INDEPENDENCE Day should be an occasion for bragging – with false modesty, of course – by any country, of its landmark economic, political, social and, yes, military achievements in the years after it frees itself from colonial, oppressive overlords. In the case of the Philippines, the latter are the Spaniards, the Americans and the Japanese.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd chose to mark it differently by singing praises of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, presumably his anointed candidate in 2016 to succeed him as the country’s leader.
The President, instead, should have spoken about Filipinos not going hungry, not having to make dropouts of their children whom they can no longer afford to send to school, not having to bear with a mother who opts to work as a maid in a richer country to make both ends meet for the family she leaves behind, not having to eat for breakfast such news as the monumental corruption that has entrenched people in high places and not seeing them get away with it.
That explains the Roxas to-do, and we are the sorrier lot for the cheap politicking that already happens every day and yet still be the non-topic that occupies the mind of Aquino on a day like this. Of course, there is the traditional wreath-laying and speech-giving before some statue of Rizal in some plaza in the country where most people do not even know any difference made on their lives by the incumbent President of the Philippines and the ones that came before him.
In past Independence Day celebrations, military parades were the norm, with the Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Rizal Park (Luneta) teeming with common folk given a sense of security, even a false one, perhaps, and engulfed by national pride at the sight of soldiers marching in precision before the President and foreign diplomats, as well as proud representatives from various government agencies calling attention to accomplishments in agriculture, the sciences, the civil service and other areas with their colorful floats and equally disciplined walk-bys before Filipinos and the world.
We don’t get them anymore, 117 years after we won freedom from the Americans, on whose “benevolence” our present-day leaders still depend for external security through such arrangements as the EDCA, VFA, even the MDT that is unbelievably more than 60 years old, and the list would probably go on.
What we get are motherhood statements, the very same ones made by Aquino’s predecessors, from 1946 to 2010, a case of hearing one and hearing all, and one that ironically gets lapped up by generations of Filipinos to whom independence seems to have no meaning at all.
Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay, in separate Independence Day speeches that were made public on the eve of June 12, talked about ridding the country of poverty – a mantra it really is, especially when hearing it from two millionaires who both probably have not taken a ride in one of those train systems whose operators practically run over their customers with their high fares and poor services.
The President goes, “We call on you to exercise the rights and freedom borne from the toil of our ancestors and continue toward shaping a more proactive and mature discourse, perpetuating positive change to the broader spectrum of society, and emancipating our citizenry from the shackles of poverty, corruption and greed.”
Not to be outdone, Binay goes, “Because of our collective struggle, the Filipino now enjoys many liberties. Yet, our freedom is not complete, for the spectre of poverty continues to cast its large shadow on many of our people despite the nation’s macroeconomic progress over recent years.”
The two gentlemen can give Filipinos more than big words such as “proactive” and “macroeconomic” that are simply snobbish and likely Greek to every Juan or Maria in these parts – unless, of course, the country’s Top 2 leaders really do not want to be understood at all by the masses.
Anyway, what the masa do not know, won’t hurt them.
Freeing speeches of jargon and rhetoric will make for an Independence Day observance that is really meaningful beyond such trivia as, “On August 4, 1964, Republic Act 4166 renamed July 4 holiday as ‘Philippine Republic Day,’ [and]proclaimed June 12 as ‘Philippine Independence Day.’”
“The United States granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946 through the Treaty of Manila. July 4 was chosen as the date by the United States because it corresponds to its Independence Day, and that day was observed in the Philippines as ‘Independence Day until 1962.”
It is pathetic when you have to lose sleep over July 4 and June 12.
The Philippines blew many times over its claim to national freedom and sovereignty when it had to mark its Independence Day through decree, not creed or other more honorable means.
Its citizens seem to have become jaded to June 12, anyway.
In public places that matter, such as light-rail train stations that serve millions daily, not one Philippine flag was in sight, not even on the eve of Independence Day.
Among city folk, no flag-waving was to be seen, either.
But as of this writing, we were holding our breath for the fireworks.
If the pyrotechnic display falls short of expectations, however, then we have to accept that we are not really celebrating anything at all.