We are a free nation. It has been 117 years since the Philippines declared its independence from the Spaniards. Every year, we are reminded of this momentous day but do we truly understand how this freedom was achieved?
For 63 years, the Philippines has been commemorating its declaration of independence on the 12th of June. Although it has been a yearly ritual for our nation, we only know so little of the story behind our country’s independence and how June 12th became our Independence Day.
It was this problem that may have motivated the Philippine Historical Association (PHA) to conduct a colloquium on Independence and Legacy.
Academicians and college students, mostly majoring in history, trooped to the Leandro Locsin Hall of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in Intramuros, Manila a day after the annual Independence Day celebration, to be enlightened on the history of our nation’s freedom.
The colloquium consisted of a series of short lectures given by educators from various universities in the country. Topics of discussions revolved around Philippine Independence and some of the individuals who were greatly involved in achieving it.
The father of June 12
The morning discussion started off with Kristoffer Esquero, a history professor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, giving a lecture on the life of Gabriel Fabella and his contributions in changing the date of the Independence Day celebration.
Fabella, who was a well-known professor at UP-Diliman during his time, was considered by his fellow academicians as “The father of June 12” because of the efforts he put into campaigning for the change of the Independence celebration date from July 4 to June 12.
The Philippines started celebrating Independence Day on June 12 in 1962 when President Diosdado Macapagal officially declared it but nearly nine years before 1962, Fabella was already doing something to make that change happen.
But where did Fabella get the motivation to cause such change?
Esquejo expressed in his lecture that it was Fabella’s bond with Emilio Aguinaldo and his family that drove him to campaign for the change of the celebration date.
From years of celebrating Independence Day with the Aguinaldos, Fabella noticed the gradual decrease in the number of people commemorating Philippine Independence because it was overshadowed by the US celebration of its own Independence Day.
It was that observation, and him feeling sorry for Gen. Aguinaldo that may have led Fabella to pursue the cause of changing the Independence Day date.
The next lecture revolved around a man who was deeply passionate about our nation’s independence, that he fought for its declaration. A man who contributed so much for our nation’s freedom and he established the First Republic of the Philippines, this was Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
It was the major contributions of Gen. Aguinaldo that were discussed by Dr. Emmanuel Franco Calairo, a professor at De La Salle University-Dasmariñas and the current PHA president.
Some of the things that our nation has today that we owe to the initiative of Gen. Aguinaldo are the national flag, the national hymn and of course the declaration of our nation’s independence.
Although Gen. Aguinaldo played a significant part in achieving our country’s independence, he still remains to be one of the most controversial heroes in our nation’s history.
Several controversies that involved the departed general, that are still being talked about today, are those that involved the death of other national heroes such as Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini and Gen. Antonio Luna.
Some historians claim that it was Aguinaldo who ordered the death of those individuals but until today, none of these claims have been proven.
Calairo emphasized that these controversies only exist because of the way certain historians interpreted the events that led to our country’s independence and that these may or may not be true.
Independence in the North
It took James Guidangen at least 12 hours to travel from Apayao all the way to Manila just to give a 30-minute lecture but the professor happily shared how people from the northern provinces celebrate Independence Day.
Prof. Guidangen began his lecture by presenting pictures of how Independence Day was celebrated in the past. Apparently, the northern provinces have a history of joint Independence Day celebrations just like in 1975, when the provinces of Baguio and Benguet joined together to hold one big celebration.
In the city of Baguio, a traditional Independence Day parade is held every year wherein a massive Philippine flag is carried through Session Road.
Guidangen also shared that tree-planting sessions and activities that focus on health and environmental protection are some of the traditional ways that the Cordillera region celebrates Independence Day every year.