June 12, 1898 and July 4, 1946, Two Philippine Independence DaysI'm certainly not the expert on the facts surrounding Philippine Independence, but AS USUAL, I have my observations and opinions as an American outsider on what I see and hear over here.
So, when it comes to this topic, what DO I see? That's easy—not much, as in not much happening.
Like so many aspects of this country's history, Philippine independence seems to inspire little more than ambivalence among the common folk that I know. It’s not really even celebrated, at least not like what I’m used to back home. I can’t imagine such indifference in the States during our own July 4th celebrations. Yet, based on the actual events of June 12, 1898, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In the end, things did not go well in the months and years that followed. By the end of 1898 a soundly defeated Spain ceded the Phils to the United States, and right or wrong, President McKinley decided to keep it. What followed was The Philippine Insurrection, a long war that was ultimately lost by the Filipinos to the USA.
The average citizen doesn’t know that June 12 was not even the original holiday. Or perhaps more appropriately, they don’t realize that it HAD BEEN the original, before being superseded. Until 1964, starting from 1946, July 4th was THE day marking this nation’s independence. The current president’s father, Diosdado Macapagal, who was the president in 1964, must have decided that sharing July 4th with the U.S as their Independence Day was just too much a source of national embarrassment.
I can understand the pride that went into his decision. After all, the way they see it, we “granted” them their sovereignty. The July 4th date was a reminder to those mostly academics and elite “in the know” that their freedom was more our decision than it was theirs. Basically, the Americans “gave permission” to the Philippines that it was ready for self rule, and that must have been a pretty bitter pill to have to swallow.
At the time, it was probably done in what we thought was a spirit of good will, but in hindsight, we should have done it on a different date—like June 12th maybe? But, who knows—(And I’m sure someone does)—perhaps Filipinos were in on the decision as well? To put it mildly, sometimes feelings between nations change over the years. In the jubilant months just after WWII I’m sure there was a lot of Filipino-American cooperation and friendship, which apparently had melted away by the 1960s.
Interestingly, the original 1898 declarer of Philippine Kalayaan (freedom), Emilio Aguinaldo, was still alive in 1964 at the age of 94, when President Macapagal made his decision to change the official date of independence to June 12; although Aguinaldo died on February 6, a few months before the actual new independence date could be celebrated. Knowing politicians and their sense of the theatrical, I’m sure Macapagal wanted to make some political hay out of having Emilio around during the big kick off.
In a way, the Philippines has three Independence Days. It could be argued quite strongly that the overthrow of the Marcos Regime on February 25, 1986 is THE most appropriate day of the three to celebrate. And without a doubt, of the three holidays, the February 25th EDSA Day is probably the most understood by the populace. Sadly, not much has changed here since then. I clearly remember the heady exuberance and optimism that followed the days of “people power.” Unfortunately, not much has come of it.
Academics here would never admit to such a thing, but the Philippines was neither ready nor capable of maintaining its territorial integrity in 1898. The Spanish had seen to that. Thanks to the Spanish, indigenous Filipinos did not speak a common language; they spoke a sea of them. And, the host of different peoples certainly did not yet have a sense of being part of a single nation nor did they share a culture, except for that given to them by their Spanish overlords. Thus, the archipelago was easy pickings for continued control by the rest of the colonialist world. The Dutch, Germans, Brits and a host of others were waiting for the U.S. to leave so they could swoop in, pull it apart, and take over.
Personally, I think the July 4th day, now called Filipino American Friendship Day, is the one that marks the true spirit of Philippine independence. By the end of the war against Japan, Filipinos had certainly proven they were capable of self-rule. And even though it could be said that we had consented to their sovereignty, in reality, it was pressure from the Filipinos themselves that had finally made it happen.
Then again, who says that any country has to have the same kind of spirited Independence Day that the States have? After all, the French still proudly celebrate their so-called Independence on Bastille Day, which marks the day in 1790 when the masses stormed the hated Bastille. Thing is, it was also the start of one of the bloodiest and most unsavory periods of France’s history. Who needs that?