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Hope is eternal

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Ours is a storied journey to independence, spanning more than a hundred years – 124 years to be exact. It’s more than a lifetime of changing tides, turbulence and bloodshed. It’s a long journey but it’s not yet done. Perhaps, it will never be.

As we celebrate the country’s 124th Independence Day, we ponder on where we are now and where we want to be. We ponder on the freedom that we have and the kind of society that we have achieved.

The Philippines, consisting of more than 7,000 separate islands, declared independence from 300 years of Spanish rule on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite.

It was a long time coming. Years before that, the Katipunan, a secret revolutionary society, was formed in Manila to rebel against the Spaniards. It was in 1896, under the auspices of Andres Bonifacio when our forefathers uttered the Cry of Balintawak.

“When he raises a fist, they raise their fists; when he tears up his cedula, they tear up their cedulas; and when he cries defiance, they cry defiance. The die is cast, this is the point of no return. Bonifacio has committed the brotherhood to revolution,” says the great Nick Joaquin in Manila, My Manila.

This and more uprisings eventually punctuated the long era of Spanish rule in the Philippines but only to put the country in the hands of the Americans – another colonizer, another rebellion, another chapter in our history.

In 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established with US approval, and Manuel Quezon was elected the country’s first president.

Quezon, who famously quipped, “I would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans,” laid the groundwork for the country’s post-US independence in 1946.

For sure, we have taken great strides toward achieving independence, thanks to the sacrifices of the brave and gallant freedom fighters before us. But the fight isn’t over.

Let’s not be fooled. We are still very much attached to America--our economic policies and our democracy are patterned after the US. As for the Spaniards, they bequeathed to us patronage politics, along with siesta and paella. Inequality, as was clearly defined during the Spanish era, is also still very much present.

The Filipino identity

A hodgepodge of influences continues to define our consciousness. The Filipino identity is a confluence of this and that, as fragmented perhaps as our more than 7,000 islands.

In Asia, we stand out like a sore thumb – from religion to politics to daily life. We are a country of contradictions, thriving within a complex and labyrinthine set of beliefs and age-old traditions.

It is the only predominantly Catholic nation in the region and the last country in the world where divorce is illegal. Yet the contradictions are endless as they are varied - the Black Nazarene watches by as his devotees sell illegal abortion pills; a missing drug addict turns up lifeless at the crack of dawn like Jesus crucified; ex-convicts and plunderers are voted to make laws.

The journey continues

In all, we have yet to realize our right to self-determination and we have yet to be truly free from outside economic, political and military influences that continue to enslave us.

In some ways, we are still very much a colony, no thanks to our unequal relations with military-economic powers that have put us in unjust bilateral and multilateral relationships.

If we were a painting, we are a Jackson Pollock – an extreme abstraction made up of a messy, frenetic splash of colors in mostly dark tones.

And so we should strive, again and again, each day in our continuing story, to be a truly independent nation as our forefathers did before us.

Being Filipino

We need to continue educating ourselves and succeeding generations of the history of this country; of how our forefathers fought for our hard won freedoms; we need to elect nationalists instead of plunderers, law violators and political dynasties; we need to support Filipino-made products, our farmers, our fishermen and our small entrepreneurs. We need to develop local industries.

With these steps, hopefully, we will see a more progressive Philippines.

Hope

Hope is Eternal, writes Ely Buendia, the rockstar of my youth, on a 15-year old’s pink shirt in a chance encounter days after the May 2022 elections. The young muse is stricken with election grief and perhaps, Ely, too. As destiny would have it, amidst their post-election blues, their paths would cross, even for just a moment.

In Ely’s words the girl found hope and it will stick, as his songs have stuck in the hearts of generations and generations of dreamers because hope, indeed, is eternal. It is the truest of truths and is now etched like a tattoo in the young girl’s heart and perhaps in the hearts of others her age. So as the young ones pin their hopes on our country, may we bequeath to them a society that is much better and more independent than when we first saw it.

It’s not impossible, I dare say. We can dream, we can hope and we can strive for a better Philippines no matter how long it takes because yes, hope is eternal.

 

 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

INDEPENDENCE DAY

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