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The Fourth of July is always a reminder to me of the duality of my heritage. On one side of my family, I can trace my ancestors back to the American Revolution, to soldiers who fought and died for American independence from Great Britain. On the other side of my family, I come from equally determined ancestors who fought against Spain and then later rejected American authority in order to remain independent.

The Fourth of July marks the day the Americans signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It is also the day in 1946 when the Treaty of Manila, giving the Philippines independence from America, was signed.

Although Philippine Independence Day is celebrated on June 12, the day the country declared its independence from Spain, I like to commemorate the July 4 anniversary as well. It was on this date when the Philippines truly came into its own as a globally recognized sovereign nation. Amidst the fireworks and barbecues that typify the Fourth of July in America, I remember the Philippines and celebrate the life and opportunities these two countries have given me.

While I am proud of my heritage and of my ancestors, July 4th should be more than a celebration of independence; it should serve as a reminder of the importance of freedom and of the importance of our rights. Neither the Philippines nor the United States is a perfect nation, and we would do well to remember the sacrifices our ancestors made to ensure our independence. We should safeguard our liberty.

Filipinos often view it as an inevitability that there is corruption in government; let us take it upon ourselves to fight against this. Let us continue to fight against injustice, wherever we see it. Many of our brothers and sisters live with limited access to food and shelter and education. Let us not rest until they are free from the shackles of poverty.

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Even those of us who live in the States have seen that freedom is not universal. Many of us have experienced racism, have seen how the color of our skin sometimes puts as at a disadvantage, have witnessed the justice system work against minorities.

As Filipinos, as Americans, as Filipino-Americans, as citizens of this world, let us not stop until freedom is a reality for all people, in all countries, of all backgrounds. It is not enough for a country to declare freedom or for a people to say they are free. Freedom is a constant battle which we must all fight.