Tuesday, July 4, 2017

PH and US: 4th of July and the Philippines

July 4, 1946.  Philippine flag is raised while the U.S. flag is lowered. The flagpole in front of the Rizal Monument is thus known as the Independence Flagpole, commemorating the culmination of the quest for national independence.

July 4th

Filipinos used to celebrate this day as their Independence Day. For it was on July 4, 1946 when the formal recognition of Philippine independence by the United States of America took place. This Third Republic* was marked by the recognition by the global community of nations, of the nationhood of the Philippines.

The Philippine Islands were occupied by American forces in 1898, and were U.S. territory until 1935 when the Commonwealth government was established. But the Empire of Japan then occupied the country between 1941 and 1945, with a government-in-exile headed by President Manuel Luis Quezon operating in Australia and later in the US. The country thus fell under U.S. sovereignty for 48 years prior.

On that historic day of July 4, 1946, as the people of the United States of America celebrated their own Independence Day, a long-time Philippine resident, Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to Manila to grace the occasion as guest.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur arrives at Nichols Field (now Villamor Air Base),
as guest at the inauguration of the Republic of the Philippines.

Said MacArthur:

"48 years ago the mantle of American sovereignty fell over this land and these people. It was the magnificent sovereignty of a liberator, pledged to be withdrawn as soon as the well-being of a people would safely permit.
 “America never wavered in that purpose. America today redeems that pledge. This land and these people that I have known so long and loved so well..."


Cover of the Official Souvenir Program of the Proclamation
and Inauguration of the Republic of the Philippines

Today, the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines even corroborates this without twisting any of the facts:

The independence of the Philippines—and the inauguration of its Third Republic—was marked by Manuel Roxas re-taking his oath, eliminating the pledge of allegiance to the United States of America which was required prior to independence, this time as the first President of the Republic of the Philippines. The Congress of the Commonwealth then became the First Congress of the Republic, and international recognition was finally achieved as governments entered into treaties with the new republic.


Meaning, there was never any Independence Day celebration for Filipinos prior to 1946, simply because we were not yet an independent nation, right?

Front page of Manila Bulletin's Independence Edition,
its "Salute to Freedom"


Independence was delayed by just one year

Our Independence should have been granted in 1945 in accordance with the mentioned Act of the U.S. if not for the Japanese occupation of the Philippines that threw a wrench into the plan. A campaign to retake the country from the Japanese began only in October 1944, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur with his troops landed in Leyte. 

Long fierce land, sea and air battles ensued with intermittent fighting even after the official Japanese surrender in September 1945. After withdrawing her sovereignty from the Philippines as promised, the United States provided the needed reparations and free trade concessions to rebuild the war-ravaged and exceedingly poverty stricken country.


Official program of the Proclamation of the Independence of the Republic of the Philippines and inauguration of Pres. Roxas and Vice Pres Quirino

So how come we're celebrating "Araw ng Kalayaan" now on a different date, and what is the Philippine Republic Day all about? Did we just decide one day in the recent past to reinvent our history?
  
Going back to 1962, we remember that President Diosdado Macapagal issued a Proclamation which declared June 12 (the date in 1898, when Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared our independence from Spain), a special public holiday throughout the Philippines. Macapagal cited that “the establishment of the Philippine Republic by the Revolutionary Government under General Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898, marked our people’s declaration and exercise of their right to self-determination, liberty and independence.”
Heneral Miong was there himself on July 4, 1946. Veterans of the Philippine Revolution led by Gen Emilio Aguinaldo join the parade in their rayadillo uniform.

Two years later, on August 4, 1964, through Republic Act No. 4166 “Philippine Independence Day” was changed from July 4 to June 12, and July 4 was declared "Philippine Republic Day" that happens to coincide with the Independence Day of the United States.

What about “Philippine-American Friendship Day”?

That day was originally established in 1955 under President Ramon Magsaysay who issued Presidential Proclamation 212 for the observance of Philippine-American Day every 15 November, the anniversary of the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth on November 15, 1935.

(A Philippine Independence Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1934 and signed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt specifying a 10-year period of peaceful transition to full independence, the date of which was to be on the 4th of July following the tenth anniversary (or by 1945), of the Commonwealth.)




But sometime under the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos, "Philippine–American Day" was renamed "Philippine–American Friendship Day" and was simply moved to 4th July. "Republic Day" was no more.  

Celebrating Philippine–American Friendship Day or Republic Day as a non-working holiday were, however, decidedly abolished in 1987 by President Corazon C. Aquino. In a news report Aquino’s press secretary said ''July 4 is no longer a holiday. The president said we are friends, the U.S. and the Philippines, but we don't need to have a holiday for it.''

In 1996, President Fidel V. Ramos found it fitting to once again commemorate the anniversary of Republic Day on July 4. He issued Proclamation No. 811 to mark it not with a holiday but with public celebrations to commemorate 50 years of independence!

All of these only means that as of July 4, 2016, the Philippines has been an independent nation for seventy years! 

But is anyone counting the years or remembering at all? Why or why not?

"A new nation is born", Field Marshal of the Philippines, Douglas MacArthur said, calling the day as "turning point in the age-long struggle of man for liberty".

(*The First Republic is the “Malolos Republic” (1899), the Second Republic is the Japanese-sponsored “Philippine Republic”(1943), and the Third Republic (1946), is when the Philippines as an independent nation was eventually recognized by the global community of nations.)





All photos courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.

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