by Elpidio Estioko
Whether in the United States, the Philippines, or any part of the globe, Philippine Independence Day must be celebrated annually. It must be taught not only in the classroom but in all gatherings and meetings all over the world.
The Philippine Independence Day traces back over a century ago when the Philippines – after three centuries under Spain’s rule – declared independence on June 12, 1898.
Then, it took years for the Philippines to gain independence from the United States, but after one last setback to World War II and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, the Philippines was finally declared independent on July 4, 1946 through the Treaty of Manila.
For 15 years, the Philippines celebrated its independence annually on July 4 until 1962 when Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal officially changed the date back to June 12.
This legalized the holiday, which was based on the Declaration of Independence on June 12, 1898 by General Emilio Aguinaldo and his Revolutionary Forces from Spanish colonization.
The Philippine flag was raised, and its national anthem was played for the first time on June 12, 1898 in Aguinaldo’s residence in Kawit, Cavite. Independence was, however, short-lived because Spain and the United States did not recognize the declaration.
However, when the 1898 Treaty of Paris ended the war between Spain and the United States, the Philippines started a revolt against the US in 1899 and achieved national sovereignty on July 4, 1946, through the Treaty of Manila.
Independence Day was officially observed on July 4 until the Republic Act No. 4166, which set out to move the holiday to June 12, was approved on August 4, 1963. Since then, we have been celebrating our Independence Day every 12th of June.
The original iteration of the flag, unfurled in 1898, is the one Filipinos still fly proudly today and was never changed.
The flag’s white triangle stands for equality, while the sunburst inside represents the eight provinces that took up arms against Spain. The blue stripe stands for peace, truth and justice and the red stripe for patriotism and valor. The three stars symbolize the three island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Now, Filipinos in the US continue to honor Philippine Independence Day.
Philippine Independence Day in the US is a huge event for many Filipino-Americans to rekindle their origin and heritage and to create awareness of the Philippine culture as part of the goal: Know your roots!
“Itan Ok Tayo Ti Masakbayan!” is this year’s theme, which translates to “Looking Ahead with Pride!” The three main islands of the Philippines, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will be featured as cultural villages, highlighting the rich diversity of Filipino Americans in Hawaii.
The Filipino Curriculum Project will educate keiki about Filipino culture through traditional games, dances, storytelling, and more from their curriculum.
A “Maarte” benefit sale and silent auction will feature pieces from local artists Eduardo Joaquin, Iris Viacrusis, Leni Acosta Knight and Zach Angeles.
Earlier this month, the FilCom Center hosted “Habi at Baro,” an extensive exhibit of indigenous fabrics, jewelry and artifacts like antique looms from across the Philippines collected over a three-year period by Hilo-based designer Viacrusis, with grant funding from the Atherton Foundation, Bank of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The Filipino community, in association with the Filipino, Community Center and the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu presented an interactive storytelling and re-enactment of Kasarinlan: A Journey to Independence last June 11.
In almost all cities in the US with a heavy concentration of Filipino-Americans, the Philippine Independence Day celebration starts with the flag-raising ceremony in the morning to honor the special connection with the Philippines and the many contributions that its Filipino residents have made.
The goal of the celebration is to promote a sense of pride in Filipino heritage and celebrate its collective identity as a Filipino, create cultural awareness among the diverse Filipino community.
The celebration will highlight the many positive contributions and the importance of community and having a safe and supportive community that Filipinos can be part of.
To our Filipino-American community, thank you for sharing your rich cultural heritage with us all!
ELPIDIO ESTIOKO was a journalist in the Philippines and is an award-winning journalist in the US. His book Unlocking the Chain of Poverty: In Pursuit of the American Dream was just published by Xlibris Publishing and is now available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
by Elpidio Estioko