Independence Day

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Why did Independence Day become a “wala lang” holiday?

Fred Mison, a West Pointer, former immigration commissioner and former executive of Philippine Airlines posted this on Facebook last weekend:

“Sometimes I wonder why Independence Day in this country is not given that much significance, unlike in other countries. Some people I know even take freedom for granted, sadly.”

Someone commented on Fred’s post: “You know I had the same thoughts. In Singapore it’s the biggest event of the year, with fireworks, a parade of its artillery, and song and dance. Wasn’t it like that when we were kids? So, I decided to hang my dad’s flag in my office today.”

Fred wasn’t the only one who noticed it. Katrina Stuart Santiago, a writer, posted on Facebook:

“Probably the darkest Independence Day I’ve experienced in my life. And I’m the one who’s all about flags and protests and events, but today I have settled for simply getting out of bed, getting some coffee…”

I have long wondered too. When I was growing up, Independence Day, whether it was July 4th or June 12th, was a big thing. It wasn’t just another day to skip work or school.

I remember Independence Day meant a military/civic parade at Luneta. The PAF Blue Diamonds would fly by the grandstand, do some spectacular aerobatics to the awe and wonder of a big crowd of people waving small Philippine flags.

The highlight is the President’s Independence Day speech. Those speeches encourage love of country and a feeling of pride in being Filipino. That’s important to get us to think as Filipinos rather than as regional tribes.

People end the day enjoying Rizal Park and the Manila Bay sunset feeling great about being Filipino and about this country. Then the fireworks climax a great day…

I don’t know when we started to lose the feeling. I also don’t know why that happened. Many other countries older than ours continue to celebrate their Freedom Day.

For example, July 4th in the United States is something to look forward to. I have experienced two July 4ths in Washington DC where my sister lives. Watching the fireworks shooting behind the Washington monument is memorable.

Maybe we lost interest in celebrating Independence Day because we lost faith in our country and its future. We no longer have the Blue Diamonds. We allowed their jets to become too old to do those proud maneuvers in the sky.

As for the civilian part of the parade, the parade of movie stars during the Manila Film Festival is probably more interesting.

But as I look back, the Independence Day of old performs an important role in our national life. It made us focus on our heroes and what they have sacrificed so our generation of Filipinos can live in freedom.

Unfortunately, we have become jaded as a people. We have lost much of our national pride. Many of our young people can’t wait to be old enough to leave the country and seek their future abroad… get a better passport. I remember seeing a survey that said just that.

Or maybe, we have lost faith in our ability to govern ourselves. Quezon’s government run like hell by Filipinos happened. From having an economy second only to Japan, we are now last among the original ASEAN members and even overtaken by Vietnam.

We can’t blame the democratic system for our failure. Marcos could have ruled like Lee Kuan Yew in the 14 years under martial law. The Marcos dictatorship only made the country poorer, and at one point in 1983, bankrupt.

We overthrew Marcos, but the 30 years after EDSA didn’t bring the progress we thought would follow. The ruling elite and the kleptocracy that flourished through the years just got stronger and stronger. Political dynasties corrupted our political system.

No wonder we lost the desire to celebrate Independence Day. Even Duterte had better things to do than lead Independence Day rites.

Duterte attended only his second Independence Day rites last Saturday in Malolos. The first time was in Kawit, Cavite in 2018. He has never raised the flag at the Luneta, a traditional role for the President. Vice President Leni Robredo did that in 2019.

Our general lack of interest in celebrating Independence Day shows a waning pride in our country and in being Filipino. That’s unfortunate.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being Filipino. Many Filipinos have done well all over the world.

We produced Jose Rizal, Antonio and Juan Luna, Marcelo del Pilar and others internationally known for their genius and patriotism. Carlos Romulo helped lead the United Nations at its inception.

We produced a Dado Banatao who made significant contributions to the IT revolution in its early days. Filipino doctors, nurses, engineers, managers, bankers are respected all over the world. Outside of the country, we do well.

More recently, a Filipina data management engineer was part of the NASA Perseverance rover team that successfully landed on Mars in search of signs of ancient microbial life.

A Filipino student graduated with a perfect grade point average (GPA) of 5.0 from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US. He earned double degrees: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering, and Bachelor of Science in Business Analytics, with a minor in Economics.

A Filipina-Japanese won the US LPGA championship, and another Filipina with her Russian partner won the junior women’s doubles championship at the French Open.

Genevie Yang, the NASA engineer said the story “is about hope and how we can put our differences aside and no matter what your background is... together we can just accomplish anything,” she told ANC.

But we just keep electing the wrong politicians who ravage the country of its wealth and kill its ambitions.

Veteran journalist Belinda Olivares Cunanan summed up our thoughts on Independence Day:

“For a people obviously gifted by the Creator with intelligence, ability and resilience, this is frightfully sorrowful. We deserve a better destiny, but destiny has to be worked for – not dropped like manna from Heaven. Independence Day could be a good beginning.”



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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