Cartoon by Roni Santiago
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

Filipinos in Michigan mark every year Philippine Independence Day with the so-called Kalayaan Picnic. This year’s celebration was held last June 7 at its perennial venue, the Halmich Park in Warren.

In our native land, the celebration of the 117th Philippine Independence Day was held last June 12 in Iloilo City with President Aquino leading the flag-raising ceremonies.

The annual event reminds us that on June 12, 1898, the red-white-and-blue Philippine banner was raised for the first time by General Emilio Aguinaldo at the veranda of his residence in Kawit, Cavite to announce to the whole world that the Filipinos were free at last from Spain.

The freedom we gained did not come in a silver platter. The flag-waving rites in Cavite capped years of blood-tears-and sweat struggle waged by the Filipinos who were then derisively called “Indios” by the colonizers.

Philippine National Hero Jose P. Rizal was among the thousands of brave souls who sacrificed their lives in the altar of freedom. Although Rizal did not actually participate in the bloody revolution, his execution by firing squad made the Filipinos more determined to push the fight for freedom.

History also tells us that the bloody fight for freedom continued even after Aguinaldo proclaimed independence in 1898 as more blood had to be poured out during the Philippine-American War.

This war lasted for three years and resulted in the killing of some 20,000 Filipino combatants and 4,200 American soldiers. Among the Filipinos killed was Gregorio del Pilar, a young, brilliant general.

Historians described the war as “brutal on both sides. US forces burned villages, implemented civilian hamletting policies, and employed torture on suspected guerrillas, while Filipino fighters also tortured captured soldiers and terrorized civilians who cooperated with American forces.”

The war ended with the capture of Aguinaldo in 1901 in Palanan, Isabela.

In 1946, the US finally granted independence to the Philippines.

With this historical account, we can appreciate the sacrifices done by our forefathers. And it is only proper that we demonstrate our appreciation by celebrating Independence Day.

Sometimes, though, programs marking our celebration of Freedom Day in Michigan do not include numbers that prompt us to recall the difficult struggle for independence. The programs are focused mostly on Filipino culture and traditions.

Although the presentations are good, interesting and even spectacular, these do not capture the true spirit of the celebration because these do not showcase the heroism of the Filipinos.

In this regard, we may learn a lesson or two from the celebration of Memorial Day here in the US. On Memorial Day, war veterans and widows and orphans of soldiers killed in the war front take center stage and are given due honors.

This gesture of appreciation would show that indeed we owe our freedom to our heroes.


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