Last Wednesday, June 12, 2019, Filipinos celebrated the country’s 121st Independence Day in various historical areas by parades and by programs and gun salutes. On June 12th 1898, we were finally free after having been colonized by the Spaniards for 300 years.
The fervour of our revolutionary past spent fighting our colonizers is forever remembered as we sing the lyrics of our National Anthem, “Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo.”
We salute the patriotism of our heroes, especially the Katipuneros such as Andres Bonifacio, General Antonio Luna, Gregorio Del Pilar, Apolinario Mabini and others. Despite having limited weapons, resources and military skills, they bravely fought against the might of the Spaniards. In the end, the Treaty of Paris was signed on Dec. 10, 1898, which brought to an end the Spanish-American War. Spain gave up their sovereignty over Cuba and ceded Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States (Treaty of Peace between the U.S. and Spain; Dec. 10, 1898, Yale, 2009. Retrieved June 12, 2019).
After the Americans colonized the country, the Japanese came and the country was under the Japanese rule for a while before the Americans defeated them.
When the Philippine Flag was finally raised for all to see, our forefathers were able to taste the heady sweetness of freedom. No longer were they called “subjects” or “Indios.” Finally, they could now govern themselves, run their own businesses and live free from fear.
No longer accountable to a foreign power, Filipinos were then free to elect their own leaders, own and till their own lands, run their own businesses and be free to move around in their circle of friends.
The colonizers have long gone but we are still not fully free. Another wave of challenges have come to wrestle with us– the spectre of pervasive poverty. This cancer of society is keeping us from making sustainable progress towards economic development. Lack of job opportunities (or the mismatch of workers’ skill set versus jobs needed), over-population, inadequate agricultural development, not enough industrial growth. These are only some of the challenges we face.
Unless we address these effectively, we will not be able to fully savour the taste of freedom that our forefathers had fought and died for. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of time. We cannot wait for another century to pass before we can realize the economic transformation we have been envisioning. When we have a strong and robust economy, when our people have decent jobs, enough food, a house of their own, sufficient funds for our children’s education, a thriving business, only then can we truly taste the sweetness of freedom.