June 12, 1898 marks the day when the Filipino people experienced the taste of freedom! This year the Philippines commemorates 114 years of sovereignty.
Exactly 114 years ago today, the Filipino revolutionary forces led by General Emilio Aguinaldo, proclaimed the sovereignty and independence of the Philippine Islands on June 12, 1898 from the colonial rule of Spain following the latter’s defeat in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.
This declaration, however, was not recognized by both the United States and Spain. But when the Spanish government later ceded the Philippine archipelago to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War, the US granted independence to the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946 in the Treaty of Manila. Since then, July 4 was observed as Philippine Independence Day.
However, on August 4, 1964, upon the advice of historians and the urging of nationalists, Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal finally signed into law Republic Act No. 4166 designating June 12 as the country’s Independence Day, or Araw ng Kalayaan.
Moreover, the Philippines celebrates National Flag Day on May 28 to commemorate the date when the Philippine flag was first unfurled after the Philippine Revolutionary Army defeated the Spanish forces in the Battle of Alapan in 1898. The celebration, however, extends from this date until June 12, as mandated by Republic Act 8491, or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, where all Filipinos are encouraged to display the Philippine flag in all offices, agencies and instruments of the government, business establishments, schools, and private homes throughout this period.
I may not have experienced how it was during the Spanish era, but I had gone through a period when freedom was once curtailed in this country; when it was common to hear the words political prisoners, political detainees, desaparecidos, massacre, mass grave, and so many gruesome scenes. It was the time when life was at the hand of a dictator – the period of rule that ended peacefully with flying yellow confetti and ribbons!
However, there is one thing I would want to be revived of that period, and that is, the Green Revolution. Although, I never understood what it really meant, I can still remember that at my young age (I was about 8 or 9 years old then), we were taught gardening and eating green leafy vegetables for “sustainable development.” I used to like that program because I enjoyed watching my pechay and ampalaya grow, and ultimately harvesting the fruits of my labor in our front yard, then. I don’t know, however, if that sustainable development they were trying to inculcate in us then share the same meaning as it is promoted today.
Anyway, had it not for the effort of our courageous ancestors and relatives, who put their lives on the line for freedom, we would never have known Independence Day. Perhaps, I could only associate liberty with condensed milk (Liberty brand was a common sight in our home when I was young).
May we, the present generation, learn to uphold and protect the freedom that we have now. Let’s zealously guard that sovereignty against usurpers and people with malicious intent. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!