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Analysis

President rides on nationalist sentiments

For the first time since Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of the first Philippine Republic on June 12, 1898, in Kawit, Cavite, Independence Day was celebrated in the Visayas.

President Aquino led the 117th anniversary of Philippine independence on Friday in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo province, where the Philippine flag was raised for the first time by the Provisional Revolutionary Government in the Visayas led by Gen. Martin Delgado, on Nov. 17, 1898, in the uprising against Spanish rule that broke out in Luzon in 1896.

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The shift of focus of the anniversary celebration from Metro Manila to the Western Visayan islands was part of the continuing effort of the Manila-based government to commemorate Independence Day outside the national capital to provincial centers during the past few years to recognize the provinces’ role in emancipating the country from Spanish colonial rule—deemphasizing the hegemony of Luzon, the base of the central government, the bureaucracy, the seat of power and influence of important nongovernment institutions, such as the news media, big business establishments and church-affiliated organizations, over the rest of the regions of the archipelago.

Local warlord

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In Sta. Barbara, seat of Gen. Delgado’s forces, which had liberated Panay Island months before Aguinaldo’s forces consolidated control over revolutionary groups in Luzon, Mr. Aquino paid tribute to the local warlord whose leadership galvanized the fractious rebel groups in Panay.

Playing into nationalistic sentiments, the President reenacted the flag-raising ceremony on the balcony of the newly restored Sta. Barbara Church located at the town plaza, where General Delgado declared the famous cry of Sta. Barbara, “Fuera España/Viva Filipina!”

Sta. Barbara Church served as headquarters of the “Ejercito Libertador” and military hospital of the Visayan revolutionary forces in Panay.

In another departure from previous Independence Day commemorations, Mr. Aquino hosted the traditional vin d’honneur attended by members of the diplomatic corps, flown in from Manila.

In his speech in Sta. Barbara, the President rode on the back of nationalistic outpourings, saying that Independence Day had often been celebrated in Manila because many of the events that led to the attainment of freedom happened in Manila and places near the capital.

“As President, I have chosen to go around the country because I am fully aware that the freedom we now enjoy was won by actions of our countrymen from all over the country,” he said.

“In 2011, I went to Kawit, Cavite; in 2012, I was in Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan; in 2013, we celebrated it in Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila; and last year, we went to Naga, Camarines Sur. Today, we are gathered here in Sta. Barbara, in Iloilo, to recognize the contribution of our countrymen in the Visayas to the fight for our freedom. Next year, we plan on heading to a province in Mindanao, to gaze upon our flag there and remember the heroism of our ancestors.”

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Peregrinations

In all his peregrinations across the country during the past five years of his term, Mr. Aquino saw a country and society in disintegration and discord. This grim picture led him to conclude:

“Let us remember: We are an archipelago, and our many islands are divided. In fact, in the past, transportation was limited, which meant that it was difficult to visit even neighboring towns; there was likewise no technology to accelerate communication.

“This is one of the reasons cited by some as to why our movements were not synchronized during the first stage of our revolution. Nevertheless, in 1898, despite these limitations, the Filipino people stood in solidarity and together declared independence as one Philippine nation. This serves as proof that, even back then, Filipinos could clearly tell right from wrong, and that their response to such a situation is to choose the right side.”

Right side

What then is the right side? Why does no one stop blaming our geography and factional discords for this backsliding?

In this revisionist framework, it is curious that this refocus to Sta. Barbara and the Visayas revolutionary movement comes from the Luzon Tagalog hegemony group.

Mr. Aquino, in particular, comes from the heartland of Luzon. The Visayas revolution had achieved more success than their Luzon counterparts—without much assistance from them.

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TAGS: Anniversaries, Benigno Aquino III, Iloilo, independence day rites, philippine independence, Philippines, Santa Barbara
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