Today, we celebrate Independence day. But what it is really, is the anniversary of our freedom from the hands of the Spaniards. On June 12, 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and Filipino revolutionaries declared that we are no longer a colony of Spain. But we all know that the claim to independence was short-lived. Immediately after that, Americans invaded our shores. Then there was the Japanese. And even now, we are still not free. Not in the absolute sense of it. Colonizers still have a tight grip on us. Colonial mentality is one form of it. And now, it seems China will be indirectly colonizing us. Most citizens can’t exactly call themselves free, as they are chained by the constraints of poverty, hunger, discrimination. I would like to point out that this, in no way, seeks to discount our heroes’ noble sacrifices. They paved the way for us to have better living conditions, we cannot deny that. But with these facts, I think it’s interesting to think that when it comes down to it, we’re celebrating independence that was never really ours. It might make you wonder: Is there a point to celebrating Independence Day? Do we deserve to take pride in an imagined freedom? Are we entitled to the right to take pride in an identity that’s murky to begin with?
For me, the answer is still yes.
Over my years in school, I have become exposed (though still not as much as I would have liked) to people, events, and concepts enough to make me embrace my heritage and incite pride. Our rich culture, and the strength of our people made me love my country, a love that stemmed from a young age, when I first learned about the brave deeds of our local heroes through my elementary textbooks. What can I say? I was young. I have always been a romantic and an idealist and the inspiring stories got to me.
As I got older, I have also become exposed to the less than stellar side of our country (though still not as much as I would have liked). Our corrupt officials, the off-putting beliefs and culture of our fellow Filipinos, and our sad state of injustice, among others, are enough to make me lose faith in my country. I was not the same idealistic student I used to be. These days especially, I would say the negatives trump the positives. There were certain times, like the Kidapawan Crisis, which made me so close to disowning my identity. I know I’m not alone in this. After the recent elections, it was reported that “how to migrate” became trending on Google. It was easy to treat it as a joke but, ultimately, it showed how great and real the threat of disillusionment among our countrymen is becoming. It gets discouraging, I get it.
But I still stand by my belief in this country. No matter how great my heartbreaks, or how many, because of the way our government lets us down—and how we let each other down—a sense of hope remains. Maybe it’s the idealist in me that managed to survive, but I truly think we can pull through. I am still somehow confident that our heroes’ sacrifices were not in vain, and true independence will be ours.
Of course, action must be done. Merriam-Webster defines patriotism as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” Country being the crucial word here. You can’t call yourself a “patriot” if your loyalty belongs to certain leaders or partylists—or even your biological family, when it comes down to it—instead of our nation. So let’s start with changing that part of our culture. This Independence Day, I hope we become true patriots, and together, start working towards real freedom.
Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net
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