Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Filipino Independence Day Isn't So Clear Cut

June 12th is Independence Day for the Philippines or at least the day they celebrate it. My wife and I, along with numerous Filipinos from all around the area, are in the midst of preparations for the celebration which we are going to celebrate a day earlier on this coming Saturday. (Nobody wants to party on a Sunday when we will all probably be at church repenting our sins from the night before.) So, wanting to know more about the history of their Independence, I did some research and found that it isn't so clear cut and that numerous Filipinos actually oppose this date and say that July 4, 1946 is the date of their real independence. Although I agree with them, I think I will still be there this Saturday celebrating with the rest of them.

On April 27th, 1521, I would theorize that Filipinos first declared their freedom from Spain when native freedom fighters killed Fernando Magellan on the beach of Mactan, Cebu, Philippines. But since the Philippines was not yet a nation and mainly consisted of warring tribes, historians don't give them credit for winning their freedom on this date. In fact, there have been 32 instances since 1754 of rebellions, mutinies and revolts against the Spanish government in the Philippines. If you count the uprisings against the British occupation of Manila from 1762 to 1764, the total would be 41. This also doesn't include the war for independence waged by Princess Urduja of Pangasinan whose army fought the Spaniards from 1680 to 1692.

On July 7, 1892, a secret society of Filipino rebels called the Katipunan and led by Andres Bonifacioich formed and for the first time really got the ball rolling for obtaining of impendence. The "First Cry of Philippine Independence" started on April 10, 1895 in Montalban, Rizal but "The Cry of Balintawak" on August 26, 1896 was more famous because the Filipino rebels fired the first shots of revolution on that day and more than 3000 freedom fighters died. The Battle of Pinaglabanan in San Juan Rizal followed on August 30th and soon the revolt spread to the other provinces but with little success.

After the U.S. naval victory over Spain in the Spanish-American War in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, the U.S. supplied General Emilio Aguinaldo with arms and urged him to rally the Filipinos against the Spanish. The Filipinos soon had taken the entire island of Luzon, except for the old walled city of Manila and on June 12th, 1898, General Aguinaldo declared independence for the Philippines with very limited support. Some say Aguinaldo had the freedom fighters murdered and also ordered the assassination of another general (General Antonio Luna) in order to be able to declare this independence. Whatever the case, it was short-lived. The Philippines were transferred from Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1898), which closed the Spanish-American War.

In 1899, Aquinaldo led a new revolt, this time against the United States but was quickly defeated on the battlefield. The Filipinos turned to guerrilla warfare but were also put down with the capture of Aguinaldo in 1901 at the cost of far more American lives than the Spanish-American War. It wouldn't be until the Jones Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1916, which provided for a Filipino popularly elected government, that the islands would get their first definite pledge of independence even though no specific date was set. The movement for Filipino independence would gain speed in the 1930's but hostilities by Japan would take the U.S focus off of that cause.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attached without warning and their troops invaded the islands causing 80,000 American/Filipino troops to retreat and eventually surrender. For almost five years, the islands were under Japanese rule until July 5, 1945 when General MacArthur announced that, "All the Philippines are now liberated." On July 4, 1946, the Philippines were officially given their freedom with the independence that they had so desperately been seeking since the days of Ferdinand Magellan. However, President Diosdado Macapagal signed an executive order on May 17, 1962 that "moved" the Philippines's independence day from 1946 to 1898. On the basis of the June 12, 1898, alleged declaration of independence by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, President Diosdado thought that it was his mandate to correct "history." He thought it would serve better the national aspirations of the Filipino people to adopt that date as the Philippines's independence day.

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