“What does independence mean to us?”
This is the question posed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones to education stakeholders as the country commemorates its 123rd Independence Day this year.
“I believe that celebrations and reflections on independence should not be limited only to the usual rituals and flag raising but should include discussions, debates and reflections on what independence, right now, for the Philippines means,” Briones said during a virtual symposium on Friday, June 11.
DepEd National Capital Region (NCR) along with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NCHP) and other partners held a virtual symposium for the 2021 Independence Day celebration.
“I’m very glad that you are having this symposium because there are still many issues regarding independence – political, economic, social, or even independence from, from health issues, social development issues – which continue to be debated,” Briones said. “And so we continually ask ourselves, ‘what is the essence of independence?’” she added.
Briones shared that Filipinos, at an early age, were taught that on April 12, 1895 Andres Bonifacio – together with other Katipuneros – declared the country’s independence. “At that time, perhaps, they were referring to the political independence of the country,” she explained.
The country’s independence, Briones said, was repeatedly declared throughout the history – in August 1896 during the Cry of Pugad Lawin; on June 5, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite when Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo also issued a directive proclaiming June 12 as the day of the independence of the Philippines; and on July 4, 1946 when the United States of America also “decided to grant independence to the Philippines, as if independence is granted, as if independence is given.”
However, Briones maintained that “independence is always won, it is defended, it is fought for and it is not given by any country outside that independent country.”
In 1962, Briones said that President Diosdado Macapagal moved Independence Day commemoration from July 4 to June 12 under Republic Act (RA) 4166 which was enacted at that time.
Being able to attend both the July 4 and June 12 Independence Day celebrations, Briones said that the true meaning of independence remains debated to this day.
“So, right now, what does independence means to us? Independence means holidays? Independence means dressing up and singing? But independence is not only, as I said, the grant of that political independence – so, what does the essence of independence at this time truly mean?” Briones asked.
Briones noted 59 years after President Macapagal, who led in the effort to declare the June 12 celebration, it remains to be seen “how we are as an independent nation.”
“How have we kept faith with the ideals of the republic? It’s only political independence, how about economic independence? How about independence, for example, from social ills, from poverty, from the threats of health?” she asked.
Briones said that during this year’s celebration, being “united more than ever” is very crucial.
While it has been 123 years after the Philippines has declared its political independence, Briones said that “freedom from health issues, from COVID-19, and the struggle – the call for unity is far from over.”
Thus, she underscored the importance of searching for the true meaning of independence which is beyond freedom from colonizers. With issues on economic colonization and the scourge of poverty, Briones said that the struggle still continues for many Filipinos.
“The struggle to free the Filipinos from all the constraints that prevent us from enjoying the benefits of a truly independent – and not just political independence from foreign rule and this continues,” Briones stressed.
With the education sector as a “critical component in this struggle,” Briones stressed that debate, conversation, research and the “search for true independence” must continue.
“Every year, we go beyond the flag raising, we go beyond the parades – even if we cannot join parades because of the pandemic – but we continue remembering,” Briones said.
Filipinos, Briones said, must continue “reflecting, debating because the notion of independence is evolving” as well as the notions of what society, political and economic independence, independence from the scourges of poverty and of health – among others.
“The society that we have now will be different from the society how many years from this time,” Briones said. “And also, our children have to be prepared for all these developments,” she added.
Given this, Briones urged the participation of education stakeholders such as teachers, parents, learners and others.
“You can always contribute to the development of, as I said, reflections on what we truly mean by independence so let us continue talking, let us continue reflecting, let us continue searching not only our soul but also our future,” Briones said.