June 12, 1898 was the day the Philippines declared independence from Spain, from Emilio Aguinaldo’s home in Kawit, Cavite. The Philippine flag was officially unfurled for the first time as the March Nacional Filipina was played.
Our country failed to win international recognition of independence, particularly from our colonizers the United States of America and Spain. The Spanish eventually ceded the Philippine archipelago to the USA in the 1898 Treaty of Paris which led to the Philippine-American War. The USA eventually granted us independence on July 4, 1946.
Filipinos observed Independence Day on July 4 until 1962 when President Diosdado Macapagal issued Presidential Proclamation No. 28 which declared June 12 a special public holiday “in commemoration of our people’s declaration of their inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence”.
Today, we still celebrate Independence Day every June 12, the day our forebears officially declared their intention to be free from the clutches of our colonizers. The fight for independence from Spain started before that day, continued until 1946 as we struggled to free ourselves from the Americans, and even today, the quest for true independence continues as a work in progress.
Our country may have achieved independence from colonizers but the threats and challenges, both from external and internal sources, remain.
As our territory is being threatened by a shrewd and aggressive neighbor who may not know when to stop, the country’s leaders and defenders have to keep fighting back, using all available resources and defenses so we don’t lose the territory our forebears have shed blood, sweat and tears to win.
Independence Day also gives us the opportunity to look inward and assess the quality of the freedom we have won and entrusted to our leaders who are supposed to be the stewards of our nation and the common good. If we see any degradation or decline, it is incumbent upon us to take up the cudgels and push for necessary corrections and adjustments to ensure that it is our independent nation’s interests that are upheld and not that of those who wield the power and their cronies.
Our history shows that the fight for independence didn’t end with Independence Day. It didn’t end on June 12, 1898, nor did it end on July 4, 1946. Because independence is a continuing project in a constantly evolving world where the balance between good and evil is always shifting, we have to remain aware of the threats and challenges and be ready to keep fighting and defending the gains that have already been won.*