A crowd was waiting outside the home, located in Kawit, Cavite, of General Emilio Aguinaldo. It was 12 June 1898. Jose Rizal, who later became the national hero, was executed by the Spaniards two years earlier. Andres Bonifacio, another great son of the revolution, was also executed a year earlier, but this time by fellow Filipinos. All of them were fighting for the Philippines.
Late in the afternoon of that 12 June 1898, Gen. Aguinaldo emerged from the balcony, at the second floor of his house, and proclaimed Philippine independence from Spain. It was Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, however, who wrote and read the Act of the Declaration of Independence. But I’m sure you don’t know that. I didn’t. All I remember about that event is Gen. Aguinaldo. Until today, of course.
On the same occasion, the Philippine Flag, made by Mrs. Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Herboza, was unfurled for the first time in public (the flag-waving scene, with the crowd, is depicted in the old 5-peso bill). The Philippine National Anthem, composed by Julian Felipe, was also performed in public for the first time. (We’re not sure if Julian Felipe would mind that Martin Nievara deviated from his version, when Nievera sang the National Anthem during the Pacquiao-Hatton fight, and some are calling for the application of the Heraldic Code of the Philippines, Republic Act 8491).
Just last week, I noticed that June 15 in our office calendar is printed in red color, with a note that it’s Independence Day. This is confusing because I knew that Independence Day, even with the merry-go-round dates of “movable holidays”, is still June 12 for the year 2009. We already have a list of holidays for 2009 (click here for complete list) and as far as I can recall, the President already fixed the holidays for 2009 through Proclamation 1699 (full text), pursuant to Republic Act 9492. A quick review of our list confirmed that the official date of Independence Day in 2009 is still June 12, but it’s entirely possible that the subsequent Independence Day holidays won’t be in June 12.
But the switching of dates started way back then.
When the Philippines declared its independence against Spain, we Filipinos didn’t exactly achieve total independence. Another emerging global power was responsible for Spain’s defeat. The United States of America declared war against Spain in 1898 and annihilated the Spanish Navy stationed in Manila. We now know this as the Battle of Manila.
Spain thereafter ceded the Philippines (together with Guam and Puerto Rico) to the United States in the Treaty of Paris, signed in 20 December 1898, with the payment of $20 Million to Spain. This means that after the 300-plus years of control by the Spaniards, the Filipinos had new “masters” — the Americans. The Philippine War ensued against US occupation. The Filipinos lost the war and Gen. Aguinaldo was captured.
The US recognized Philippine independence on 4 July 1946 in the Treaty of Manila. This is why Philippine Independence Day, for some time, falls on the same day as that of the US — the Fourth of July.
In 1964, Philippine Independence Day, or Araw ng Kalayaan, was moved to June 12 to commemorate the original declaration of independence in 12 June 1898. On 4 August 1964, President Diosdado Macapagal signed Republic Act No. 4166, designating June 12 as Independence Day.
Now, enough of this information overload. Enjoy the holiday (and please remember its significance).