TODAY we remember and honor President Emilio Aguinaldo, who declared June 12, 1898, as Philippine Independence Day. The 21-page declaration was read at the Aguinaldo house in Kawit, Cavite, and the Filipino flag was unfurled for the first time as the Marcha Nacional Filipina, the Philippine National Anthem, was played, also for the first time.
The Philippines, however, failed to win international recognition of its independence. The Americans, having won the Spanish-American War, claimed the islands, and Aguinaldo faced the Americans in the Philippine-American War. It was only on July 4, 1946, that the US finally yielded control over the islands. For the next 19 years, we thus celebrated July 4, 1946, as Philippine Independence Day.
President Diosdado Macapagal led many other Filpino leaders who saw the primacy of Aguinaldo’s proclamation of independence in 1898 over the US-granted independence of 1946. In 1962, he issued Presidential Proclamation 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.” Three years later, in 1965, Congress enacted Republic Act 4166 proclaiming June 12 as Philippine Independence Day.
Thus today, as we remember and honor President Aguinaldo, we also remember and honor President Macapagal and the other Filipino leaders who, while grateful for America’s grant of independence in 1946, believed in the greater significance of the Filipino revolutionaries asserting and proclaiming their desire and their right to be free and independent.
Today, at a Rizal Park, in front of the Rizal Monument, traditional flag-raising ceremonies will be held to highlight Philippine Independence Day. Similar ceremonies will be held in towns and cities all over the country. The fast dwindling number of heroes who fought for the country in its wars against foreign domination will be honored.
Over the years, there have been many events crucial to the nation’s growth and development – our soldiers and guerrillas fighting Japanese invasion and occupation forces in World War II, our participation in United Nations operations in Korea and Vietnam, the People Power Revolution of 1986. All these have helped shape our nation and will be remembered today.
But the focus will be on that singular event in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898, when Filipinos, ahead of all other colonized Asian nations, declared their independence from centuries of colonial rule.
The fight for independence continues in so many forms – economic, social, cultural, political – for we have not quite achieved it. We can draw inspiration from those leaders of the Philippine Revolution and take heart from the continuing efforts of today’s leaders to strive for true national independence.