"It is now our time to shine."
On June 12, 1898, the leaders of our revolutionary forces gathered in Kawit (formerly Cavite el Viejo), Cavite, at the home of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo to undertake one of the most important and glorious moments in the history of our country. Many more revolutionaries and town folks were waiting outside for an event that we commemorate yearly—the declaration of Philippine independence from Spanish rule.
It was quite a daring act as our revolutionaries were still fighting the forces of Spain. Aguinaldo has just returned from exile in Hong Kong a few weeks back. He immediately reorganized the forces of the revolution and proceeded to resume the revolution. His forces won their first battle on May 28, 1898 in Alapan when enemies attacked as our revolutionaries were meeting the shipment of arms to aid in the struggle for independence. To celebrate this victory, Aguinaldo, for the first time, unfurled the Philippine flag he brought home from Hong Kong for the people in the area to see. This is the reason why May 28 of each year is celebrated as the Flag Day and starts the celebration of flag days until June 12, the day Filipinos declared our independence.
The Declaration of Philippine Independence, originally in Spanish, was written and read by Ambrosio Rianzares-Bautista during the event. Contrary to what many Filipinos now believe, it was also Rianzares-Bautista who waved the flag, not Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who was inside his house. This is really understandable because he was the leader of the revolution.
It was the first time that Filipinos saw the national flag proudly being waved as a sign of independence. It was also during this event that the “Marcha Nacional Filipina” (the original national anthem) composed by Julian Felipe was played to the jubilation of those gathered for the momentous event.
We can only imagine what our ancestors were feeling as they listened to the declaration, saw the flag for the first time, and heard, and perhaps marched to the tune of our national march. It must have been glorious to witness the birth of our nation.
After the event, there is evidence showing that the Filipino people loved and were proud of this national symbol. In the book Philippine National Flag and Anthem (1936), the author wrote that “during the short life of the Philippine Republic, crude and hand-made national flags were in evidence, everywhere, white silk and embroidered ones were not uncommon in the homes of the well-to-do families. In those days it was an established custom for the young ladies of a town or province to give hand-embroidered flags to the revolutionary army; the offer was considered a privilege and its acceptance a distinction.”
The Filipinos’ love of and respect for the flag and national anthem was rooted in our independence, our being free as a nation and as a people. They are symbols that the Philippines is a sovereign country. These symbols were given to us by Gen. Aguinaldo and the tens of thousands who spilled their blood on the very grounds we now traverse.
I am part of a generation that sang the national anthem in school each day that our flag was being raised. After which, we put our right hand over our hearts and recited Panatang Makabayan. We would stand erect each time we would hear Lupang Hinirang play anywhere, and not just inside movie houses.
Thus, it is very painful to see neglected and worn out flags flying the poles of offices or along major thoroughfares. It hurts when Filipinos refuse to stand and pay respect when the national anthem is played. Many of us seem to have lost our fervor for the very symbols of the independence that enabled us to enjoy the freedoms we now have.
At a time when these freedoms are being disrespected and curtailed by those who are supposed to protect them, at a time when as a people we face hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic and government inability to effectively address it, at a time when our very sovereignty is being challenged and our territory is being claimed by China while the government turns a blind eye, the Filipino people need to assert our independence and rights as a people.
On August 31, 1899, while the Philippine-American war was raging, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo released a manifesto entitled, “Sa Bayang Filipinas” that partly said, “Tangi sa rito’y minamatamis sa puso ng ating hokbo ang makalilibong mamatay, maipagtangol lamang ang santong katowiran at ang… iaanhin pa nga naman ang manga katawan sa ibabaw nang lupa, kung mabubuhay rin lamang sa di katowiran at sa kaalipnan?” (It is sweeter to die a thousand deaths to be able to defend righteousness… what good is it to be alive if we live in injustice and slavery?)
It will do us good to remember why our heroes fought for us. It is now our time to shine. Stand for independence, protect our freedoms.
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