Holiday distress
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2019 - 12:00am

Last week majority of the Filipinos celebrated the 121st anniversary of Philippine Independence Day in the malls. Is this a sign of hope or hopelessness? I noticed how quiet the day was with many people on a “relax” mode. I guess too relaxed that they forgot what the national holiday was all about.

Sure, there were trickles of Independence Day celebrations across the country but not enough to spark the Filipinos’ spirit. At times like this when we question our identity and don’t even seem to know the difference, shouldn’t we work harder to strengthen it with fervor?

Keeping the students in school would have made a difference (instead of giving them another holiday break after their long summer break). Teachers would have spent the day talking about our country, our people and our heritage, as oppose to going to the malls, watching TV or playing with their gadgets at home.

If we continue to be passive, inactive, unmindful of what tomorrow brings, then we will wake up one day to see our country being taken over by invaders.

We will continue to clamor about fishermen being harassed by the Chinese and yet allow our country to be run by monkeys and dogs who continue to gnaw on our country’s coffers. Our lawmakers and other public officials who have been serving us have not really made any difference in the years they have served the country. They have not improved any system. They plan, talk, complain, fight but no solid actions and structures have really changed our country’s landscapes.

We continue to create unnecessary laws that affect the progress of the country be it social, cultural or economic policies. As Filipinos continue to try to sustain their enterprises, the government both local and national continue to make it difficult for them to thrive. Our youth are clearly ignored with the many programs available but inefficiently implemented. Teachers continue to ask for salary adjustments but are they qualified to really teach all the right stuff? Public leaders continue to appoint officials without any qualifications whatsoever. Sanamagan!

The country has too many holidays. But do we really have to make them ‘non-working’ holidays? The Mt. Pinatubo eruption for instance has been declared a ‘non-working’ holiday in Pampanga. Is this really necessary? Why not just use the day to remember it and talk about the lessons learned? Why did the provincial government need to declare it as a non-working holiday?

All holidays are mostly non-working holidays. For a company, it lessens productivity by 20-22 days. And if they require their staff to work on legal holidays, companies are required to pay 200% or double pay. For special holidays, they are paid 130% if they require their employees to work. But if the employee is paid on a daily basis, it means no work, no pay for them.

Apart from the above national holidays, each local government unit also comes up with their own local holidays – city foundation, patron saint day, etc. which adds up to the many holidays we have. Like a special non-working holiday, companies again pay 130% if they require their staff to work during these local holidays.

Every year we have 10 legal holidays, 10-11 Special Non-working Holidays not to mention the local holidays celebrated in the different cities and provinces.

The point is that in the most important holiday of our nation’s history, only very few groups celebrated it while majority of the Filipinos brushed it aside. No Philippine flags were waved or displayed in their homes, no TV or radio stations gave importance to it, schools (places where learning takes place) were empty, government offices had a free day without taking the lead in promoting the essence of nationhood.

We lack passion, zest, eagerness – the intensity of being proud to be a Filipino. The movie Quezon’s Game and the others that came before it has done its part in inspiring us to love our country and see what it has already done as a young nation.

In case we’ve all forgotten why we celebrate Philippine Independence, here is a piece my late grandfather Assemblyman Benito Soliven wrote in 1940: Independence is so precious that nations have willingly undergone untold hardships and made the greatest sacrifices to obtain and keep it. On the altar of liberty are the dead of a thousand wars and the bitter sufferings of generations; there, too are the glorious achievements of heroes, and the unknown, but no less meritorious, deeds of millions of nameless soldiers and patriots who served, lived and died for the cause of freedom. Our ancestors have for almost four hundred years unceasingly toiled, fought and waited for the independence of our country, and it is for us of this generation to carry to completion the work that they so valiantly commenced and so courageously carried on for centuries.

The dawn which they vainly hope to see has come at last, and six years from now, in 1946, Philippine Independence will be a reality. But its advent, epoch-making and climactic as it is, is only a part of the struggle and living epic of free nationhood. For Independence must not only be won but kept and defended. This is more true in the present international state of unrest and strife, true when it seems that once more “might” rules it over the world, and when weaker nations are victims of aggression by stronger powers.

In the face of these grim, undeniable facts, there arises the question, formidable in its import and consequences: Shall we be able to defend ourselves against foreign aggression?

One hundred twenty-one years have come to pass but we haven’t tried hard enough to make it work. If we don’t get our act together, we will not only lose the controversial Spratly Islands, Sabah, Scarborough Shoal, Kalayaan Islands, among others but also our heritage, our culture and our people.

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