BACOLOD City Mayor Evelio Leonardia said in his speech during the 122nd Philippine Independence Day celebration at the Bacolod Public Plaza Friday, June 12, that the people are now, once again, engaged in a battle for freedom -- this time freedom from the havoc wrought by the coronavirus (Covid-19).
"As we celebrate right now the 122nd anniversary of our independence, we are again making history, since for the first time in our generation, we are engaged in a difficult battle for freedom, this time, freedom from the havoc wrought by an invisible and the minutest of enemies - the coronavirus," Leonardia said.
The mayor added that the only shield or protection from this deadly virus is understanding, patience, cooperation and a united stand with the government that has so far been implementing the best health and economic measures possible for our people.
Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran said in his welcome message that the commemoration of Independence Day must serve as a reminder "that what we are, and what we have today, is because of the thoughts, deeds, and the noble lives of our forefathers."
"Let us be guided by history, and may we live out the lessons we have learned today," he added.
Familiaran, who is the local Inter-Agency Task Force chairperson, and city councilors who were designated as heads of the different task forces against Covid-19 were given credit by the mayor for ably handling the local IATF and for doing a great job for the city in controlling the spread of the virus.
In his speech, Leonardia also thanked the various City Hall departments, the private sector, doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, hospital staff and their utility people who are in the front line in taking care of the patients.
"Let me take this opportunity to honor and salute them for the unequivocal service they render in the line of duty where some even lost their lives in the process," he said.
"Allow me to thank all of you, my fellow Bacoleños, for having been very cooperative in all the health protocols our local government has set for you. Your self-discipline is amazing. My heart beams with pride as I look back to the recent past three months when we have been under all those community quarantines and the lockdown Sundays that, with your trust in our leadership, made the city look like a ghost town where streets were empty and everything seemed to be at a standstill, all for the common good," Leonardia added.
While the virus has baffled experts who are looking for a cure, Filipinos can help them by strengthening faith and calling on the Almighty, the mayor added.
"The power of prayer cannot be underestimated," the mayor said. "As prayer warriors, we can storm the gates of Heaven for God's compassion and mercy on His people."
Health is freedom
Representative Greg Gasataya, who was also the guest of honor and speaker at the Independence Day celebration, said, "In this most trying time, health is not only wealth. Health is also freedom."
"We are now in this tough situation where we have to choose who stays in and who stays out. The ones without health risks may go out of their residence while the vulnerable ones shall stay home. We do this to avoid being in a much worse situation where we have to choose who lives and who dies," he added.
Gasataya emphasized the importance of mental and emotional health by saying that its negativity could be as deadly as the coronavirus.
"Let us strive harder to connect more with people we love in this time of disconnection. Do not let distance and separation take away our freedom to care, to communicate, to love and to uplift one another. Spare no effort to save lives by simply showing that you care. Health is freedom and mental health is everything," Gasataya added.
The ceremony started with a flag-raising ceremony at 6:30 a.m., followed by a program, and was capped with a wreath-laying at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in respect to all heroes who fought and died in the revolution to give Filipino the independence they enjoy today.
Leonardia had instructed the Committee on Independence Day 2020, chaired by Councilor Simplicia Distrito, to observe a "simple yet meaningful" celebration of the Independence Day, in the light of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Distrito said, "This is the simplest celebration the City ever had for the past years but what is important is that we will be able to give time to value our national heroes."
This year's theme is, "Kalayaan 2020: Tungo sa Bansang Malaya, Nagbabayanihan, at Ligtas (Kalayaan 2020: Towards A Free, United, and Safe Nation)."
Also joining the celebration were Councilors Renecito Novero, Simplicia Distrito, Archie Baribar, Israel Salanga, Bartolome Orola, and Ana Marie Palermo; City Administrator Em Ang; City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan, Secretary to the Mayor Atty. Edward Joseph Cuansing; ; Supervising and Administrative Officer Federico Guanzon, and executive assistants.
Also present were war veterans and officials of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines; Gladys Amylaine Sales, OIC-Schools Division Superintendent of the Department of Education (DepEd)- Bacolod; Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade; Col. Henry Biñas, director of the Bacolod City Police Office; Chief Inspector Rodel Legaspi, newly appointed city fire marshal of the Bureau of Fire Protection; Jerson Juarez, district president of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines; and other representatives of the DepEd, Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. (PR)