Today, let’s celebrate and reflect on our ‘independence’

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

Today the nation celebrates Independence Day. It was on June 12, 1898 when Filipino revolutionary forces led by General Emilio Aguinaldo held the public reading of the “Acta de la proclamación de independencia del pueblo Filipino” in Cavite.

The public proclamation signaled the birth of the First Philippine Republic. Although the republic was a short-lived one, its proclamation was still significant because it was considered the first in Asia. That first republic was paid for with blood and immense sacrifices of Filipinos.

For me, Independence Day is both a time for celebration and an occasion for reflection. We celebrate our unity, courage and bravery in standing up against our colonizer, Spain. That unity and maturity to self-govern, however, was tested when we had to face the United States of America in a war we eventually lost. Thus, Independence Day is also an occasion to reflect on what it really takes to make a nation.

Some of us may dispute the validity of celebrating this occasion because of the many unfufilled promises of independence. Scholars observe that not much has really changed in the nature of Philippine society or those who control it since post-colonial times. Our sense of national identity is prone to manipulation by hegemonic forces both within and outside the country.

In any case, nationhood is always a work in progress, and to some people, an unfinished revolution. Every day we must strive to give meaning to our national symbols like our national flag and anthem and our national manifesto, the Constitution. We must protect our national dignity by strengthening our identity and unity, and building not only a self-reliant nation but also morally disciplined one.

When it comes to nationhood, I always keep in mind what the Bible says. A nation under God, whose leaders and people strive to remain faithful to their covenant with him who made the world and all the things in it, will be exceedingly fruitful. On the other hand, a nation governed by fools and populated by weak people will fall into squabble and pestilence.

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Today is also the fiesta of Toledo City, the hometown of my relatives from the maternal side. I would like to greet the people of Toledo City a happy fiesta! The last time I attended its fiesta was on June 12, 2013. So that was eight years ago at the house of Tita Charito of the large Cavada clan. My maternal grandfather was Jesus Cavada who was originally from Toledo. He later resided in Catmon when he was appointed as municipal treasurer there.

Then newly-elected mayor John “Sonny” Osmeña graced Tita Charito’s party, perhaps as a way to thank the clan for its support of his candidacy. I was seated on the same table with Osmeña who impressed us with talk about his plans for Toledo.

Incidentally, yesterday I was in Toledo to attend a court hearing. I asked my client who is from there how the fiesta period is being observed. He told me that just like last year, this year’s fiesta celebration is taking on a subdued tone because of the pandemic.

I hope this will be the case from here on until health authorities declare the end of the pandemic. We cannot afford to be complacent. Places far from metropolitan areas and economic centers should take a lesson or two from what happened in Negros Oriental and Bohol which are now grappling with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Bohol, for example, tells us that strict border controls is not an effective long-term solution in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Bohol held at bay the spread of the infection for many months because of its vaunted strict entry protocols. This strategy seemed to work but not for long when many people within the island fail to follow the basic public health protocols.

Border control should only be meant as a stop-gap measure. You can protect your borders with strict screening of arrivals at ports and airports, as well as two-week long quarantine protocols. Yet we all know that there are loopholes that allow a few people to break the screening process, among them our “palusot” attitude.

Lessons should be learned about the crucial role that contact tracing and mass testing play, coupled with strict observance of public health protocols, in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Of course, the long-term solution to the pandemic is herd immunity through a mass vaccination program.

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