The vision of June 12, 1898
We commemorate our independence on June 12 because we recall another morning when the sun shone on a happy crowd in Cavite Viejo as the revolutionary government’s auditor of war, Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, proudly announced “The Proclamation of Independence of the Filipino People” on June 12, 1898.
It was a curious document. It proclaimed the flag we honor today, asserting that the three stars represented “Luzon, Mindanao, and Panay.” Also, “the colors blue, red, and white, commemorate those of the flag of the United States of North America, in manifestation of our profound gratitude towards that Great Nation for the protection she is extending to us and Will continue to extend to us.”
The event was officially witnessed by L.M. Johnson, colonel of artillery and personal representative of Admiral George Dewey. The portion of the document containing the specific severance of our bondage from Spain was preceded by the phrase “under the protection of the Mighty and Humane North American Nation.”
Unknown perhaps to our leaders then, Dewey had cabled his secretary of war, Elihu Root, for massive reinforcements to back his land invasion. Dewey was also—even as we proclaimed our freedom from Spain under his disinterested protection—deep in negotiation with Spanish officials for the surrender of Manila to him. By the end of June, Filipino forces controlled virtually all of Luzon except Manila.
Thus, even as fireworks, bands and orators proclaimed our independence, our foreign protector coolly waited in Manila Bay for the soldiers, guns and ammunition that would enable him to annex our homeland.
Within weeks, the protected would find themselves at the receiving end of the protector’s gun. Within months, the Treaty of Paris would mark the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the “mighty and humane North American nation” for $20 million on Dec. 10, 1898. Not until a hundred thousand lives more and 48 years later would we hear our independence proclaimed again at Luneta on July 4, 1946.
But bitterness died with our forefathers. We remember only what was good—and there is, after all, much good to remember.
The very precepts of our colonial mentors are part of what we must remember: There is no permanent friendship among nations, only permanent interests. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. God helps those who help themselves.
No one can be expected to receive the best concern from anyone else but himself. And no nation can be expected to receive the best of human possibilities from any other nation but itself.
A dependent people will always be held beneath the controlling power’s interest. A subordinate nation has no better fate than to serve, and be used by, its master. Put conceptually, a dependent nation can never reach the fulfillment of its nature; it will always find its opportunities for growth forever stunted and foreclosed.
A free nation is different. It is itself. It has its own land and all the wealth therein. It controls its own mind and soars by its own spirit. Whatever potential is in its land and its people is there for its own best use, in its own way, for its own interest.
The growth of a free nation subsists in its will and the way that will can create further circumstances of growth and fulfillment. Hardships there may be, but a free nation can decide what to do, because it need not ask permission from anyone to solve its problems. An unfree nation is saddled with a special pain—knowing that it can remove only those chains allowed for removal by its master.
While desirable, independence is a precarious way of life. A nation is always a possible resource for another nation. There is therefore no end to attempts to subserve us to some other nation’s needs and aspirations.
In the past, colonialism used naked force. Today, the techniques are much more subtle, but no less effective. Neocolonialist control may come as financial and commercial inroads from abroad. It may come, and indeed persistently tries to come, in the form of destroying our political will by constant criticisms about our way of life.
There is no greater vision than that of June 12, 1898, because that date encompassed the honor, freedom and wellbeing of an entire people. It was a vision blurred by betrayal, suffering, blood and despair, a vision almost lost by indolence, self-seeking, and mendicancy. But it is a vision we cannot abandon, unless we wish to live as less than human.
“Vision” can be interpreted in many ways—as a dream, as a new way of seeing, as a set of beliefs, attitudes and principles, as the light at the end of a long tunnel. When we speak of “vision” with reference to the ethical imperative of daang matuwid, we mean all these, and more.
Our history has been for our broad masses a long tunnel, relieved occasionally by glimmers of joy and greatness—400 years of colonial servitude, humiliation and deprivation, marked only by such consolations as a public school system of education and heroic struggles to assert ourselves as a people worthy of freedom and respect.
Now we find ourselves hardly better off under politicians who terrorized and corrupted their ways to power.
The vision of national dignity is before us still. As we rebuild our nation and strengthen our people’s character, we have realized that the outside world is not composed of only one country or of only one way of life. It is a complex world, but one in which we must exist at peace with all.
We respect other ways of life, and demand the same respect for our own. We do not interfere, and reject interference. We are human beings, not tools, and we refuse to be used as one’s country’s lever or another’s club.
To be tied to one market is to be tied to one ideology and to be at the behest of one patron to whom we would have to return as payment for his patronage our self-respect and our blood.
Such is the chain of patronage—to be the friend of only one is to risk the contempt and enmity of others. Our national policy of friendship with all nations is a necessity that we have only recently realized. It is only now that we have found the will and the fortitude to do what must be done.
The iron logic of history has impelled us to this course. Thus, we see now that the vision of June 12, 1898, is not just a bright glow in the sky but a necessity of human life itself.
Reynaldo V. Silvestre is a retired colonel and multiawarded writer.
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