Today the country celebrates its 125th Independence Day, commemorating the day that was proclaimed by Emilio Aguinaldo on June 5, 1989, as our day of independence. That was when he, along with other Filipinos then, thought that the Spanish-American war which had just culminated in the defeat of the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay, also resulted in the liberation of the Philippines.
Alas, the Philippines failed to win international recognition of its independence, specifically from the United States of America and Spain. What happened instead was that the Spanish government ceded the archipelago to the USA in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which the Philippine Revolutionary Government refused to recognize, leading to the Philippine-American War.
The Philippines finally gained its independence on July 4, 1946, when US President Harry S. Truman issued Proclamation 2695 officially recognizing the independence of the Philippines. The USA chose the date because it coincided with their independence day, and our country observed that until 1962, when President Diosdado Macapagal issued Presidential Proclamation No. 28, declaring June 12 a special public holiday “… in commemoration of our people’s declaration of their inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.”
The long and circuitous path of the Independence Day we celebrate today gives an analogy of how attaining it was never straightforward. Our predecessors had to fight numerous intellectual and literal shooting wars against the Spanish and the Americans, and even the Japanese during World War II, in order to earn this year’s long weekend that many of us will be taking for granted.
Independence Day reminds us of the struggle that the people who went ahead of us endured in the complicated and bloody quest for the freedoms we enjoy today. Many Filipinos will be enjoying what is left of the long weekend in their own way, but hopefully, those of us who remember why today is a holiday will take the time to appreciate what was earned for us, while continuing to defend it from those who are threatened by the earned freedoms that they now regard as hindrances that prevent them from securing their own selfish interests and agenda.*