126th Philippine Independence Day: ‘Ang mamatay nang dahil sa’yo’

A flag-raising activity is conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) onboard BRP Teresa Magbanua in the vicinity of Escoda (Sabina Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea on June 12, 2024 to commemorate the 126th Philippine Independence Day. (Photo by PCG)

Flag-raising activity is a normal occurrence onboard Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships but the one carried out on Wednesday, June 12, proved to be more significant than any other day.

Rendering their snappiest salute, Filipino coast guardians onboard the 97-meter BRP Teresa Magbanua, the biggest vessel of the PCG, raised the Philippine flag on the momentous day in commemoration of the 126th Philippine Independence Day.

On June 12, 1898, then president Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the declaration of independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonizers. Several years since, the Philippines is again fighting for its sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

The flag-raising activity occurred in the vicinity of Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, about 75 nautical miles from the coast of mainland Palawan, with a dozen Chinese ships sailing nearby.

In what could be perceived as a show of pride and resistance, the PCG personnel sang the national anthem “Lupang Hinirang” with the occasional waves serving as a quiet background to the occasion. Pride, for being part of the symbolic activity in the West Philippine Sea; and resistance, to the forces lurking nearby.


“Bayang magiliw

Perlas ng silanganan

Alab ng puso sa dibdib mo'y buhay.

Lupang Hinirang, duyan ka ng magiting

Sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil.”


Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel render a snappy salute during the flag raising ceremony aboard BRP Sierra Madre on June 12, 2024. (Photo by PCG) 

According to the PCG, there were eight Chinese vessels outside and four more were spotted inside the shoal while the flag-raising activity was being held.

The Chinese ships should not be there, the PCG noted, as Escoda Shoal is located within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. The agency has considered the Chinese vessels’ presence as an intrusion.

In their heart and mind, the burning desire to defend Escoda Shoal from Chinese intrusion has never shone brighter than that day. The Filipino coast guardians were in sync, they found their purpose, they were committed to keep watch no matter what it takes, no matter how long. 

The BRP Teresa Magbanua has been deployed in Escoda Shoal since March, three months already, after the PCG noticed suspected reclamation activities in the area. Prior to this, the PCG said it had discovered that crushed corals were dumped in Escoda Shoal in an attempt to build an artificial island there.

A team of marine experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) conducted an underwater survey at Escoda Shoal and they found out that almost 100 percent of the corals there have already been dead.

It was an "ecological disaster," according to Dr. Jonathan Anticamara, of the UP Institute of Biology,

Since then, the BRP Teresa Magbanua and her crew onboard faithfully guarded the shoal. Should they fail, the future resupply mission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could be in peril.


“Sa dagat at bundok,

Sa simoy at sa langit mong bughaw,

May dilag ang tula

At awit sa paglayang minamahal.”


The Philippine flag is hoisted aboard BRP Teresa Magbanua on June 12, 2024. (Photo by PCG)

The AFP and PCG have been working together to protect the country’s interests in the WPS. At least once a month, they have been operating and sailing together to bring supplies to Filipino soldiers manning the lone military outpost in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, the BRP Sierra Madre, which is located close to the west of Escoda Shoal.

The resupply missions pose a constant challenge for the AFP and PCG as Chinese maritime forces often try to disrupt it. 

Many times the Chinese coast guard, navy, and maritime militia have performed dangerous maneuvers and blockade formations, and used water cannons to prevent the Filipino personnel from conducting the mission. But many times the AFP and PCG have also endured and successfully completed their mission. 

Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for West Philippine Sea, urged Filipinos to express their deepest gratitude to the brave men and women of the PCG and AFP “who tirelessly protect our territorial integrity, ensuring that they will hold the line for the next generations of Filipinos to continue our fight for the West Philippine Sea.”

He also paid tribute to the country’s national heroes who “made great sacrifices for us to enjoy the freedom and independence we have today.” 


“Ang kislap ng watawat mo'y

Tagumpay na nagniningning;

Ang bituin at araw niya

Kailan pa ma'y di magdidilim.”


In the latest resupply mission last May 19, the Chinese forces seized one of the four food packages meant for the Filipino soldiers. They were expecting to find construction materials but they only found biscuits, crackers, and coffee. In one package, there was even a nga nga, a chewing concoction requested by a soldier. 

The Chinese side doesn’t want Filipinos from bringing construction materials to fix the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine Navy warship deliberately ran aground Ayungin to serve as an outpost.

When the Chinese forces opened the food package they seized, some of its contents sank to the bottom of the sea. AFP chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. regretted the wasted supplies: “You can just imagine, masaya na ang mga tropa sa request na mga biskwit tapos nasayang lang (the troops were already happy with the biscuit they requested and it has gone to waste.) ”

On the same day, three sick soldiers onboard BRP Sierra Madre were to be evacuated to Bataraza, Palawan for treatment. The AFP did not disclose the particular condition of the ill soldiers but a military officer privy to the situation said they required immediate medical attention.

The sick soldiers boarded rubber boats driven by their healthy colleagues and they were escorted by the PCG when they were rammed by bigger Chinese rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

Even at a worse condition, the Filipino troops managed to sneak past the Chinese RHIBs and the sick soldiers were brought to a hospital. In a few days or weeks, they are expected to be deployed again in the West Philippine Sea when they are fully recovered.

Back to the present flag-raising activity, the Philippine flag was fully hoisted and the coast guardians were at the tail end of the anthem, its lyrics providing a new context to what they have sworn to do to defend the country.


“Lupa ng araw, ng luwalhati't pagsinta,

Buhay ay langit sa piling mo;

Aming ligaya na ‘pag may mang-aapi

Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo.”