By Isagani A. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SOME WOMEN ARE NOT ONLY BEAUTIFUL but also civic-minded like Mrs. Lorna Perez Laurel, Sen. Sotero H. Laurel’s lovely lady. In a recent conversation we had, she criticized the Malacañang directive transferring the celebration of Independence Day on June 12 to June 9, for the usual purpose of giving the people a longer weekend for their rest and recreation.
June 12, one of the regular national holidays honored by law, will be reduced this year to an ordinary working day despite its special significance in the history of our nation. Malacañang assures us that there will be the usual festivities on that day to remind us of how our forebears fought and died to win back our freedom. But it does not add that absence or tardiness of those participating in the celebration will be subject to pay deductions.
No less than President Diosdado Macapagal, the present president’s father, recognized the historic importance of that day when he officially proclaimed it our own Independence Day instead of July 4 as dictated by the United States in 1946. Despite our new status as an independent country, we docilely obeyed the former sovereign even as we had earlier tamely observed Aug. 13 during the American regime as Occupation Day.
That was when the Spanish forces surrendered to Admiral George Dewey during their mock battle in Manila Bay in 1898, even as the Filipino soldiers waited in the suburbs of Manila for the signal from their erstwhile ally to launch their own victorious attack that never came.
President Macapagal wisely chose June 12 as our own Independence Day because it was on that date in 1898 that Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Philippines as a new member of the community of free nations.
On that day as recounted in our history books, the Philippine National Flag, prepared by Marcela Agoncillo with the assistance of Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Herboza, was unfurled for the first time to the strains of the Philippine National March composed by Julian Felipe. Ambrosio Rianzares then read the Act of the Declaration of Independence to the cheers of the immense and jubilant crowd that had gathered in what is now Kawit, Cavite.
That moment of triumph died a-borning, however, because President McKinley was already dreaming in Washington of his country’s “manifest destiny” that would subjugate his defiant “brown brothers” across the vast Pacific. After 48 years of that intrusion, and more than three centuries earlier of Spanish tyranny, we are now free at last. But, tragically, Independence Day still has no meaning for some of our countrymen who would dismiss it as any other calendar day for all they care and would rather have a green card in America.
It is gratifying, though, that there are many others among us who prefer our native land with all its faults and inadequacies (but also its natural beauties and immense wealth) and remember the sacrifices of our heroes—from the pre-Spanish “maharlikas” to the martyrs in Bataan and the guerrilla mountains—for the safeguarding of our freedom..
It is these loyal citizens of the Philippines who would perpetuate the memory of the valiant efforts of the past to insure the independence of our country. The list of those who have glorified our pantheon of national heroes is like the roster of Jason and his Argonauts in their quest of the Golden Fleece.
Lapulapu in Cebu; Palaris and Dagohoy in the plains of Luzon; Rizal writing the “Noli” and the “Fili”; Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto organizing the KKK; Plaridel and La Solidaridad with Lopez Jaena and his fiery speeches; Tandang Sora giving food and shelter to the Katipuneros; Apolinario Mabini exiled by the Americans; the young Gen. Gregorio del Pilar perishing with his men at Tirad Pass; Quezon and Osmeña continuing our fight with parliamentary weapons; Wenceslao Vinzons boldly facing the alien foe in Bicol; Jose P. Laurel resisting the Japanese in Malacañang and Jose Abad Santos calmly dying at their hands in Mindanao—they and many unknown defenders of liberty were the armies of our land that give June 12 a hallowed and grateful reverence.
But few will remember them next Thursday for this will be a working day to compensate for the meaningless holiday GMA has given them tomorrow to revel in the beaches and play in the sun.
Am I a spoilsport for saying this? Perhaps so, but I am the type who will celebrate my birthday on the anniversary of the date I was born and not on a more convenient but extraneous day. (The thoughtful Mayor Jejomar C. Binay never fails to send me birthday greetings in April although I have repeatedly informed him that I was born in October—but many thanks just the same!)
Following the practical reason for the relocation of this year’s Independence Day, perhaps we should celebrate Christmas on Dec. 29, to be followed by Rizal Day on the 30th, the 31st being always declared a special holiday, and Jan. 1 as the fourth red-letter day. This will give the people a longer year-end for their fun and frivolity like the expanded vacation ending tomorrow, courtesy of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She did this to Bataan Day last April and now to Independence Day, so why not to Christmas too next December?