12 June 2008

Philippine Independence

We just celebrated the Philippine Independence Day yesterday. It is now past midnight of June 12 as I was updating this. Although it is an official holiday, the government moved this holiday to Monday, June 9. So last week, people had a longer weekend. For parents it was the best time to cram last minute shopping for the coming school opening. For most people, it was the best time to cram whatever task and leisure was needed for that week, including housework, buying groceries, catching the last summer swim at a nearby beach, watching movies and concerts or simply catching up on sleep.

Lately, a lot of our holidays are being moved as if on a whim. If the holiday is sandwiched between a regular workday and a weekend chances are, the event will be moved to a more convenient day. I wonder if all these convenient excuses of moving commemorating important events in history could, in a way, dull the people's sense of patriotism and respect for history. After all, we do not call it a holiday just so we can catch up with piling work or pending leisure time.

Official holidays like this allow us to take a pause to revisit the past and the commemorative event. To remember our brave and real heroes and learn from their courage and perseverance. To take stock of how our ancestors view events and what they have done as individuals, and as a nation.

Looking back . . .

It was on June 12, 1898 when Filipino revolutionary forces under General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the sovereignty and independence of the Philippine Islands from the colonial rule of Spain. This declaration, however, was not recognized by the United States, Spain or other nations. The Spanish Government merely handed the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets lost.

The Act of the Declaration of Independence was prepared and written by Senior Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista in Spanish, who also read the said declaration. A passage in the Declaration reminds one of another passage in the American Declaration of Independence. The Philippine Declaration was signed by ninety-eight persons, among them an American army officer who witnessed the proclamation.

The United States recognized the Philippine independence only on July 4, 1946 after almost 50 years and after a short-lived Japanese occupation! And it took almost 20 years, on August 4 1964, when then President Diosdado Macapagal (yes, the father of our present President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) signed Republic Act No. 4166 proclaiming June 12 as Independence Day.

It was also on the afternoon of June 12, 1898, at the ancestral home of General Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite (formerly Cavite el Viejo) when the National Flag of the Philippines was unfurled. Designed by Aguinaldo himself when he was on exile in Hongkong and sewn by Marcela Agoncillo (wife of Filipino diplomat Felipe Agoncillo) and her daughter Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Herboza (niece of Dr. Jose Rizal) for five days.

Known as "The Sun and the Stars", the flag spoke of the Filipino spirit and their deep longing for their country. The white triangle stood for equality, the blue for peace, truth and justice, the red for patriotism and courage, the sunburst of eight rays represent the first eight provinces that took up arms against Spain (Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Tarlac) and the three stars represent the three major geographical divisions of the country: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

However, a Manila Times article by Augusto de Viana, Chief History Researcher, National Historical Institute, mention assertions in history textbooks and commemorative rites that the flag was first raised in Alapa, Imus, Cavite on May 28, 1898 during the first fight of the Philippine Revolution.

This is the current version of the Philippine National Flag based on the Republic Act No. 8491 passed on February 12, 1998:

At present, from May 28 until June 12, the Philippine National Flag is displayed everywhere: houses, cars and yes, even on tricycles! I saw one with a huge Philippine flag flying in the wind, exposed to dust, pollution and rain!

Looking back . . .

On June 12, 1898, during the proclamation, the performance of the Marcha Filipina Magdalo as the Nation's National Anthem, now known as "Lupang Hinirang" composed by Julian Felipe was played by the San Francisco de Malabon Marching Band.

At present, during official ceremonies and yes, even before the start of the first screening in movies, the National Anthem is played and people rise lazily, albeit reluctantly. Some don't even bother to rise at all!

In some cases, the Philippine Flag is not even present! I watched in horror at an official event when this happened. When the National Anthem is played you immediately face the National Flag with your hands raised to your chest as a form of respect and acknowledgement for the many struggles that our countrymen went through to ensure that we can enjoy the freedom that we have today. . .


I watched the scene yesterday and did not find it.