YESTERDAY, the whole nation celebrated the 121st year of our Independence. It was a special day when part of our archipelago along the West Philippine Sea has up to this day been occupied by China, in defiance of a UN International Arbitration Committee order stating that said group of islands belongs to the Philippines and is in fact within our territorial boundaries.
But we chose to look at the original significance of that date anyway, raised the flag and sang our National Anthem. We chorused “sa manlulupig di ka pasisiil” and concluded it with: “Ang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo.” To some of us, we never before had sang those lyrics so hollow, making us feel so passive and dumb amidst the events and shenanigans that unfold in these times of Rodrigo Duterte.
And where and when actually did the fight for our freedom began? Or have we really won it?
In 1896, the Philippine Revolution broke out. In December 1897, the Spanish government and the revolutionaries signed a truce, the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, requiring that the Spanish pay the revolutionaries 800,000 pesos and that the rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo go into exile in Hong Kong.
In April 1898, at the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, Commodore George Dewey aboard the U.S.S. Olympia sailed into Manila Bay and on May 1, 1898 defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay. Aguinaldo decided to return to the Philippines, arriving on May 19 of that same year in Cavite. Aguinaldo proclaimed our independence on June 12, 1898 at his ancestral home in Cavite with the Philippine flag sewn by three Filipina women in Hongkong unfurled for the first time as it now looks today.
The Act of the Declaration of Independence was prepared, written, and read by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista in Spanish. The proclamation of Philippine independence was, however, promulgated on August 1, when many towns had already been organized under the rules laid down by the Dictatorial Government of General Aguinaldo. About 190 municipal presidents of different towns from 16 provinces—Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Bataan, Infanta, Morong, Tayabas, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Mindoro, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, La Union and Zambales—ratified the Proclamation of Independence in Bacoor, Cavite.
Later in Malolos, Bulacan, the Malolos Congress modified the declaration upon the insistence of Apolinario Mabini who objected to the original proclamation that essentially placed the Philippines under the protection of the United States.
The declaration was never recognized by either the United States or Spain. Later in 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States under the 1898 Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish–American War. The Philippine Revolutionary Government did not recognize the treaty or American sovereignty, and subsequently fought and lost a bloody conflict with the United States. When Aguinaldo was captured, a statement was issued acknowledging the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines.
On July 4, 1946, following the end of World War II, the US granted independence to the Philippines via the Treaty of Manila. On August 4, 1964, upon the advice of historians and the urging of nationalists, President Diosdado Macapagal signed into law Republic Act No. 4166 designating June 12 as the country’s Independence Day. Yesterday, we celebrated Independence Day, with our fishermen barred from fishing in the Philippine waters west of Palawan held hostage by the Chinese Navy.