Our “Kalayaan 2015” theme is “Tagumpay sa Pagbabagong Nasimulan, Abot-kamaynang Bayan.” This is wonderful to be true. Everybody is speaking about it in all Independence Day programs and flag raising ceremonies. I want to cry. “Freedom is within reach.” But I cannot cry.
Martin Luther King in his “I have A Dream” has a message to the people of the world that all of us have a common dream… a dream that someday this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. He would want us to believe that all men are created equal. He dreamt that the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
That holds true with the Philippines. The Philippines (named after King Felipe of Spain) was under the Royal Crown (Spain) for more than 300 years. The Filipinos were slaves (Indios) and some were even tagged “remontados” (the thieves, the bandits, the mountain cats). Our ancestors had the mark of King Felipe (just like the mark of Cain). “We are slaves!”
Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo would like to make us believe that we won the independence that was frozen by the American after the “moro-moro” at Manila Bay. Uncle Sam made us believe that we are free in thought, word and action. Uncle Sam, the sponsor, godfather, and benefactor, of our freedom painted our independence by allowing us to elect our leaders with umbilical cord attached to the Statue of Liberty.
We are told to be happy because we have our national anthem, national flag (favorite colors of the Americans – red, white, and blue), national animal (carabao, the slave’s best friend), maya (the original national bird, the enemy of the farmers), and more national icons to show our independence.
We are happy to learn English in school. We sound like Americans and we are sellable at call centers (most of them are operated by Americans). We were dragged to World War II because we want to be loyal to America. Manila and the other parts of the Philippines were destroyed. Thanks! McArthur returned to liberate us. He was a god. The Japs were villains.
Now, as an independent nation, we love what is good for democracy. Japan is already a partner. America still stands as a protector (of her interest) of the Filipinos. We are still crybabies telling Uncle Sam that we are bullied by China. “Don’t cry, Brother Filipinos. We will not abandon you. We will have Balikatan Exercise. This is good for your health.”
All these are good. We have maintained our partnership in trade, commerce, industry, tourism, technology, education, health and military. We are now (according to reports) a developing country in Asia. We are participants in Asean Integration Program, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and other organizations in the world that preach peace, unity, and prosperity.
This is how we understand our independence. How about our poorest of the poor, our underpaid employees, the squatters in our backyard, the farmers who are always waiting for rain? Are we still “Indios” and “remontados” in our era? You may have your answer. Independence is how you take it. It may have a distinct meaning for each one of us.
There is no perfect independence. We hope to see a day that “our state will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice”. Independence is a work in progress.*