It has been ingrained to Filipinos that we celebrate Independence Day every 12th of June. On the same day in the year 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo waved the Philippine flag for the first time as he faced a joyous crowd from the balcony of his residence in Kawit, Cavite. The first Philippine Republic was established as the instrumental of our National Anthem was filled the airwaves.
But as monumental that event may be, it is not our authentic day of freedom from colonization.
Aguinaldo proclaimed independence but the Spaniards sold our country together with Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States of America for $20 million via the Treaty of Paris. In short, the Philippines was under new management. The revolutionaries fought in the Philippine-American War from February 1899 and were defeated by July 1902 to give the US full power over our territory.
While the Cooper Act granted the Filipinos to elect members of the Philippine Assembly, the Americans still had the overriding authority. But the road to full Philippine independence had a breakthrough when the Jones Act was passed in 1916 to state the United States’ intention to eventually grant our sovereignty. Eighteen years after, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was passed to form the Commonwealth of the Philippines which also signifies a ten-year transition period from a colony to a free nation.
However, the journey to independence was delayed by World War II. The Japanese occupied the Philippines and established its ruthless reign as the Commonwealth governed in exile. But General Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise to liberate the country with the American troops on his return in 1945. The Commonwealth was re-established until the Philippines was granted full independence on July 4, 1946, to coincide with that of the United States. Manuel Roxas was ushered in as the inaugural president of the Third Philippine Republic.
This, at last, is our true Independence Day.
For the next 15 years, the 4th of July was celebrated as such. However, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation 28 in 1962 to change the official celebration to June 12 to commemorate Aguinaldo’s declaration. July 4 was then tagged as Philippine Republic Day and was retained a holiday. But during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, that was renamed to Philippine-American Friendship Day. President Corazon Aquino delisted this day as a non-working holiday in 1987.
Since then, the Philippine Independence Day has stayed put which is a gross misleading of history. The Aguinaldo declaration had no teeth for our former colonizers were about to hand us over to the next one. Therefore, the day that truly gave birth to our nation must once again be given its rightful distinction.
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But the clamor to correct this error is feeble at best. Congress has to care about this grave mistake and more voices must point out this blunder. However, the never-ending social and political issues have to be addressed first and getting this done is more fiction than fact. So, it’s best to reinforce the significance of this day at history classes from elementary to college.
It’s nice to embrace that come 2019, the Philippines has been independent for 121 years. But as a nation that constantly seeks its identity, we have to admit that it been only 72 years since we became free. Let us never forget the 4th of July not just because it is a holiday for those who work at American-owned BPO companies. Rather, it is the day that we started standing on our feet and held our head up high as free men.