TODAY is the United States’ Independence Day, which therefore means it is the Americans’ national day. There was a time when we Filipinos celebrated the 4th of July also as our Independence Day. That was because July 4, 1946 is our Independence Day from the United States. July 4th was the day when the United States recognized the Philippines as an independent state in 1946.
Now we Filipinos celebrate July 4 as Philippine-American Friendship Day. And Americans who are in the Philippines also proclaim their celebration of Philippine-American friendship on July 4.
The Independence Day we now celebrate is June 12, when we declared our independence from Spain.
The celebration of Philippine-American Friendship Day is meant to remind us—and Americans—of our two countries’ long-standing friendship. This developed after the forces of the First Philippine Republic were defeated by those of the United States and our archipelago became an American colony.
The Philippines and the United States have maintained closeness that some Filipinos call a “special relationship.” Cynically, some Filipinos laugh about that fiction—for they say the US government does not do anything with, in and for the Philippines unless it serves US interests. That, to us, is an unproductive and unnecessarily negative way of seeing these ties. For our government also does not do anything with, in and for the USA unless it serves our interests. That is how mature governments deal with each other.
It is true, however, that some Filipinos are more sentimentally attached to America than others. And we suspect that for various reasons—the foremost one being the predominance of American good life images on TV and films—much more than 50 percent of all Filipinos would vote for the Philippines to become an American state, or Commonwealth (as in the years from 1935 to July 4, 1946), or even an American protectorate if there were such a referendum. That is because our Filipino leaders have governed our country like hell (as the Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon said he preferred to being governed by Americans). It is hard to deny that life for the majority of Filipinos was better because we were better and less corruptly governed when we had American governors-general than when we had Filipino presidents. Life under the Aquino administration definitely has not been a relief from our decades of unhappy misgovernance by Filipino officials.
But our millions of compatriots dreaming of becoming Americans are in for a bitter disappointment when they come to realize that, much as the Americans they have met here have been nice to them and bonded with them like dear friends and relatives, US leaders and lawmakers don’t want to have us.
Nevertheless, our OFWs and compatriots who are in the USA as greencard holders and naturalized citizens are enjoying themselves and doing everything they can to get visas for their families to join them in the America.
The USA’s wealth and global power is in decline. But it is still the most powerful and the richest country in the world.
And for all the criticisms of America some Filipino politicians bitterly orate about, one thing about it cannot be denied.
Most US government officials and workers, justices and judges, lawmakers in the federal and state congresses and assemblies, most American educators and schoolteachers still believe in the highest principles of good government and human liberties.
The vast majority of Americans still believe in Abraham Lincoln’s confident aspiration at Gettysburg “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We in The Manila Times continue to be inspired by the hope that we Filipinos, and all mankind, would reach the level of wisdom in Thomas Jefferson’s mind when he wrote these lines about freedom of speech and the press: “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”