Today nation observes independence declaration

ROSES AND THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - June 12, 2001 - 12:00am
Some people may not remember, but there was a time when we celebrated our Independence Day on July 4th. That was from 1946 to 1960. July 4 remains a significant date in Philippine history. It was in July 4, 1902 that US President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the existence of total peace and the termination of the Philippine-American war. And it was on July 4, 1946 that US President Harry S. Truman announced that the United States was withdrawing and surrendering all rights of possession, supervision, jurisdiction and control of sovereignty in the Philippines. In short, it was acknowledging Philippine independence. In the strict sense, independence is not something that can be bestowed. When you recognize one’s independence, you don’t grant him that independence. What you actually do is attest his independence.

For a decade and a half, we commemorated our Independence Day on July 4, along with the United States. This proved problematical abroad. We were a new nation and when our embassies invited other embassies to join our Independence Day celebration, most embassies declined the invitation. It was not because they didn’t want to attend an occasion in our embassy. But the celebration coincided with the Independence Day celebration of the United States and most ambassadors gave a world-power nation like the United States preference over a newly-independent country like the Philippines.

The July 4th celebration of Independence Day at the Luneta also did not attract an enthusiastic crowd. This was because for four decades Filipinos celebrated July 4th as American Independence Day. If we were independent then, why were we still celebrating American Independence Day as Philippine Independence Day? The real irony was that on that day, the Americans were actually celebrating their Declaration of Independence while we were commemorating American recognition of our independence.

General Emilio Aguinaldo way back on June 12, 1898 had already proclaimed Philippine independence. It was on June 12 of that year when our flag was first unfurled and it was also on that June 12 that our national anthem was first played. And so when President Diosdado Macapagal was elected president, one of his first acts was to move our Independence Day commemoration from July 4 to June 12. Now like the United States and most countries, what we commemorate is our declaration of independence and not when the oppressors recognized that independence.

Like the American flag, our flag is predominantly red, white and blue. At the turn of the century, the American flag was known as the red, white and blue. Ours was referred to as the red, white and blue with the sun shining through. The rectangle on our flag is a heritage from the French Revolution. It stands for liberty, equality, fraternity.

Today, we commemorate the 103rd anniversary of our National Day, the first in the new millennium. Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon has announced that it will be an austere celebration. That is in keeping with our times. Our main task is to fight poverty and we cannot do that effectively unless we undergo austerity. Today’s celebration is an occasion that can bring unity to our people. Remember the May 1st message: Fight Poverty!

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