The Filipinos have a resilient spirit. Born from the ravages of foreign invasion and colonization, freedom wars, natural calamities, social, political, and economic turmoil – they have withstood and continue to stand against all hindrances that beset them. Trials have only molded them to be bolder, stronger, and courageous. In fact, they have learned to find humor in negative circumstances.
If there’s one thing Filipinos should be proud of, it is their rich history. Three hundred years of Spanish rule did not kill the “Indios’” (term of the Spaniards for Filipinos that time) spirit. Their Spanish rulers tried but ultimately failed to snuff out the Filipino spirit. On the contrary, three centuries of oppression had caused the birth and rise of that spirit. The desire for freedom had been lit from a single spark into a blazing fire that burned in the hearts of the Filipinos.
And so the brave souls of such, like Dr. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Juan Luna, Gabriela Silang, Diego Silang, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, and many more have marked history with their passion, sealed by their own blood and life. They were heroes renowned today for giving their lives to a seemingly-hapless nation. Some of them used the power of the sword, the power of the pen, the power of the paintbrush, the power of the tongue, and they fought until their last breath. Without them, the Filipinos could have never formed their own identity. They would have remained a colony, foreigners in their own land, tau-tauhan (puppets) of their conquerors.
A recap of the Philippine independence started when the Spaniards colonized it in the latter part of the 16th century. Corruptions, bribery, discrimination, among others, have led the Filipino natives to resent the Spanish rule. By the late 19th century, the Filipino intellectuals and the middle class began (Dr. Jose Rizal’s time) calling for independence. In 1892, the Katipunan, a secret revolutionary group led by Andres Bonifacio was formed in Manila. It was uncovered by the Spaniards, leading to wide-spread revolts. By 1897, 28-year-old Emilio Aguinaldo became the leader of the rebellion.
It was in 1897 when a truce between the Spanish colonial government and the revolutionaries, called the Pact of Biak-Na-Bato, was made. Aguinaldo and his men agreed to be exiled in Hong Kong in exchange of the Spaniards’ promise to reform the Philippines and provide financial compensation.
In 1898, war broke out between Spain and the USA leading the latter to attack Spain’s Pacific possessions including the Philippines, Guam, part of Taiwan, etc. It was at this point that America entered the scene. Aguinaldo decided to return to the Philippines to help Americans defeat the Spaniards.
On June 12, 1898, between four and five in the afternoon in Cavite II El Viejo (now Kawit, Cavite), at the ancestral home of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the Philippine independence was proclaimed. For the first time, the Philippine National Flag was unfolded. It was made in Hong Kong by Doña Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo, and Delfina Herboza. The national anthem was played, Marcha Filipina Magdalo, now known as Lupang Hinirang, composed by Julian Felipe and played by the San Francisco de Malabon marching band. The Acta de la Proclamacion de la Independencia del Pueblo Filipino (The Act of the Declaration of Independence) was prepared, written and read by Ambrocio Rianzares Bautista in Spanish. He was Gen. Aguinaldo’s war counselor and special delegate. The Declaration was signed by 98 people and states the sovereignty and independence of the Philippine Islands from the colonial rule of Spain.
However, the declaration was never recognized either by the United States or Spain. In the same year, 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the US through the Treaty of Paris, and this signaled the end of the Spanish-American War.
The Philippine Revolutionary Government did not recognize the Treaty or America’s sovereignty; the Philippine-American War ensued in 1899. The war ended when Aguinaldo was captured by the American forces and he issued a statement accepting the sovereignty of the United States. In 1935, the US permitted the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, which is to become a transitional administration in preparation for the full independence of the Philippines later on. Manuel Quezon was elected as the country’s first president.
The US finally granted full independence to the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946 through the Treaty of Manila. And from then on, July 4th was the official independence day for the country until 1964, when President Diosdado Macapagal signed into law Republic Act No. 4166 designating June 12th as the Philippines’ Independence Day.
Today, the Philippines as an independent nation is not yet done with its struggles for freedom. But this time, the battle is internal, moral, social, political, economic, and spiritual. Filipinos continue to battle the massive graft and corruption in the government, always desiring for a righteous and honest government that will rescue it from this liability earned from their foreign invaders. The fiber of morality may be declining but there are citizens who fight to maintain the decency and morality their fathers have left them as a legacy. Poverty is continuously alleviated through socio-economic programs. And the spiritual fiber may be loosening its grip among religion-loving Filipinos due to secular distractions around them, but there are those who continue to seek a relationship with God.
The Philippine Independence marked a major milestone in the identity of the Filipinos. The spark that turned into an all-consuming fire producing heroes and warriors, and a rich, colorful history, led to who we are today. Decades of battles have caused serious wounds and scars but the Filipino spirit will always remain a freedom-lover; someone who stands up for what is right.
“…Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo.” (to die for you) is the element that will continue to run in the blood of a true Filipino; an unwavering will to fight until the last drop of blood for love, for loyalty, for a small yet significant nation- this so-called, Pearl of the Orient.