This year marks the 117th Independence Day of the Philippines. It is a major date on the Filipino calendar.
The national holiday, held annually on 12th June, commemorates the day on which the Declaration of Independence from the Spanish colonial forces was made by General Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898.
This was the first time the Philippine flag was raised and the national anthem was played and sung.
As such, 12th June is a day to celebrate the freedom of Filipinos everywhere.
Despite this early declaration, true independence did not come to the Philippines until 4th July 1946. Neither Spain nor the United States recognised Philippine independence, with the Spanish government handing over the Philippines to the US in the 1898 Treaty of Paris.
The Philippines refused to recognise the Treaty of Paris, and this eventually led to the Philippine-American War.
Following World War II and the end of Japanese occupation in the Philippines, President Jose P. Laurel proclaimed independence once more. This time, it was granted through the Treaty of Manila on 4th July 1946.
This date was originally observed as Independence Day until 1962, when President Diosdado Macapagal declared 12th June as the new Independence Day of the Philippines, in recognition of the original declaration. The 4th of July then became “Philippine Republic Day” instead.
The battles fought by our forefathers, was not just to free us from the bondage of oppression and the hardships of being a colonised people. Their ultimate dream was for us to triumph over our own limitations, to set us free so that by reforming ourselves we could fulfil our potential – to be proud of our culture, of our heritage, of who we are – and uphold the dignity of being Filipino, wherever we go, by living exemplary lives.
When we free ourselves, we let our kind-heartedness express itself in our relationships, in our work and in our sharing, especially with those less fortunate. Our freedom also enables us to look beyond any disagreement or turmoil in our community to embrace that which unites all of us as a proud people.
Our freedom is worthy of celebration. The theme for the 117th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence is:
Kalayaan 2015: Tagumpay sa Pagbabagong Nasimulan, Abot-Kamay na ng Bayan
Independence 2015: Triumphs through Reforms, within Nation’s reach”
While there are many ways to celebrate, there are at least two events that I encourage you to join in and celebrate as a Filipino community:
• Independence Day Mass at 7.00 pm on 11th June at St Brigid’s Church, Fitzroy North.
• Flag-raising ceremony at 8.00 am on 12th June at Federation Square, Melbourne.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!