Wenceslao: Independence Day

Candid Thoughts

THERE used to be this ritual followed religiously by some people of displaying miniatures of the Philippine flag on vehicles and the facades of houses, business establishments and government structures on or before June 12, Independence Day. I thought the ritual was voluntary until somebody referred me to Republic Act 8491 or the Act Prescribing the Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat-of-Arms and Other Heraldic Items and Devices of the Philippines.

Section 28 of the Act refers to the “flag days” and states: “The period from May 28 to June 12 of each year is declared as Flag Days, during which period all offices, agencies and instrumentalities of government, business establishments, institutions of learning and private homes are enjoined to display the flag.”

Flag days used to be followed strictly early on but not recently. The late 1990s when the law was enacted was only about a decade removed from the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising when the wave of patriotism in the country was high. The struggle against the Marcos dictatorship had many people willing to die for the good of the nation. For them, “love of country” was not an abstract phrase.

But we are now in different times when old values are being scrutinized, with some of them being thrown away altogether. The pendulum has swung to the opposite direction where “love of patron” trumps all other values. It’s no longer about the country but about the individual, or about idolized personalities.

A furor erupted online recently over photographs that showed vendors at the Luneta park selling Chinese flags. Authorities clarified that the vendors were just made to pose as if they were selling the flags but still the online sentiment against the growing Chinese influence in the country could not be denied there. President Duterte’s pro-China policy has put the old value of patriotism back in the limelight.

It used to be only about the country’s seeming sell-out to the Chinese on the matter of the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea. President Duterte’s refusal to put the Chinese to task for building artificial islands and seizing control of the area do not sit well with many patriotic souls. Now Chinese workers are displacing the Philippines’ own right in its shores.

The President’s campaign promise of riding a jetski bringing with him the Philippine flag in disputed territories caught the fancy of the electorate not because they believe Duterte is physically able to do it but because it symbolized patriotic fervor and resolve to defend the country’s interests. That it has remained a promise is symbolic also of the current administration’s failure to assert Philippine sovereignty over those disputed territories.

“Independence” is an abstract term but like the air, we can sense its presence or non-presence at any given time. The persons who masterminded the photographed scene of vendors selling Chinese flags at the historic Luneta grounds were apparently adept at drawing symbolism. I agree. Philippine Independence Day 2019 has more of a Chinese feel to it.


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