Both mainstream and social media were quick to point out President Rodrigo Duterte’s absence during the event that he was supposed to lead at the Rizal Park--- the celebration and commemoration of the 119th Independence Day of the Philippines.
President Duterte’s reason for not attending the most important event of the year for the nation is that he was “exhausted,” according to his foreign affairs secretary, Alan Cayetano. Secretary Cayetano stated that the president was exhausted and tired from his numerous visits to the military camps in different parts of the country.
News coming from the Philippines before this year’s Independence Day celebration focused on the Marawi siege. The siege was perpetrated by the extremist Maute Group which is reported to have links with the notorious ISIS. This led President Duterte to declare Martial Law in the entire Mindanao and Sulu area.
There was also the tragic event at the Resorts World Manila Casino that was initially reported as an ISIS-initiated attack but authorities were quick to counter the report by stating that a lone gunman, a former government employee with huge gambling debts was responsible for the attack.
It would have been very meaningful to see the president of the Philippines at the Rizal Park while the nation’s flag was being raised during the Independence Day celebration, especially after the tragic events of the last few weeks in the Philippines.
A national day celebration is foremost in the list of every nation’s holidays. It is a designated date wherein the nation takes time to remember and value the events and the heroes that led to their nationhood and sovereignty. This designated date of nationhood is often symbolized by the date of a nation’s independence, of becoming a republic, or it can also be a significant date for a patron saint or a leader who became the “father of the nation or country.”
Right after World War II, July 4 was the day marked as the national day in Philippine calendars. This date was in observance of the granting of Philippine Independence by the United States in 1946. The date was then changed to June 12 during the term of President Diosdado Macapagal to commemorate the declaration of independence and the raising of the Philippine flag (June 12, 1898) in Kawit, Cavite by General Emilio Aguinaldo who became the first president of the Philippine Republic.
Many Philippine historians question the validity of the June 12, 1898 date as a national day based on the reason that the Philippines continued to be a colony by the United States after Aguinaldo’s declaration (as Spain ceded the country to the U.S.).
It is also interesting to note that there is another Philippine Day celebration date that some Filipinos observed before 1946. Believe it or not, a good number of Filipinos in the Philippines (and also in the U.S.) observed their annual “National Day” celebration on Rizal Day (December 30).
Rizal Day commemorates the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal in Bagumbayan (Luneta) where he was executed by firing squad on December 30, 1896.
Since June 12 is only a week from Dr. Rizal’s birthday June 19 (1861), I believe we should revisit the issue regarding the date of the celebration of Philippine Independence Day. June 12 is focused mainly on the historic Kawit flag-raising event in 1898. The Philippines needs to pick a date that is guided by and based from historic events that more people can identify with--- to make it more inclusive. The discussion of this issue is timely.
We can for example focus on the message of and lessons from historic events such as Rizal’s work in Dapitan so that Mindanao is also included, Lapu-lapu and the people of Mactan’s heroics in fighting the first Spanish attempt to colonize the Philippines, the founding of the La Liga Filipina, the Noli and Fili and the lessons that we should learn to eradicate our “social cancer,” the lessons learned by Rizal in his travels abroad, and other lessons that more Filipinos can identify with--- which will also help in developing a deeper understanding of “who we are as a people.”
The Philippines and the Filipino people need a common rallying spirit to move forward. And one way to have one is to have a National Day that many Filipinos can identify with.
Until next week.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.