Freedom is a cause worth fighting for. People sacrifice their lives in the name of freedom. It is important for those who enjoy the freedom won from rulers and aggressors to mark the event with meaningful activities.
On June 12, 2021, the Philippines observes the 123rd anniversary when Emilio Aguinaldo raised the flag of the country in Kawit, Cavite to declare independence from Spain. It was short-lived, but it was a moment to be cherished for a people who were subservient in their own country for centuries.
Freedom can be lost through machinations by others; by powerlessness of those fighting for it; by the weakness of leadership; or by apathy of the population. The struggle that culminated in the establishment of the First Philippine Republic was bloody. It wasn’t just about the battles fought by the Katipuneros against the Spaniards and their Filipino collaborators, but the infighting within the revolutionary movement that led to the murders of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna, among others.
The First Philippine Republic was lost not only because of the treaty between Spain and the United States, but other factors as well, including the lack of determination of Emilio Aguinaldo, the loss of faith in his leadership, and the abandonment of the cause of independence, including by Manuel L. Quezon and Aguinaldo himself.
The Philippines became a colony of the United States of America. But it must be remembered that there were others who continued to fight for freedom. Most prominent were Generals Miguel Malvar and Vicente Lukbán.
The war against the new colonizer is not written much about in Philippine history textbooks, but the casualties could have reached “one million due to violence, famine and disease,” according to one account. The “scorched earth campaign” by the Americans was savage. Prisoners were taken to camps, described by one American witness as “suburbs of Hell.”
Today, the Philippines is a free country. So many lives were lost as well fighting in subsequent challenges during the Japanese occupation in World War II and against the Marcos dictatorship. Do those lives lost for our freedom mean anything to us?
We must honor them on occasions such as the Philippine Independence Day. But more importantly, we should carry through their deeds by being good citizens, by voting for upright individuals to public office, and by exposing wrongdoings of those in power.