to teach their own offsprings how the country’s heroes fought so that the Filipinos could stand on their own feet and run the affairs of the country on their own.
“Di ko ipagpapalit ang bayan ko. Dito ako ipinanganak, dito ako tatanda at mamamatay sa sariling bayan ko, (I will not swap my country for another. I was born here, I will age here and I will die in my own country)” she said.
Agarin said she will make sure that her OFW-son will return to the country and have the same sense of pride for his country’s heroes.
In the geothermal town of Tiwi, also in Albay, local government officials, townspeople and members of the Municipal Police Office (MPO) offered a minute of prayer at the terrace of the municipal city hall for the Filipino soldiers who died in Marawi City as part of the June 12 activities.
“Let us remember our fallen brothers who fought for our country. They are heroes in our hearts,” said Sr. Insp. Jan King Calipay, Tiwi police chief.
Nitzer Dela Cruz, 11, a resident of Barangay Libjo, Tiwi, who attended the ceremony, said he is giving respect to the soldiers in Marawi because “they are truly heroes.”
“Being a Filipino citizen I’m doing my part by being a role model to my little sister and by helping her with her assignments,” said Laurence Joy Arcega, 12, whose parents are both police officers.
Members of the MPO in Tiwi watched the students perform an intermission number that showed how patriotism could be practiced even by the young. (PNA)