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BLIND SPOT: Where is Freedom?

Here we go again. A few weeks ago, a friend was obliviously asking on the reason for the flags all around downtown. 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.” ( 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? Noted precursors of the revolution was the demand of the “Filipino” middle class of “secularization in which control of Philippine parishes were to be passed from the religious orders to the secular priests, particularly Philippine-born priests, to which the religious orders, or friars, reacted negatively resulting to a political struggle between the friars and secular priests “, and the outpouring of “more peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain) into the colony to occupy the various government positions traditionally held by the criollos ( Spaniards born in the Philippines).” ( ) We have to take note that although these criollos were actually fully Spanish by race, they strongly perceived and identified themselves as “Filipinos”. Then came afterwards, La Solidaridad and the Katipunan. So it’s all about self-rule. So, how have the Filipinos ruled themselves? Philippine self-rule (which in its actual sense, has run for 76 years; despite the centennial in 1998) from Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino and now, Duterte, can be characterized as a steady scale to progress marked with chronic incidents of corruption and instability with varying magnitudes. Yes. We have been gradually ascending up economic growth, with sporadic scenes of corruption from G.I. surplus, to Stonehill, to ill-gotten wealth; and similarly sporadic strikes of instability from Huks to NPA to Moro insurgents, to dictatorship and revolutions. Yes, it has been a Sunday morning drive to development with chronic instability and corruption. Wait, wait a minute. That sounds something like colonial rule. One can’t deny that in those 300 years with the Spaniards; and may we add 3 with the Japanese, and the rest of which is some 44 years with Americans, there was considerable development; but there were corruption cases from peninsulares and priests, imperial military officials, and servicemen; and of course, there had been instability with the revolts across the archipelago. Hey, come on; at least, we got our freedom and human rights; that is if you consider poverty and summary executions as manifestations of freedom and human rights. Okay, I guess that would depend on who you’re talking to. So, maybe the biggest change is Filipinos really get to rule the territory by themselves with sovereignty, without the influence or interference of foreign nations. Wait, hold that thought. Have we really experienced that? Oh, well… “…where the Spirit of the Lord, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

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