Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Today, June 12, 2008, marks the Philippines 110th Independence Day. Rightfully or unrightfully so, we are historically the first republic in Asia to declare ourselves free from colonial rule.
Emilio Aguinaldo, the country's first declared president, waved a blue, red and white flag with three stars in the terrace of his own home, and thus said, "We are free." Cheers, exultation followed this proclamation. Unbeknownst to him, a couple of months forward, the Spanish and Americans will secretly have their tea party in France to seal the deal of the US' purchase of the Philippine soil for US$20,000,000. This agreement is officially called as the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Only a year after declaring independence, Aguinaldo was captured and forced to acknowledge American rule. Following this, the Philippines existed as a colony once more, by the US this time, for 48 more years. They finally gave the country freedom to govern itself on July 4, 1946, incidentally the same day of the US' national independence.
Technically, we were only truly free of colonial rule on that 4th of July day. But even that is not entirely accurate as American bases stayed in the country well until the Marcos era. They were booted out of Subic and finally out of the Philippine soil only during the Cory Aquino presidency. But as a result of the US' forced departure, we fell out of their radar of diplomatic aid and friendship, and thus suffered its adverse economic consequence.
Fast forward to 2008, American forces sporadically come back for supposedly benign US-Phil exercises in the south of the country, and so far, our government is still a consistent lapdog of the US.
So the question remains, "Are we a truly free nation?" And what has this freedom really brought us so far? Can we consider ourselves as free when the majority of our society is shackled by ignorance, poverty, sickness and war. Are we a truly free nation when only the few, elite ruling class lord over the country's vast resource of natural and man-made wealth? Are we truly free when most Filipinos dream of going to a greener pasture to escape poverty and dearth of social opportunities in its own land?
110 years after, are we truly freer today than before? Or have we merely passed on from one oppressor to next, only this time they are of our own?