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.

june-12-2014-OUCHPiNoy

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