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The current centennial celebration by Filipinos on should be remembered as the date of their declaration of independence, much as the 4th of July marks ours here in the United States. As was the case in our country, declaring independence and achieving it were two different things. The United States did not achieve de facto independence until 1781, establish our constitution until 1787, and ratify the Bill of Rights until 1791. Filipinos have a saying: "400 years in the convent, 40 years in Hollywood", referring to the consecutive occupations by Spain and then the U.S., so 1898 marks not the begining of freedom but the second occupation.
An article in yesterdays (June 11, 1998) S.F. Examiner by Antonio R. Serna point out how for 16 years Filipinos celebrated July 4, 1946 as the date of independence, when for the first time their own sovereign flag was raised over their lands. This was the accepted and celebrated birthdate of the nation until 1962, when President Macapagal, by executive order, changed it to June 12. This was done, according to Serna, to insult the U.S. , which had turned down an extension of financial aid. By moving the date, it implied that independence was won not from the Yankees but from Spain. This ignores 48 years of struggle against foreign control, and diminishes the hard-won victories of both earlier freedom fighters and later veterans of WWII, who did so much to achieve freedom for the Philippines.
In 1966 I had the honor of meeting Carlos Romulos, a man who rose from the farm labor politics of California's Central Valley to become a military general and right-hand aide to MacArthur in WWII, and who went on to become the 5th president of the United Nations General Assembly. I know that he and others of that generation felt strongly the drive to achieve freedom and equality so long denied their people, so while this centennial is being feted, we should remember that it commemorates a symbolic act, and that significant as it was, the actual rewards were still a long way away. Perhaps there's even a little message for us in this, that the freedom that we may enjoy today came at a price, and that maintaining it should not be taken cheaply, because what is not valued is easily lost.
Jeff "Stickman" Finder
"You can't trust dogs to watch your food." -anon.