ON THE 116th commemoration of the Independence Day Thursday, a contrast in the observance with the militant groups holding protest and the Cagayan de Oro City Government spearheading in the offering of prayers was obvious.
Early Thursday morning, different local government units, war veterans, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the academe, national government agencies, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), members of the Philippine Freemasonry, private groups and individuals joined in the commemoration at Kiosko Kagawasan in Divisoria.
It kicked off with the march headed by the horse-riding, flag-carrying “Freedom Riders.”
Prayers were led by the various religious sectors in the city while Mayor Oscar Moreno delivered his message.
“Every generation must be better than the previous one. What we are working now is for our next generation, for their betterment,” Moreno said.
Moreno also stressed the "power of prayers" where he recalled the tragedy the city experienced in 2011 when typhoon Sendong struck and killed hundreds of lives.
“Before we started the program, we prayed [...] I realized what prayers can do and how powerful they are as they were a great contribution during typhoon Sendong,” he added.
Moreno also thanked the neighboring towns for the influx of businesses in the city.
“They also contribute to our economy in the city because the city, just alone, cannot live in prosperity that we are today without their help.”
An impossible independence
While the city rests because of the holiday, protesters stormed Magsaysay Park in Divisoria and questioned the celebration of Independence Day.
Wildon Barros, chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Northern Mindanao Region (Bayan-NMR) said that with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between the Philippines and United States of America, the more the country could not be free from “bondage.”
“Bayan does not see Edca as an addition to our military defense [nor will it] tighten ties between America and us, but just a mere advantage for them to exploit our natural resources,” Barros said.
“Achieving the real independence is a struggle for the Filipinos and forever will be if we continue to become blinded of what is really going on underneath,” he added.
Ringo Lago, secretary general of the Solidarity of Transport Alliance – Region X (Starex) and a motorela driver said, “the real independence is when we will have the power to dictate what the capitalists should do.”
He earns P700 gross each day minus the rental of his vehicle at P250 and gas at P350, he would most likely bring home only P100.
“Although I only have one kid to feed unlike the other drivers, still, the profit I get from all-day long trip is not enough. Prices of goods are very high, too. That is why in [Starex], we condemn this celebration since we have not actually achieved the real independence. If they are to regulate the existing oil deregulation law, then I guess, independence is beginning to give justice to its meaning,” Lago said.
With Bayan and Starex were the members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-10 (KMP-10) who were pushing for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (Garb) and Anak Bayan members who push for an affordable or free education in the country and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente parishioners.
“We understand that not all of the people in the city understand what we are protesting on, which is actually for them, but we also understand and are hopeful that one day, they will realize that the real meaning of independence comes when we are free from the capitalists who are actually putting us in chains,” Barros said.