“Mamamatay akong hindi nakikita ang ningning ng bukang-liwayway sa aking Bayan! Kayong makakakita, salubungin ninyo siya, at huwag kalilimutan ang mga nabulid sa dilim ng gabi.”
— Elias, Kabanata 63, Noli Me Tangere
Philippine independence is no easy matter to assess, given our history and recent developments. The debate rages on regarding the former, whether it be an issue of when we should celebrate independence day, or what exactly we’re celebrating independence from.
What constitutes our freedom is a complex topic that requires careful evaluation. Is it liberation from colonial forces? Do we celebrate our independence as a state, or as a People? Was Jose Rizal the first “true Filipino,” or is it not that simple? These are just a few factors we consider.
Discussions surrounding our country’s current political, economic, and cultural state only make pinning down a definition for our freedom harder. US military bases are still around, and still carry histories and narratives of abuse. Land reform is still a moot issue in many haciendas. Nearly a third of our countrymen live below the poverty line. Our economy is still paying off Marcos-era debt and still hasn’t fully recovered from its horrors. This article is in English, not Filipino.
In searching for evidence by which to prove our independence, I found instance after instance arguing against its existence. If there’s a common theme to everything cited so far, it is a past rooted in slavery — to fear, colonizers, confusion — and a present mired in divisive conflict and tragedy. However, I think the issue regarding our independence has more to do with our perceptions of it, than its non-existence.
Independence itself is a constant cycle of struggle and evolution. As much as we want to imagine independence as a neat “day of reckoning,” our history suggests it is quite the opposite: numerous painful realizations paving the way for (very) gradual acts of heroism and liberation. This is reflected in the modern day heroes, success stories, and martyrs we honor.
Efren Penaflorida’s “Kariton Klasrum” program has expanded to educate more than 1,600 street children in 84 sites all over the country. It is a far cry from the program’s humble beginnings in 2009, but nowhere close to sufficiently addressing the educational needs of all the country’s street children. The people of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte overcame poverty and illiteracy by drawing out their concerns to their mayor. Even then, it still took the municipality over seven years to bring their poverty incidence levels up to national standards.