Today, we remember that day in June, 1898, when Filipino revolutionary forces led by General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Filipino people from the balcony of Aguinaldo’s residence in Cavite II del Viejo, now the town of Kawit, Cavite.
The Act of the Declaration of Independence – Acta de la Proclamacion de Independencia del Pueblo Filipino, in Spanish, Paggawa ng Pagpapahayag ng Kasarinlan ng Sambayananng Pilipino, in Filipino – was signed by 98 delegates and read by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista. The National Flag, made by Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo, and Delfina Herboza in Hong Kong, was unfurled for the first time. And the Marcha Filipino Magdalo, now our national anthem Lupang Hinirang was played by the San Francisco de Malabon marching band.
That declaration was never recognized by the United States or Spain, whose forces were then engaged in conflicts around the world. Spain ceded the Philippines to the US in the Treaty of Paris of 1898. The US proceeded to govern the Philippines in the next half-century (except for three years of the Japanese Occupation), until it withdraw on July 4, 1946.
We celebrated our Independence Day on July 4 for many years afterwards, until 1964 when President Diosdado Macapagal, in a true act of national independence, signed Republic Act 4106 designating June 12 as Philippine Independence Day.
As we celebrate today, with ceremonies reenacting that proclamation on June 12, 1898, in Cavite, we also find ourselves very much in the center of world affairs as an independent nation interacting with other nations. Thus we look today with the greatest of interest and concern at the historic summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un in Singapore.
Filipino forces fought alongside United Nations troops against North Korea in the Korean War which ended in an armistice in 1953, but not a peace treaty. North Korea has since developed nuclear warheads and missiles capable of reaching the US and, certainly, much closer nations like Japan, China, and the Philippines. If the US and North Korea can reach a peace agreement at their summit in Singapore which begins today, it will bring about peace for all these nations in this part of the world.
June 12 is thus a most significant day for us. It was the day we proclaimed to the world 120 years ago our desire to be free and independent. And it is a day of hope for all of us in East Asia and the Pacific today that the threat of nuclear warfare that has hung over us for so long will finally come to an end.