PRESIDENT and general manager of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Jesus Clint Aranas called on the Bacolodnons to honor the memory of the country's heroes.
Aranas was represented by Mary Abigail Francisco, GSIS vice president for Corporate Affairs, as the guest of honor and speaker of 120th Independence Day celebration yesterday, June 12, at the Bacolod City public plaza.
In his message, Aranas said “history reminds us that the freedoms we enjoy today were purchased by those who were willing to pay the highest price that anyone has ever had to pay.”
The Independence Day celebration in Bacolod was led by Mayor Evelio Leonardia. It kicked off with a flag-raising ceremony and wreath-laying at the monument of the Unknown Soldier.
"I am deeply honored to have been invited to speak at the Philippine Independence Day celebrations of my beloved hometown. I regret that prior commitments have prevented me from joining all of you at this memorable event, but I am grateful, nonetheless, for the chance to share with you some thoughts on what you have all gathered to celebrate today: our freedom as a sovereign people," Aranas said.
He said it has been 120 years since General Emilio Aguinaldo stood at the balcony of his home in Cavite and proclaimed the independence of the Filipino people.
"Compared to the other democratic states around the world, the Philippines is still a relatively young democracy, particularly when one considers that not long after the proclamation in Cavite, the Philippines would once again become a colonial subject, this time of the United States. History will also tell us that democracy came to Asia only within the last century, given the colonial history of many of our Asian neighbors," he added.
Aranas noted that despite these considerations, the Filipinos set great store by the exercise of freedom, as indeed any person would. Blessed with intellect and free will, man is the only creature in the universe capable of thought, understanding, and emotion.
"It comes as no surprise, therefore, that any person would profoundly cherish the liberty to speak his mind; to go where he pleases; to worship in the faith of his choosing – to be in control, in other words, to the highest possible degree, of his life and his future," Aranas said.
He said freedom, indeed, speaks to what it truly means to be human, and it is at the bedrock of the world’s most advanced societies. And yet, those who truly understand what it means to be free also know that freedom is never absolute and that the true limitations on freedom are mandated not by oppressive states or ruthless dictatorships, but by mutual respect between persons who acknowledge each other’s humanity and dignity.
And because freedom has its limitations, we must always bear in mind that its exercise is necessarily attended by consequences, ramifications, and after-effects.
“We would do well to remember, then, that words can hurt as well as heal; that hands can strike out in anger or soothe away pain; and that the exercise of freedom has both the power to nurture and the potential to destroy. It is the measure, therefore, of our maturity as a free people if the exercise of the freedoms we so cherish are guided by wisdom, enlightenment, and respect for human dignity,” he said.
Let us not forget that the employment of one’s freedom is not half as important as whether in doing so, we achieved something worthwhile not just for ourselves, but also for others, he added.
Aranas said the courage, gallantry, and nobility of spirit of the country’s heroes shall forever inspire us to defend our right as a people to chart the course of our history.
"As we gather to celebrate the sovereignty of our country and our people, let us also honor their memory, by considering this thought: that the greatest tribute we can offer them is to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that the freedom they gave their lives to protect will be exercised to obtain each and every day, a life of dignity for our fellow Filipinos," he said.
For his part, Leonardia said this celebration of change, as we all know, took place one historic morning in a balcony at Kawit, Cavite, 120 years ago.
"That change which our forefathers wanted and fought for has long unfolded as we became one nation, one people under the prevailing democratic rule of law. Add to this is the pride it gave us as the first bastion of democracy among our Asean neighbors," he said.
He said this year’s celebration expounds on the theme "Ipinaglalabang Pagbabago, Alay sa Kinabukasan, (The change we fight for is our gift for the future)” is exactly what President Rodrigo Duterte aims at upon his assumption of office.
"He right away implemented his campaign promise to change many of our ways of governance by correcting the wrong and eliminating those that are not needed or those that have become a menace to the rights of our people to live freely and peacefully," he added.
Unfortunately, many people are resistant to change, because they do not want to leave their comfort zones, the mayor said.
Leonardia said corruption in government is one battle for change the president is also undertaking.
"The priority change we wanted then to implement was a major improvement, if not a big change, for our city government’s physical home base. We then envisioned a new building that could comfortably accommodate and effectively dispense the services needed by a fast-growing population. We dreamed about it, actually since day one of my administration and as one religious speaker said, ‘if you have a dream in your heart, God has already given you the power to fulfill it.’ With that dream, a strong political will, the support of good-hearted citizens and the power of prayers, we were able to accomplish what we wanted," he said.
Also present in the commemoration were Representative Greg Gasataya, Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, other city officials and representatives from various sectors.
(Fight for better future)
Negros Occidental Board Member Valentino Miguel Alonso, president of the Philippine Councilor's League in the province, urges his fellow Negrenses to continue the fight for a better future.
"Let us remind this generation that the freedom that the Katipuneros have fought for is a continuing struggle that we are still fighting for," Alonso said in his message during the celebration of the 120th Anniversary of the Philippine Independence at the Provincial Capitol grounds.
“It was in 1898 in El Viejo II, now Kawit, Cavite, on this same day, imagine the Katipunan leader in the name of General Emilio Aguinaldo declaring the Philippine Independence from Spanish Occupation for more than 300 years. It was six years before the movement for freedom by the KKK was initiated, notwithstanding the consequences of this declaration, he mastered the courage and a sense of patriotism because of his strong belief that this country of ours has the right for self-determination,” Alonso said.
He said: “This right for self-determination is inherent in every Filipino across the country. When our leaders in Negros, in the name of Aniceto Lacson and Juan Araneta, decided to revolt against Spaniards, this is in the same spirit of self-determination that we Negrenses share with all Filipinos."
“Our modern heroes, from the men in uniform fighting for freedom to a common family working hard to provide food on their table, to the teachers going to the far-flung areas to provide quality education, to all men and women in the public service, I salute and challenge you to rekindle the spirit of patriotism that our heroes 120 years ago fought for,” Alonso said.
Meanwhile, Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez joined the Philippine Independence Day commemoration in his hometown, Victorias City.
Speaking from the balcony of the Victorias City Hall, Benitez urged the local government officials and all Victoriahanons to reflect not on the past events that have led to the declaration of independence of the country but of what the future will be for all.
Looking forward to the future, he urged the people of Victorias to contribute in making Victorias a premier city not only of the province but of the whole country as well, by focusing on the development of the young generation.
Benitez was the guest speaker of the Victorias Independence Day program and the inducting officer of the 21 new village chiefs of Victorias City.
Victorias City Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca inducted to the office the barangay councilmen or kagawads.
Calling all public officials to act in the spirit of the occasion, he said, “it is our responsibility and mandate to work seriously for the benefit of all.”
He said it is an honor to join the Independence Day rites in his hometown on the last year of his term as a public official and that he is happy and proud that he has done his best for his townmates and his district.