For love of country: AFP’s Independence Day celebrations 

Published June 10, 2021, 4:58 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The image of a Philippine flag waving in the air is a sight to behold for every soldier. It is a vivid reminder of what they strive to serve and protect—the Filipino people and the country.

Philippine Navy sailors and marines composing the Philippine Navy (PN)’s Naval Task Force (NTF) 82 conduct a flag-raising ceremony to commemorate Independence Day on June 12, 2020 aboard two mammoth ships: the BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz ( PS16 ). (Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy)

This becomes even more meaningful every June 12 when the country commemorates Independence Day.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) usually follows a tradition where it raises the Philippine flag during the occasion — may it be on land, at sea, or in the air — to commemorate the declaration of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898.

Through the years, the AFP celebrated the flag-raising ceremony of Independence Days in many ways related to the times.  Here are a few of them:

Peace amid war

A tearful flag-raising ceremony took place in Marawi City on June 12, 2017 when military troops, police, local officials, and civilians marked the 119th Independence Day.

During that day, the Marawi siege, which started on May 23, 2017, had just entered its third week when they raised the flag while bombs exploded and gunshots were heard in the background.

The clashes began when the Maute terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and some foreign terrorists attempted to take over the city and raise the black flag of Islamic State (ISIS) as they planned to establish an ISIS base in Mindanao.

However, the security forces exhausted all of its resources and manpower to stop them. The war ended after five months as the government troops retook the city and liberated it from the terrorists on October 23, 2017.

Smooth sail

Last year, sailors and marines composing the Philippine Navy’s Naval Task Force (NTF) 82 commemorated the 122nd Independence Day aboard two mammoth ships: the BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS16).

Philippine Navy sailors and marines composing the Philippine Navy (PN)’s Naval Task Force (NTF) 82 form the figure “122” aboard BRP Davao del Sur as they commemorate the 122nd Independence Day on June 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy)

The crew had just entered Manila Bay when they hoisted the flag on June 12, 2020 after a five-month-long voyage from the Middle East. They were deployed in Oman in January 2020 to fetch distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who were affected by the tension between Iran and the United States following the killing of a top Iranian general, and stranded individuals who were displaced by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in India and Sri Lanka.

To make the celebration more special, the sailors and marines created a human formation of the figure “122” which was captured in a photograph by an Agusta Westland (AW) 109 naval helicopter.

Concert amid pandemic

Perhaps the celebration of Independence Day in 2020 was an ironic experience for many as the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay at the confines of their homes.

But even the health crisis could not stop the AFP from bringing joy to the people as they held a virtual concert to serenade the public.

Men and women in uniform perform during the “Musikalayaan” virtual concert as the Armed Forces of the Philippines commemorate Independence Day on June 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Civil Relations Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Dubbed “Musikalayaan,” men and women in uniform from the Philippine Army (PA), Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Navy (PN), and Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) formed bands and shared their music to the people.

This year, the AFP will again conduct simultaneous flag-raising ceremonies at the Luneta Park in Manila, at Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolucion (Mausoleum of the Veterans of the Revolucion) in Manila North Cemetery, and in Kawit, Cavite on June 12 in celebration of the 123rd Independence Day.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Kalayaan 2021: Diwa ng Kalayaan sa Pagkakaisa at Paghilom ng Bayan.”

May the commemoration of the Independence Day open our eyes to the sacrifices of the soldiers, and those who came before them, as they continue to risk their lives to preserve the freedom that we are all enjoying now.