There are many ways to celebrate Independence Day. Trips to Luneta. Museums. Parades. Listening to platitudes. Reading the papers. Getting depressed about our country. Waving flags.


And then you could also choose to see the good in our country. You could choose that that day will be the day when you said goodbye to our old crooked ways. As Chino Trinidad, the main proponent of the tribute exhibit and event, said, he hoped that that day would be the start of our choosing to remember and do what makes the Filipino so great: that the Filipino remembers, the Filipino can sacrifice, the Filipino can aspire for excellence and greatness, that the Filipino can inspire.


Such was the case last June 12 during the awaring ceremonies of Pagpupugay. Pagpupugay is sport artifact and art exhibit situated in the ground floor of Resorts World Manila (You can’t miss it). It started this June and will end on June 15 (which I Father’s Day. You might want to take your dad there and he might be more than happy to do a live annotation of the exhibit for you.)  The highlight was the Gabi ng Pagpupugay held right on Independence Night. The event gave honor, tribute and symbolic trophies to the different awardees: the different greates in Philippine sports who might not have even been given the right recognition during their time.


The list includes a pantheon of Pinoy demigods: Pancho Villa,Paulino Alcantara, Teofilo Yldefonzo, Simeon Torribeo, Miguel White,  Ceferino Garcia, Felicisimo Ampon, Ben Arda, Anthony Villanueva, Flash Elorde, Eugene Torre, Paeng Nepomuceno, Bong Coo, Efren Reyes, Arianne Cerdena, Onyok Velasco, Lita Dela Rosa, and Caloy Loyzaga. For the deceased, their families accepted their trophies, shared stories, and some even shed tears.


photo taken from Chino Trinidad's facebook

photo taken from Chino Trinidad’s facebook

Poignant points of the night were when the younger greats were the ones who paid tribute their lolos, to the ones who first blazed the trails (such as Chieffy Caligdong paying Tribute to Paulino Alcantara, “The Net Breaker”). And when friends introduced friends a la NBA Hall of Fame (It kind of chokes you up when jokers like Django Bustamante and Efren Bata Reyes suddenly choked up).


Also, there were very significant moments when the current Philippine athletes were called to the stage to be honored and joined their titos and titas, lolos and lolas. The current young boxers, Chris Tiu and Marc Pingris, and even kids who were given better lives because of Sports Foundations.


We might not have all been varsity players. But we must have taken up some sport or two. Joined some MILO camp growing up. Or was taught how to swing a tennis racket or how to run. Or we would cheer and jeer and coach from the couch when we watch any sporting event. We might not have been “athletes,” but we applaud greatness when we see it. We might not have represented the flag on another land, but we rise to the same anthem they fight for. We might not play their same game, but they paved the very roads we tread on today. We might not wear the same jacket, but we are all Team Pilipinas.


And the very least we can do, when someone fights on our behalf, is say thanks. And remember.


Because one day, we will need to call upon their greatness, and like they would want us to do so, believe that that greatness is in us, too. Not just in sports, but in the many fights our country needs to fight.


Kalayaan in a time of Kurakot

Holidays like yesterday reminded me of my college days, when I was also taking up my Minor Degree in History. I have forgotten many of the research techniques, names and dates, but I don’t think I can forget the different way with which my teachers made me see our history and our people.

We used to celebrate June 12 with parades. Then flags were made more available even through Takatak Boys. Then today, social media affords us a chance to declare our affection for our country, remind us of our duty, and even display cute pictures of how we celebrated Independence Day by celebrating freedom from our diets.

If, however, you felt pressured and obligated to celebrate Independence Day with the same fervor as your Facebook Friends, take heart. Here are some sobering thoughts to help us put June 12 in a bit of a more level-headed context, but also inspire us to act concretely and daily.

independence day 5 peso bill 2

  1. Independence in Tagalog is NOT Kalayaan.

Some well-meaning statesman or politician must have translated it as thus. The US, for example, has no problem with loss in translation, since they know what they celebrate: independence on independence  day. For us, however, we run into all sorts of expectations from just one day.

I remember, in Grade School and High School, a favorite essay questions (worth 10-15 points, mind you), is “Ngayong araw ng kalayaan, tunay nga ba tayong Malaya?”

I don’t know about you, but that formed me to expect too much from the celebration, and it expected a greater deal of patriotism for me than what I was ready to give. The reality is – we are INDEPENDENT.

Sure, Independence can lead to freedom. It is a necessity toward freedom. However,  the word FREEDOM just puts a lot more pressure on us than there actually is. FREEDOM is a very loaded word: it belongs to discussions that have to do more with God, Love and Justice, than it does to government-mandated holidays.

I am NOT SAYING that we shouldn’t put pressure on ourselves to work for freedom. All I’m saying is that FREEDOM is our goal. Freedom is what we work for – daily. All I’m saying is  – don’t get disillusioned and angry at our country just because you can’t find it.Don’t call the holiday meaningless just because you don’t feel “free” as a Filipino.  It’s not meaningless to celebrate Independence Day, because it should remind us that our Independence was already won for us, and now we must work for our Freedom.


  1. It was a declaration. Not a celebration.

When the scene on the 5 PESO bill (the newer generation might not be able to relate. Gosh.), was first played out, we were in the middle of a war. In fact, Emilio Aguinaldo had just come off declaring one of the first Martial Laws our country will experience. Mabini, for one, didn’t think we were ready to hoist flags and declare anything. Yet, we did.

The trials of our country wasn’t ending at that time. Sure, there were bright spots in the military campaign, but it was probably due more to the fact that Spain itself was weakening as a world power. In December of the same year we declared our independence, (Dec 12,1898), we were sold to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. The following year, the Fil-Am war was going to be played out. So by no means were we independent yet. Yet, we declared that we were going to be.

So don’t be disheartened if you feel that the country is not in the shape you want it to be yet. I agree, we must be incensed by evil and cry out against it and combat it everyday, but don’t throw in the towel just because it’s been tough.

Simply because independence, while not perfect, or achieved in its fullness, is something we declare. It is something we shout to the world: that though we are not perfect, we desire to be better. Though we are crippled by malaise our own hands have wrought, we will heal. That though we have courted darkness, we will struggle to turn our faces to the light. We declare.

Just as in 1898, our Republic was not perfect. But Aguinaldo and our heroes believed and declared who we could be. So heroism in our context today is, when you think about it, that same declaration done daily.

So when you’re asked the question, “Why celebrate June 12 when we’re still in the middle of our fights against corruption?” The answer is, we declared it in the middle of a fight way back in 1898. And today, we resolve to continue to declare it in the midst of whatever fight we find ourselves in.

  1. JUNE 12 is an arbitrary date.

It’s a lot like Christmas. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. Scholars say he was born sometime during the summer months. So when was Jesus’ real birthday? And if his real birthday wasn’t really on December 25, then why are we kind and compassionate only during that season? Which gives more reason for us to say that every day should be Christmas day, that every day should be a day of love, giving, and charity.

So it is with June 12. It could have been July 4 – when we were freed by the Americans after their occupation and the Commonwealth government ended. It could be that date when Lapu-Lapu’s troops stopped Magellan’s. It could even be February 25, that date when the power of the people stopped the mayhem and madness of evil. But for some reason, we chose June 12. The load of celebrating who we are fell on the shoulders of this one date.

Which leads us now to this: Declaring our Independence and our love for our country shouldn’t be on just one date. It is something we should live out everyday. The flying of the flags is necessary, I guess. And it’s cute, too. However, the very arbitrariness with which we selected the date tells me that the date itself is not what’s special. It’s what we celebrate. And that it should inspire us, whatever the date on the calendar may be.


This Independence Day gives me hope. It tells me to steady myself, that this seeming onslaught of corruption is happening in just the first quarter of what’s going to be a long basketball game that we can still win. The celebration this year allows me to think of patriotism and freedom as a scale. That though we are not yet there, we desire to be fully free. And we will declare that with our deeds. Daily.



Sport is not immortal.


It is the demigodlike deeds of the ordinary folk, the heroic feats of those who give their heart for a people that might have no place for them in theirs, the passion that thunders beyond the halls of arenas – those are what transcend generations. It is when we remember greatness, and reflect on how we could be, too, are these deeds catapulted into eternity.


And that is what Pagpupugay – an exhibit of art and artifacts of Filipino heroes at the Resorts World Manila from now until June 15, 2014 (with a special recognition day on June 12) – is all about. Pagpupugay honors those who blazed new trails from the pre-war age in the 1920s, to the Twitter age. From Dr. Regino Ylanan (The Father of Philippine Sports. I knew about him only today!), to Lydia de Vega, Eugene Torre, Flash Elorde, Onyok Velasco, and of course, Manny Pacquiao.


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(Again, it’s in Resorts World. It’s an entire strip on the ground floor. You won’t miss it!)


Chino Trinidad, the main proponent of this celebration of sorts, was quoted by my father (who is his friend), as saying, “Hindi naman nakakalimot ang Pinoy. Kailangan lang paalalahanan.”


people checking out the stuff

people checking out the stuff

The Daddy of Philippine Sports

The Daddy of Philippine Sports

That is the spirit running across the 500 meters or so of the exhibit placed in a very high traffic area of Resorts World. The pictures and pieces of information are more than enough to inspire this sport-struck country. Families who are about to enjoy lunch, a movie, a play, and even adults who are about to go the casino, can take 5 minutes or so to check out the exhibit. There are pictures from past Philippine Basketball teams (the seal on the heart area is the same until today!), Lydia de Vega’s shoes, and even the silver medal of the late Villanueva, and very interesting artistic takes on the sports greats Efren Reyes, Paeng Nepomuceno, and Manny Pacquiao. You could see the families look at these artifacts, and some of the fathers would narrate some of the stories to their kids. I saw some senior citizens look at the pictures, probably recalling the time they followed and cheered for these teams, or even fact-checking the exhibit. Or he might have actually played for some of those teams, and he was having a moment recalling comrades.

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Lydia de Vega’s shoes!


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Lolo fact-checking the exhibit. or recalling his comrades.

Lolo fact-checking the exhibit. or recalling his comrades.


I was blessed because I had my dad, the sportsman he is, as a tour guide through this exhibit. He educated me on whose the medals were, their histories and significance, and introduce me to some names every Filipino should probably know.


Daddy told me a lot of stories that I think many dads would like to tell their sons and daughters as well.

Daddy told me a lot of stories that I think many dads would like to tell their sons and daughters as well.

A Basketball Bronze

A Basketball Bronze


Villanueva's Silver. My dad told me the story of how Villanueva wanted to sell this because he needed money. I don't think it's right that athletes who fight for us should have to sell their medals just to get money to get by.

Villanueva’s Silver. My dad told me the story of how Villanueva wanted to sell this because he needed money. I don’t think it’s right that athletes who fight for us should have to sell their medals just to get money to get by.

The Big Difference

The Big Difference

The greatness that transcended generations and the stories that transcend time and space are probably what make the heroism of these sports greats most potent.




Some of these athletes reportedly just disappeared into obscurity. Some of them did not even get the recognition due them. Through this, however, our collective recognition of their sacrifice will not just be for them, but for generations to come. Generations that will want to remember the blood of heroism running through their veins.


Making a Big Difference. Maybe Loyzaga would have been proud.

Making a Big Difference. Maybe Loyzaga would have been proud.

Thanks to Chino Trinidad and all those who helped him in this cause, in a time when Filipinos need to recall that they are great, they need only to go to Resorts World and remind themselves that they are. That they always have been.They only need to take the time para magbigay-pugay and remember.