Since becoming a nation 119 years ago, Filipinos have strived to live in freedom, an atmosphere of enduring peace and sustainable development towards a better and brighter future for us and our offspring.
This brighter future is to be shared by generations of Filipinos – living and dead – who fought for freedom, dignity and prosperity, and also by us, their descendants.
Three defining beacons in Philippine history should guide Filipinos: the revolutionary Spirit of 1896 at Pugad Lawin; the patriotic Spirit of 1942 at Bataan and Corregidor; and the liberating Spirit of 1986 at EDSA.
The “Cry of Pugad Lawin” that Andres Bonifacio and his fellow Katipuneros sparked on 23-August-1896 lit the flames of the Philippine revolution. In tearing up their cedulas or tax certificates, our forebears did not merely repudiate the claims of Spanish colonial power over their persons and their possessions. It was a symbolic act of a few brave men for all our people – the 6.2 million Filipinos then living.
From that day onward, the story of our people would forever be rooted in Pugad Lawin along our quest for nationhood – and never again would the history of our country be the same.
REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT OF 1896
On 12-June-1998, we celebrated the Centennial of Philippine Independence, together with other Filipinos throughout the world. At that time, FVR recalled to our countrymen and countrywomen that 100 years before, our nation’s founders gathered to declare with one heart, one mind and one voice our freedom from the yoke of colonial tyranny.
As Jose Rizal visualized in his essay, The Philippines A Centenary Hence, “The new Filipinas would generate a breed of Filipinos who would derive energy from their pre-colonial past. They would create a future by their labor; work the land, the mines; and revive the maritime and trading skills of their forefathers… They would be strengthened by the recovery of their old virtues, and ultimately attain a prosperous and independent existence.”
As part of that historic celebration, the President issued Proclamation 1266, “Declaring the Historical Sites Which Have Played Supportive Roles in the Country’s Struggle for Independence as Centennial Freedom Trail (CFT).” By so doing, we became more than a mere collection of tribes, or a chorus of tongues. We became, in spirit and reality, a sovereign nation – a people united by the common purpose of a better future for all Filipinos.
The National Centennial Commission (under VP Salvador Laurel) identified such historical sites, particularly:
- 07-June-1892, Tondo, Manila: the revolutionary society Katipunan was founded;
- June 1892 to July 1896, Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte: Jose Rizal was exiled;
- 23-August-1896, Pugad Lawin, Quezon City: the Philippine Revolution erupted led by Katipunan Supremo A.Bonifacio;
- 30-August-1896, Pinaglabanan, San Juan: the first major battle between Katipunan rebels and Spanish colonial forces;
- 11-November-1896, Binakayan, Cavite: the first major victory by Katipunan units took place;
- November-December 1896, Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila: Rizal was tried for treason;
- 30-December-1896, Bagumbayan, Manila: Rizal was executed by musketry;
- 17-February-1897, Zapote Bridge, Cavite: Katipunan rebels repelled large Spanish force Gov-Gen Camilo de Polavieja;
- 22-March-1897, Tejeros, Cavite: Katipuneros elected a revolutionary government under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo;
- 14-December-1897, Biak-na-Bato, Bulacan: a truce was forged between Filipino and Spanish forces;
- 28-May-1898, Alapan, Imus, Cavite: after a major victory by Aguinaldo, the Philippine flag was first displayed;
- 12-June-1898, Kawit, Cavite: Philippine Independence from Spain was proclaimed;
- 17-November-1898, Santa Barbara, Iloilo: the Philippine flag was first raised outside Luzon island; and
- 23-January-1899, Barasoain Church, Malolos, Bulacan: the Malolos Congress set up Asia’s first democratic Republic.
BATAAN-CORREGIDOR: PATRIOTIC SPIRIT OF 1942
More than 70 years have passed since World War II. When devastation and death once reigned over the land, we now have overall peace, opportunity and hope for a brighter future for younger generations of Filipinos. And precisely because of the better conditions we now enjoy, we must look back, and acknowledge once again our everlasting debt to those who gifted us with freedom. The Bataan Death March took 5 excruciating days – under the scorching sun, and without life’s barest necessities, it may as well have been eternity.
Many fell from sheer exhaustion, wounds, disease, hunger, and cruelty of the conquering army. Others died in the Capas Concentration Camp itself, under the most horrible conditions. In one day alone, a total of 383 prisoners died in camp. By 25-July-1942, more than 15,000 Filipino and 2,500 American POWs had died in captivity.
These are staggering figures that boggle the minds of those of us who have never had to suffer the privations of war and the horrors of imprisonment. But war, of course, has always been the most unnatural and most cruel of disasters. It is entirely man-made, and has often made a mockery of man’s finest talents and moral achievements. Many centuries ago, a sage observed that, “In peace, the sons bury their fathers; but in war, the fathers bury their sons.”
To most, it may seem paradoxical that it is the soldier/policeman who yearns for peace more than others because our public servants in uniform and their families know from firsthand experience the cruelties of war and violence – what sufferings are inflicted upon combatants, their loved ones, and innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.
Those heroic Filipino men and women of World War II fought not for their own glory – as rousing and moving as the stories of their exploits are to us today – but for something many of them would never see with their own eyes: the peace and the growing prosperity that their descendants now live under. Perhaps they understood what Aristotle meant when he said, more than two thousand years ago, “the goal of war is peace.”
THE LIBERATING SPIRIT OF 1986 AT EDSA
In the renewed nationwide solidarity that burst out during those four pulsating days at EDSA in February 1986, Filipinos redeemed the sacrifices of our departed forebears and fallen heroes by regaining our birthright of freedom, justice and national pride. We became united in our fortitude and determination, not merely to throw out an authoritarian regime that failed to govern democratically, but also to win a better future. Today, we realize that EDSA has a much deeper meaning. Filipinos were galvanized to direct action by their desire to reestablish a society of human dignity and liberty, in a land not torn apart by strife and at peace with itself, with a representative democratic government that is effective/accountable, and an overall dynamic, competitive and bountiful nation.
EDSA was not just a 4-day phenomenon in 1986, neither a 1-day commemorative event each year. EDSA straddles several generations of heroic struggles. It is part of a continuing revolution – one fine block added each year to the never-ending task of nation-building – an unfulfilled vision that Filipinos must win and continue to sustain. Its most significant result is the annual opportunity to infuse our people with new God-given resolve to make the Philippines greater than before. Filipinos should take great pride in that, in recent years, the collective power of common people and our spirit of EDSA touched off similar peaceful uprisings for political liberation and human justice around the world.
A SHRINE FOR EMPOWERED FILIPINOS
The greatest loss to our posterity would be our failure to impart the values of transcendent events in nation-building to those who now bear the torch of national leadership and our younger generations. Today, as we prepared to celebrate once again our Independence Day, we reiterate our suggestion that the EDSA People Power Commission collects and centralizes the significant memorabilia, writings and other historical artifacts in one accessible location (call it the People Power Freedom Learning Center) to facilitate the education of Filipinos about EDSA – following the example of the South Korean Government which put up the Philippines-Korea Friendship Center at Fort Bonifacio last 2012 on land, made available by the Department of National Defense, to honor the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK). For our people’s continuing spirit of patriotism and better future, the President and Commander-in-Chief should now make available a respectable, permanent space accessible in Camp Aguinaldo adjacent to our People Power Monument on EDSA as the site of our People Power Freedom Learning Center that shall inspire heroism and sacrifice in younger Filipinos. They need to know – and from time to time, have to be reminded, what their elders had fought and died for in the service of God, Country, People, and the Environment.
KAYA NATIN ITO!