Today marks the 123rd Independence Day of our country. It was on June 12, 1898 when Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed our independence from foreign rule, ceremonially symbolized by the unfurling of the Philippine flag and the playing of our national anthem.
What came after were a series of events that tested our independence. There was the Spanish-American War, then the Philippine-American War. Then the Japanese came, and eventually the Americans returned to “bring back” our independence, which was granted on July 4, 1946. It was President Diosdado Macapagal who, with a stroke of a pen, decided to reinstate the honor of June 12 being the country’s Independence Day.
For a country, being independent does not mean it is free from challenges and tribulations. What came after Macapagal’s administration were a series of leaders with different temperaments and ideologies. We may or may not agree with the policies of each one, even the present administration, but one thing is for sure – they love the Philippines with all their heart and might, and would have done the similar act that Macapagal did, which was to return the original Independence Day celebration to June 12. It was, after all, a day when we were truly free, when Aguinaldo waved the flag for all to see.
With the change of times is the change of concept of heroes. The heroes of yesteryears were the ones who shed blood and faced the battle with swords and guns. Today, as we face a once-in-a-century pandemic, the battle continues. The heroes are the frontliners who dared to go into the battlefront such as hospitals, clinics, convenience stores, and the road when they deliver food and packages. Like the soldiers who fought invaders, we may not know their names and faces, but we remember their brave deeds and selfless actions especially on this day.
More than a year since the pandemic, we continue to honor them. But it is not enough to just honor them as we encourage our government to institutionalize policies that would truly benefit them not only today but in the long haul. Because let us face this reality – a truly independent country is one where its citizens are healthy and free of diseases.
We can only look back on the lessons of yesterday to face the challenges of today. If not, we are bound to create the same mistakes.
Happy 123rd Independence Day!