Independence dates

Philippine history is replete with never-ending controversies. These include Fr. Jose Burgos’ “La Loba Negra,” Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar’s polemics over La Solidaridad, the Cry of Balintawak, the rivalry between Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, the assassination of Antonio Luna, the credit for the inspiration and leadership of the 1896 Revolution, the validity of the pantheon of heroes of Nick Joaquin, and so on, up to the umpteenth change of its Constitution. And nowadays, the propriety of celebrating June 12 as Independence Day.

Before President Diosdado Macapagal proclaimed June 12, there were six other dates presented to him by history to commemorate freedom day:


April 12, 1895, when Bonifacio wrote with trembling hand “Long Live Philippine Independence” in the presence of other Katipuneros, on the wall of Pamitinan Cave in Montalban, Rizal.

Aug. 23, 1896, when Bonifacio, again, cried it out in Balintawak.


Oct. 31, 1896, when Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite, in two decrees addressed to Filipinos.

June 12, 1898, when Aguinaldo, again, proclaimed it in Kawit.

Oct. 14, 1943, proclaimed this time by cohorts of Japanese invaders.

July 4, 1946, based on a proclamation by the United States at the Luneta in Manila.

Choosing a date to celebrate is not merely a matter of factual logic; it is also largely a value judgment. The element of value judgment predominates in the evaluation of the event sought to be celebrated. The element of factual logic predominates in the date to be selected as marking the event.

The reasoning that led to the selection of June 12 will never be ineluctably settled for the reason that the element of value judgment has been exercised, is being exercised, and will be exercised by as many who can talk or write about their personal preference.

Two questions need to be answered: What is political independence? And when did Filipinos truly have the political independence they could thenceforth celebrate for all time?


Answering the first question would require extensive research and at least a book, and another hundred books will come forth to refute the same.

Answering the second question would hit another wall of logic: Can political independence come forth completely formed (like Athena from the brow of Zeus) on a specific date, or is political independence an evolutionary experience, more like geologic time as expressed in eras that gradually slide into each other in a jagged, wavering line?

Thus, we can arbitrarily designate our political independence in eras as, say, “the age of assertion,” “the age of struggle,” “the age of consolidation,” “the age of bureaucratization,” or “the age of never-ending redefinition,” which is always the last stage of any great political idea.

“Arbitrariness,” though it offends those who would organize all life and thought into neat, specific compartments, is the sword that cuts all Gordian knots. Cut the knot and move on, so we can have grand parades, stirring speeches, and one more motive force to inspire us all to conceive of ourselves as one heroic people worthy of the noblest visions.

This motive force, in reality, is all we want out of historical dates. The factual base may in fact be all myth. But certainly, as has been the case with Christmas Day—celebrated in various moments in various ages and based on a date (Christ’s birth) no one knows about—no serious harm will be done to our human need for a talisman to focus our energies into epic enterprises.

What a nation needs more than statutory law is a national tradition. This is a national sense of what is mean and repugnant which must be rejected, to include a national sense of what is noble, generous and good, and therefore ought to be accepted and espoused. We will never have this national spirit as long as we keep on scratching at dates, heroes and constitutions.

Is June 12 an incorrect date for observing the proclamation of our independence?

Let it be, nevertheless. Respect and uphold it, let the army march or goose-step in grandiose parades, and let eloquent orations be delivered. Watch our people applaud and cheer, and go home happy with the thought that they are a great people with a promising great future. Let them look at their children with the comforting assurance that these children will grow up in a homeland which is surely the best in all the world.

June 12 is the only date for celebrating national independence established by law (Republic Act No. 4166). To uphold it may be tantamount to sustaining a conspiracy, but it is a grand conspiracy with the self-respect and self-esteem of the Filipino people as its ultimate objective.

Reynaldo V. Silvestre is a retired army colonel and belongs to Class 1968 of the University of the Philippines Vanguard in Diliman, a multiawarded writer and a bemedaled officer. He taught political philosophy at UP Manila when called to active duty as first lieutenant.

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TAGS: andres bonifacio, Diosdado Macapagal, Independence Day, Jose Rizal, Katipunan, La Solidaridad, marcelo h. del pilar, Philippine history
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