By Atty. Joey D. Lina
Today’s commemoration of Philippine Independence Day is an opportune time to reflect on our country, its future, what ails it at present, and the challenges it has faced and conquered since our flag was raised from a balcony in Kawit, Cavite, 120 years ago when Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Filipinos were finally free of Spain’s colonial rule.
As we ponder on our nationhood, we might even recall the rhetorical question of Lea Salonga who stirred controversy in 2015 when she tweeted: “Our country is not yet debt-free, poverty-free, crime-free, or corruption-free. So what are we free from exactly and why do we celebrate it?”
While some of her social media bashers concluded that the question was quite unfair considering that no other country that takes pride in its independence can ever completely rid itself of the social ills Salonga mentioned, others believed her insights on freedom were indeed worthy of serious thought.
The glaring statistics indeed remain basically unchanged. We continue to hear stories on how many Filipinos go hungry every day, how many schoolchildren are so severely affected by effects of malnutrition – wasting and stunting – that some fear a “country of idiots” is emerging from the continued failure to effectively address the phenomenon. We hear how many Filipinos just die without even seeing a doctor, and how many get robbed or are savaged by drug addicts.
We all know how many Filipinos still want to go abroad to find work or even just to get relief from the horrendous traffic mess. Can our Overseas Filipino Workers be blamed if, in opting for foreign employment, some see them as also opting to serve foreign masters despite our country’s independence from foreign subjugation?
Thus, the thought-provoking tweet of Salonga, one of our most talented and very articulate artists, deserves some moments of reevaluation. And such reevaluation should not be construed as disrespecting our heroes who struggled, fought, and died for independence. Rather, it should be an honest assessment of how Filipinos in general have been or have not been worthy of liberty obtained through the heroic deeds of our ancestors.
After all, it was our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal who famously wrote: “Our liberty will not be secured at the sword’s point… We must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it.” Have we been doing what we should to be worthy of independence?
In my DZMM teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan last Sunday morning, I had an enlightening talk with noted historian Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, and as our discussion focused on Philippine independence and love of country, the prominent professor of De La Salle University stressed the importance of having an intimate knowledge of our nation’s history and grasping its relevance in these modern times. Indeed, knowing our history can make it easier for us to truly love our country.
And “country” refers primarily to the people, Prof. Chua explained. Thus, to truly love our country is to love fellow Filipinos. It is in our genuine love of country, next to love of God, which would enable us to rise above our individual interests and be selfless in pursuit of the common good.
Apolinario Mabini, the “Brains of the Revolution” during Aguinaldo’s time, said it best in his True Decalogue for Filipinos: “Love your country after God and your honor, and more than you love yourself, because your country is the only paradise that God has given you in this life; the only patrimony of your race; the only inheritance from your ancestors; and the only future of your descendants – because of your country you have life, love, and interests; happiness, honor, and God.”
To be worthy of our independence, we must strive to do everything we can to improve the quality of life of our nation, and to establish an effective and honest government. Through elections that we must ensure are clean and honest, we should choose God-fearing, competent, compassionate and selfless leaders who will create jobs and livelihood for the people and bail out the country from poverty, underdevelopment, injustice, inequality, corruption, breakdown in peace and order, and all other social ills plaguing our nation for decades.
‘Bagyo ng Musika’ concert for Marawi schoolchildren
On a lighter note, it’s going to be a memorable Independence Day 2018 as our fundraising dinner concert to help the Kusina ng Kalinga anti-hunger programs of Gawad Kalinga happens tonight at the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel.
Together with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo and corporate lawyer and former Press Secretary Mike Toledo, I’ll be singing a repertoire of love songs in this concert aimed at providing more than 2,000 daily meals for a whole school year to Grades 1 and 2 schoolchildren of war-torn Marawi.
Our special guest is West End stage performer Jenine Desiderio. The Rhythm Ensemble of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra led by Maestro Rodel Colmenares will provide musical accompaniment in this concert titled “Bagyo ng Musika” which is directed by Freddie Santos, with Beth Tagle as project manager.
E-mail: [email protected]