(This was printed in the June issue of the community newspaper True Friends. They requested me to write my thoughts on Independence day.)
Considering that there was a time in our history when the question of whether Philippine Independence Day started on 12th June 1898 or 4th July 1946 was raised, I cannot help but ask: are we really sure of our independence?
Some will probably say that it is a very simple matter for such a serious question. Some may even stop reading this article now thinking that it's a too serious topic to spend your free time with. Still others may ask the same question.
Since I started learning about Philippine history in school – which in the larger part was more of memorizing names, dates and places – I've been led to embrace the idea that Philippine Independence Day started there at the balcony of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's mansion in Kawit, Cavite. An event perfectly pictured in the two-peso bill I grew up with.
I am pretty sure that anyone who has ever heard of Magellan, Lapu-Lapu and Andres Bonifacio knows that we have been colonized by Spain. As well, I am confident that anyone who has ever heard of the Philippine-American War, Macario Sakay, and the term 'benevolent assimilation' knows that we have also been colonized by the United States of America (USA).
But what I may doubt is that anyone who has ever heard of the Bell Trade Act, parity rights, US-RP Military Bases Agreement, Visiting Forces Agreement, World Trade Organization and war on terror knows or even believes that we have never really strayed far from US' control.
Celebration of Independence Day does give us a sense of history. But history did not stop in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898 nor when the US supposedly granted us freedom on July 4, 1946.
Independence is not only the freedom to wave your own flag or even speak your own language. Independence is not also merely having a Filipino as head of state or conducting rounds after rounds of elections. It is also not merely about having a defined territory. It is neither just a mere date nor a picture in a now forgotten bill.
It is the liberty to chart the country's destiny, to have sovereignty over own resources, and to make decisions and policies free from foreign dictates.
Based on these, if I may ask again: are we really sure of our independence?
If we are, then we probably do not have a proposed Charter Change that'll give up our resources for other nations to take over. We probably do not have US troops roaming all around the country – free to enter and leave – in the name of joint military exercises. Daniel Smith probably will still be in jail.
Probably, Nora Aunor wouldn't have shouted "My brother is not a pig!" in the movie Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo after her brother was shot dead by US military men who mistook him as a wild boar.
Probably, the more than 3,000 Filipinos who are forced to go abroad just to survive will not be at the airport everyday.
Probably, not everyone knows who Mickey Mouse is.
Also, probably all of those who have been president of the country would not have hurried over to speak before the US Congress and pledge support and cooperation with the US as soon as they got elected.
In many ways, we are still in the tight grip of the US. Our economy is still dominated by US investments, our trade is dependent on the needs of US and other more powerful countries, our country is neck-deep in debts to the IMF and World Bank that are controlled by the US, and our culture and mindset are very much Americanized.
After growing up believing in Independence Day, waving mini-flags and dressing in barong tagalog, it may really be hard to believe and, more so, to accept that our independence has been more in words and less in practice.
But then again, starting to question what we have been led to believe is probably the best way to get us working for the real thing.
So if someone asks me if we should celebrate our Independence Day on June 12 or on July 4, I will probably answer: soon, I hope.