Sunday, June 12, 2005

107 Years of Philippine Independence

Consummatum est! It is done! These were the last words of Dr. José Rizal when he was executed at Bagumbayan, Manila on December 30, 1896. He had his back turned to the Filipino firing squad that had been commissioned by the Spanish Guardia Civil to execute him for his hand in the swelling revolutionary fervor amongst the Filipino people. But he managed to turn just in time to face his executioners before his bullet-ridden body fell to the ground in twisted fashion.

Before his death, he managed to earn the ire of the Spanish colonial government by writing "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo", two novels that were critical of the colonial government including abuses of the Catholic Church of the Filipina women and granting indulgences for hefty sums to the higher-ups of society. The same books forced him into exile and imprisonment.

The revolution had been ignited by pens which Rizal believed were "mightier than the sword." Rizal wanted a peaceful revolution and had wanted to gain independence from the Spaniards. Illustrados had begun meeting in secret drawing up plans to generate a propaganda campaign against the colonial rulers.

Most revolutionary writers were executed. Many were martyred. Two years after Rizal’s death, a bloody revolution had climaxed. Andres Bonifacio and the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangan Katipunan ng Bayan (KKK) guerilla fighters engaged Spanish troops in combat. It appeared to be a victory and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo waved the Philippine flag from the balcony of the provincial capital of Kawit, Cavite on 12 June 1898.

The freedom was momentary as 400 years of Spanish colonialism ended; the Philippines was handed over to new masters, the U.S. It would be another 50 years before on 4 July 1946, the Philippines as it were became the "First Democracy in Asia". This was one of the many firsts of the Philippines which showed great promise.

But 107 years later, celebrating yet another Independence Day, one can ask where is the Philippines? Still, the only democracy in Far East Asia, it is at the bottom of the political wheel in the region. "People Power" has more than once ousted a president. But the emotions that filled the street still didn’t translate into wise voting for elections. We have previous actors and broadcast journalists in office. No offense to them but at least they should have finished school or had some form of experience in public office before running for Senator or Vice-President. We still allow our votes to be bought. Yet, we still complain of the graft and corruption in every government office.

The Philippine peso used to be one to one to the U.S. dollar but now it has inflated to a shocking US$1-PHP57.

If we are to move forward and to give importance to our freedom, we should really act like a democracy of the people, by the people and for the people. We should take charge and not add to the growing economic problems. It is easy to accept under-the-table deals because we all want to feed our families. But look at the repercussions. What values are we teaching our children?

I go back to Rizal. It is done. Or is it? Let not our national heroes die in vain. Let us take responsibility in making our country great, as it once had potential to be. Let us do what we can for our country and for our people so we can all fare better.

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