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Cry for Freedom

The event that ushered in the Philippine Revolution against more than 300 years of Spanish occupation is as significant as it is controversial. Sick of the oppression under foreign rule and craving for freedom and independence, Filipino revolutionaries under the leadership of Andres Bonifacio tore their “cedulas” (residence certificate) as a sign of their resistance.


When and where it happened has been the subject of much controversy. It has been called the “Cry of Balintawak” and celebrated every 26th of August for the longest time. But the National Historical Commission changed the date to August 23 and the location to Pugad Lawin based mainly on the accounts of Dr. Pio Valenzuela.


There have been many claims, backed up by multiple and contradictory sources, as to the dates and venue of the “Cry.” The date of the “Cry” has been placed any time between August 23 and August 25 and the venue in Kangkong, Caloocan, or in Pasong Tamo in Banlat, Caloocan, or in Bahay Toro, Caloocan.


But there is no controversy about the act of courage of Bonifacio and the Katipuneros and the significance of their act. They tore their cedulas as an expression of defiance against Spanish rule. Reflecting on this act today, we see the bravery of Filipinos who fought against a foreign enemy with superior arms.


The Katipuneros would match this symbolic act with attacks in Mandaluyong, Pandacan, and Pasig that prompted the Spaniards to declare a state of war in the eight provinces—Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga.


One hundred twenty-three years after this historic event, the “Cry” of Filipino revolutionaries, regardless of the controversies on the dates and venues, should continue to inspire modern Filipinos.


Today, we no longer have an oppressive foreign ruler depriving us of dignity. We no longer have an armed struggle that we need to wage in order to secure our independence. The battlefield has changed but the heroism required remains the same.


In my 21 years in public service, I have always argued that the greatest struggle we face today is the battle against poverty. Poverty deprives our people of the decent and dignified life they deserve. It deprives our youth of a bright future.


We have seen small victories in our fight against poverty. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported early this year that the nationwide poverty incidence fell to 21 percent in the first half of 2018 compared to 27.6 percent in the first half of 2015. This drop is a testament to the fact that the economic policies of the Duterte administration are working and are actually reaching the poor.


But 21% is still too many poor people. In real terms, this is equivalent to 23.1 million Filipinos who cannot meet the basic food and non-food requirements of a family of five. We should celebrate small victories but we cannot lose sight of our overall objective—freedom from poverty. Independence, freedom, sovereignty are empty words if millions of our countrymen are enslaved by the indignity of poverty.


It does not matter when the “Cry of Balintawak” or the “Cry of Pugad Lawin” transpired. Let historians debate the when and where. What matters is what meaning we ascribe to such important and heroic event. The question is how can we live up to the ideals of the Philippine Revolution.


We do not need to tear up a document or join a demonstration. Our hard work and perseverance in our daily lives, our kindness to others, and our solidarity in our common cause are enough for us to win this war. Our daily grind is our revolution.