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July 4: Independence is not bought



Tomorrow is July 4, or the Fourth of July, a significant day in world history. It marks the Independence Day of the United States of America, a country that Imperial England once colonized. This day also holds importance for the Philippines, as it used to be Independence Day, a public holiday following the signing of the Treaty of Manila in 1946, which relinquished American sovereignty over the Philippines after World War II between the U.S. and Japan.


Filipinos who learned to love Hershey chocolates, sodas like Coke and Pepsi, and other US-made commercial products like Colgate and Palmolive cheered, displayed, or waved Philippine flags every July 4 as Independence Day. I was in second grade in 1962 when former President Diosdado Macapagal moved the commemoration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. Since then, July 4 is no longer a non-working holiday but is still celebrated as Philippine–American Friendship Day and Philippine Republic Day.


I often wondered what it was to cheer about when, right from the beginning, the country’s Independence was a farce.


An in-depth chronology of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1775-2022 from the reputable Historians for Peace and Democracy led by the author of the “War of 1898 and U.S.-Filipino War,” Brian D’Haeseleer, Assistant Professor of U.S. History at Lyon College and other distinguished American professors whose noble objective is to provide an accessible, accurate, principled, and resource-rich history of United States foreign policy for the public.


This review of world history is timely, especially as it involves our former colonizer and “benefactor,” embroiled once more in more aggressive military confrontations worldwide.


20M payment for Independence


A piece of history on the actual events that unfolded in 1898 after the Filipino revolutionary forces repelled the Spanish troops is a good start. In that war, the U.S. claimed victory alone, excluding Cuban and Filipino rebels from the peace negotiations. To make it appear that the small brown-skinned Filipinos did not defeat the Spanish forces, the Spaniards negotiated for the U.S. to purchase the Philippines for $20 million as part of the Treaty of Paris, effectively annexing the country into the American colonies. Concerned philanthropists and billionaires like Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, and Andrew Carnegie opposed America’s involvement in the Philippines, calling out the government for denying Filipinos their Independence. This event marked a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy over the following years; it acquired other territories to exercise “international police power” over the Western Hemisphere, militarily intervening in nations deemed guilty of “chronic wrongdoing.”


The following is a continuation of the chronology of history showing the grant of Independence supposedly for the Philippines is a sham:


* In the Philippines, the U.S. replaced Spain as colonial ruler, even though Emilio Aguinaldo had written a Declaration of Independence modeled after the U.S. Declaration of 1776;


* Andrew Carnegie, the steel titan, offered to pay the U.S. government $20 million not to keep the Philippines as a colony;


* In February 1899, fighting broke out between occupying U.S. soldiers and Filipino soldiers, the beginning of a long and brutal war to crush Filipino aspirations for Independence.


* Whereas the U.S. war against Spain lasted four months (late April-August 1898), the U.S.-Filipino War lasted more than four years;


* Attempting to avoid the charge of imperialism, President William McKinley described the U.S. mission in the Philippines as one of “benevolent assimilation.”


* The U.S.-Filipino War resulted in the death of an estimated 200,000 Filipinos, mostly civilians, and 4,200 American soldiers.


* A U.S. Senate inquiry in early 1902 revealed that U.S. commanders authorized torture practices, such as the “water cure,” and ordered the killing of Filipino civilians and prisoners.


* The U.S. finally granted Independence to the Philippines in 1946.


Independence and freedom are often interchangeable concepts. Both are self-gratifying feelings of being in control of one’s self and able to move and speak without interference from others.


In my younger years, I remember celebrating a taste of freedom and Independence away from home while living my dorm life as a freshman at UP Diliman. I cherished being independent and not dependent on others for support and guidance. I loved the feeling of my newly acquired freedom to be able to speak and act without control from my elders, my parents, and most especially of conservative values.  But I soon realized, after going through the travails of youth and adventure, that true Independence is more of a journey of self-discovery and self-identity. It’s not just about being free to talk and act without the control of others but about the conscious ability to govern independently and be self-reliant.


Freedom and Independence, as a collective ideal, are not bought; they are fought for and nurtured as one discovers one’s own identity as a people, not just as an individual. Both are essential virtues for personal and collective growth and development not just for oneself but especially so for the larger segment of our population who are poor and marginalized.


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