The Other "Independence Days" We Don't Celebrate
The celebration of June 12 as the country's Inpendence Day has a tumultuous history. Contrary to what most people may think, it's not the first recognized Philippine Independence Day.
To mark the occasion, we're going to do a quick-and-dirty discussion about Independence Day and what we think it could mean for us during these turbulent times.
Writing's on the wall
Technically, the country's first ever Independence Day was on on April 12, 1895. This was when Andres Bonifacio and his posse—which included Emilio Jacinto—went to the caves of Makarok and Pamitinan in the town of Montalban (later renamed Rodriguez) in the province of Rizal. These caves were the venues for the initiation rites of new members of the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan or, simply, the Katipunan.
Bonifacio declared Philippine Independence by taking a piece of charcoal and writing these words on the cave wall: "Viva la independencia Filipina!"
The gift of betrayal
However, Bonifacio's position in the hierarchy of the revolution was precarious. April 12 didn't flourish as Independence Day, as Bonifacio lost in the power struggle and ended up getting killed by revolutionaries who were identified as the supporters of Emilio Aguinaldo.
In the aftermath of the so-called Spanish–American War, Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898. The scene where a crowd watches Aguinaldo raising the Philippine flag from the veranda of his Kawit, Cavite home has become iconic — dramatized in "Lupang Hinirang" videos and plastered on money (which is pretty ironic since Aguinaldo has been accused of literally selling the country to the Americans).
But just like his controversial rise to power, Aguinaldo's Independence Day declaration was also disputed. American colonizers insisted that Philippine Indepence Day was actually July 4, 1946. Aguinaldo’s Indepence Day? They didn’t recognize it as such.
They obviously picked the date to coincide with their own Independence Day. So, from 1946 to 1961, June 12 was designated as Flag Day.
Then, in 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Presidential Proclamation No. 28 which declared June 12 as the country's official Independence Day. July 4 was downgraded as the Filipino-American Friendship Day.
So, what does it mean when a country has had three Independence Days? Perhaps, it just goes to show that the Philippines is a country whose history is so convoluted that most of the time we hardly know where we came from or where we are going.
Then again, have we ever been truly independent? Because it sure seems like so many Filipinos are happier when someone's lording it over us. As we celebrate what is supposedly our country's 119th Independence Day, it's frightening to realize that the Philippines—for the most part—doesn't quite know what to do with the freedom it has.
Perhaps, this is what happens when your time as a colonized land (333 years under Spain, 48 years under the Americans, and three years under the Japanese) far exceeds the time that you've been independent. You keep searching for the chains that you’re used to.