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Declared free

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - June 12, 2010 - 12:00am

When Emilio Aguinaldo declared our independence on June 12, 1898, he was doing more than asserting the Philippines as sovereign nation and Filipinos as a modern and self-governing people. Let there be no doubt, we may have been struggling for nationhood, but in definable ways we were on the cusp of modernity by ourselves. The Philippines’ declaration was the forerunner to a rise of regional democratic movements. We were the natural extension, and philosophical and intellectual heir, to the political and social movements in Europe and the United States. They had their Enlightenment, the Propaganda Movement and the rise of the Revolution was ours. That we never saw it to completion then, or now, is something to be considered.

In the aftermath of World War II, in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued. Article 1 states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Article 2 states: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind…”

For Emilio Jacinto in his Kartilya (written in 1896): “Whether one’s skin be black or white, all people are equal; it may be that each is superior in knowledge, or wealth, beauty but there is no superiority in human dignity.” These themes, so expressed in 1948, were prevalent and driving forces behind the Revolution. In a sense, our Founding Fathers took the ideas of the European and American Enlightenment, combined them and infused them with their own ideas. It is a tangible philosophical and literary legacy that we have inherited from them.

The importance though of the Philippine Revolution is not limited to the period when it occurred. This idea, of the Revolution both as a source of pride and a cautionary word, was expressed by Felice Sta. Maria: “Moments in the past can be revelations of what can happen in the future, even if no two eras are ever identical. The Philippine Revolution is a warning that any mode of governance perceived widely as an unjust and prejudicial to the majority, runs the risk of being replaced by another that seems responsive to people’s real and imagined needs and desires.”

Jose Rizal expressed best the type of intellectual and broad social change needed: “I do not mean that our freedom is to be won at the point of the sword; the sword counts for little in the destinies of modern times. But it is true that we must win it by deserving it, exalting reason and the dignity of the individual, loving what is just, what is good, what is great, even to the point of dying for it. When the people rises to this height, God provides the weapons, and the idols fall, the tyrants fall like a house of cards, and freedom shines in the first dawn.”

On the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence we should not only honor the event, but the ideas and inspirations behind it. Honoring them means infusing them into our daily lives and, for our civil and political leaders, the governance of our country. For Rizal was correct. Revolution and great social change is not won on the point of the sword. It is built by words, actions and deeds. Patriotism is not a slogan, but a life-long dedication. As Emilio Jacinto said: “A life that is not consecrated to a large and holy greatness is a tree without shade, if not a poisonous weed.” For them, as for us, that is the Philippines.

AS EMILIO JACINTO DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE EUROPE AND THE UNITED STATES EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT FELICE STA FOR EMILIO JACINTO FOR RIZAL FOUNDING FATHERS JOSE RIZAL PHILIPPINE REVOLUTION PROPAGANDA MOVEMENT
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