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Independence and a Remembrance

We just celebrated the 125th anniversary of Philippine Independence. Actually, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has decided to organize a multi-year commemoration to celebrate our independence and our nationhood from 2023 to 2026. The idea is to highlight not just one event but a multitude of “events and realities that gave birth to the Filipino nation from the proclamation of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite, up to the end of the First Philippine Republic on March 23, 1901 in Palanan, Isabela.”


I commend the NHCP for its comprehensive plan that also aims to “raise from the regions and provinces across the Philippines their stories of revolutionary struggle and incorporate them into the national narrative of our independence and nationhood.” Sometimes, even our history is Manila-centric or Luzon-centric which tends to gloss over the important contributions of other provinces and regions in the making of our nation.


I also like the theme of this year’s celebration— “Kalayaan. Kinabukasan. Kasaysayan” because while it gives due attention to commemorating our past, it also encourages us to look forward and see how the independence we are enjoying today because of the heroism of past Filipinos can be used to map out a better future for our people. And I think we should look at history that way. Looking at the past does not mean getting trapped in the past. It means understanding it in order to learn its lessons that we can use as we navigate our future as a people.


According to the NHCP, other historical events will be covered in the celebration including the 125th anniversary of the creation of the Philippine Flag and National Anthem in June 2023; the 125th anniversary of the First Philippine Congress in Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan, in September 2023; the 125th anniversary of the First Philippine Constitution in January 2024; the 125th anniversary of the start of the First Philippine Republic in Malolos in January 2024; the 125th anniversary of the Philippine-American War in January 2024; the 125th anniversary of the Siege of Baler in June 2024; and the 125th anniversary of the deaths of Antonio Luna and Gregorio del Pilar in June and December 2024. These events are part of what we are as a nation and as a Republic — the first Republic in Asia.


As I greet all Filipinos a 125th Happy Independence, I also enjoin them to join the celebrations and embrace the commemoration of an important part of our history. Let us study our history. Let us learn from the past so we can better understand our problems today and hopefully design a better country in the future. This country was built by patriots and only the patriots of today can steer it towards a future of unity and prosperity.


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Speaking of patriots, on June 15 we will also commemorate what would have been the 78th birthday of my dear friend Miriam Defensor Santiago. Some people might have disagreed with some of her thoughts and deeds but no one can questions her patriotism. It was her unwavering love of country that inspired her to run for president, serve government, fight corruption and serve as an example to young Filipinos who adored her not just because she was witty and intelligent but because she was fearless and uncompromising.


I miss her dearly. She was the perfect balance of power and grace. Her rhetoric and wisdom were what made her formidable. But she had this tenderness that can only be captured by the Tagalog word “lambing.” As a friend, she was loyal and fiercely defended me at every turn. It was her sweet kindness though that I remember the most. That was the Miriam I knew — ruthless to people she believed to be enemies of democracy, and cariñosa to people she loved.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar