The Need To Understand Philippine Independence History

by Belinda A. Aquino, Ph.D.

Philippine Independence Day officially declared on June 12 was celebrated by an overflow audience at the Filipino Community Center on June 11, 2023 at the Filipino Community Center, Waipahu.

The main presentation was organized, written, directed and produced by Dr. Raymund Liongson, retired Professor of Philippine Studies at the Leeward Community College of the University of Hawaii.

The program was titled “Kasarinlan: A Journey to Independence” and was attended by more than 300 guests who listened to a discussion of:

– Conditions in the Philippines before the Western colonial period
– How Filipinos responded to this Western conquest
– The launching of a revolutionary movement called Katipunan headed by Andres Bonifacio and supported by Jose Rizal and other Filipino leaders
– And finally, the proclamation of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1892

Understanding Philippine Independence History
Actually, when we hear the June 12, 1892 date, that was only the first time that the revolutionary movement launched the first independent period after more than 300 years of Spanish domination of the country, which unfortunately resulted in the martyrdom of Jose Rizal and continuing functionalism in the Katipunan movement.

This was followed by a more oppressive and longer subjugation of the Philippines by another Western colonial power – the United States of America.

The Americans subjugated the resistance movement of the Filipino revolutionaries who fought valiantly to prevent the country from falling once under another Western power, this time more with a force of arms and resources than the original “conquistadors.”

Why it is necessary to understand the dynamics of Philippine Independence History
Until the 1950s when generations of Filipinos were growing up, including this writer, we were socialized and governed by a set of rules designed to acquire American values of conformity to the new colonizers.

We were required to wear school uniforms and attend flag ceremonies singing the American National Anthem. To young minds then, we just wondered what all this “indoctrination” would mean in the long run.

A brief history of independence issues
The major issue that we need to understand is the meaning or meanings of “independence” from the Filipino perspective since it could be summarized in one term: “indigeneity,” or “indigenousness.”

The term is unfamiliar to most people in the conquered territory which was eventually called “Philippines.”

Recognizing the term means at best a form of cultured energy as “suffering the universe,” according to author Reynaldo Ileta in his famous book “Pasyon and Revolution” published in 1979 by the Ateneo de Manila University.

In short, Ileto describes the activities of popular movements that still exist today in both remote and urban places in the Philippines. Ileto concludes his famous work with:

“In documents and emblems, the Katipunan Society is imaged as a brilliant entity with a light a country “darkened” by its colonials past. Under the two Western colonial powers, the conquered Philippines was “darkened” by its colonial past under Western powers.”

In conclusion, not all these complications and distortions that two Western colonial powers brought into the Filipino indigenous culture can be understood clearly by many people even after several centuries have passed.

As Dr. Liongson used in his presentation in the program on recent June 11, the word to remember is “Kasarinlan.” This word means a lot of things namely “independence,” “freedom,” “sovereignty,” “ownership,” “cultural pride,” and so on.

BELINDA A. AQUINO is Professor Emeritus at the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she served as Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies and also the Founding Director of the University Center for Philippine Studies. An accomplished journalist, she is currently Contributing Editor to the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle and a frequent contributor to various international, national and local publications.

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