Commemorating June 12th Philippine Independence

By Joe Aliling
June 11, 2003

On June 12, 1898, the Filipinos declared their independence. As many  historians would probably agree, the Filipinos never became independent from Spanish  rule on that day. June 12th was only a historic occasion when many Filipinos  gathered together to express their desire to become independent.

While I was growing up in the main campus of the University of the  Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, this issue of independence has become personal  to me. Together with some of my classmates, I realized that independence has three facets to it, namely: political, economic and social. Let us discuss each one briefly.

Political Independence:

Did the Filipinos win their independence from Spain? I am not really sure.  What I know is that on May 1, 1898, United States (US) Commodore George Dewey steamed into Manila Bay and destroyed the whole Spanish armada. The Philippines was included in their Alliance. The Katipuneros (Filipino freedom fighters), who were fighting for their own independence, did not know that they were 
only infantry soldiers fighting the Spanish-American War. While the Filipinos sustained many casualties, Commodore Dewey reported only 8 wounded Americans and none killed.

Contrary to public opinion at that time, however, the victory of the Allied Forces did not gain political independence for the Philippines. Early one morning, the Filipinos just saw the American flag raised on their flagpole. Apparently, Spain sold the Philippines to the United States for $20 million under the Treaty of Paris in 1898.

Was there a double cross in the alliance as General Emilio Aguinaldo suggested? I don’t think so. From observing US foreign policy in action, the US government really values American life so dearly that it would even choose the option of hiring mercenaries to fight their battles. The US government and the American people have learned so much from the Civil War. Time and again, we have seen our Republican and Democratic leaders close ranks and set aside their differences, whenever there was any foreign or domestic threat.

Mercenaries fight for monetary considerations. And if it is true that our present Philippine leaders are only “chip of the old block,” then the Filipino leaders at that time probably would have sold out the Philippines, too. We have learned from our Philippines history classes about the bitter rivalry between the Magdalo and the Magdiwang factions within the Katipunan that led to the assassination of Andres Bonifacio.

The only political independence recorded in Philippine history that I know of happened on July 4, 1946 when the United States relinquished its obligations. It took 48 years of colonial rule and two world wars for the Philippines to prove itself worthy of being a true and faithful ally.

Economic Independence:

As the United States was undergoing industrialization, its military developed weapons of war that were far more superior than those of the world powers at that time. The United States was then preparing to enter the world of geopolitics.

The victory of the US Navy in Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War ushered in a new dawn in US history. William McKinley, US president at the time, described the Philippine archipelago of over 7,000 islands “as a gift from the gods.” The Philippines was the crowning jewel for the whole world to realize that the United States has indeed become a world power.

Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley’s successor in the White House, declared on May 12, 1903 during a labor union meeting at the Mechanics’ Pavilion in San Francisco that “The inevitable march of events gave us the control of the Philippine islands at a time so opportune that it may without irreverence be called providential.”

Teddy Roosevelt and his political ally, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, were beginning to teach the American people his political doctrine of “Manifest Destiny.”Senator Albert J. Beveridge explained this doctrine that "God has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns.” Since then, the US economy has proven itself to be the strongest economic system ever established here on earth.

Prophetic or not, the Philippines was never alleviated from its poverty. Instead, the Philippines has remained a “serf” in the American economic empire. Through the years, its political leaders have acted like feudal lords after their own economic interests only. They left their constituents to fend for themselves… overseas, sacrificing life and limb, in order to bring food for their hungry children at home. Many teachers had abandoned their noble profession of teaching our youth, only to become house maids prone to sexual abuse by their masters in foreign shores.

Social Independence:

Filipinos are not only “economic slaves” in their own homeland. After 400 years of Spanish rule and 48 years of US colonial rule, the Filipinos now suffer a social identity crisis. Also deeply imbedded in their subconscious mind is the so-called “crab mentality” syndrome. Their journey to social acceptance is far from over. Indicative today are our youth hooked in drugs, tobacco and/or alcohol. Teenage pregnancy and juvenile delinquency are prevalent in our society. Many children are being raised in dysfunctional families.

At this day and age, the Filipino people is scattered all over the world in search of peace and their freedom from hunger and want. Can the "Filipino Diaspora" ever attain social, economic and political independence?

I believe we can. Why? Because we are here in America, the bedrock of freedom. Here, we have the opportunity to study the history of other ethnic communities. We can learn from their successes and failures. We can understand the “change process” they go through and adopt it to the conditions of our own cultural peculiarity and ethnicity. Those of us who already did their study and learned from all these experiences are those who now hold responsible and prominent positions in their own community, US Government and Corporate America.

Recently, I saw a flicker of hope amongst the Filipinos born (and/or raised) in the USA who attended the wedding of Claudine del Rosario and Artnelson Concordia solemnized on May 24, 2003 at the St. Leo Catholic Church in Sonoma, CA. Most of them are alumni of UC-Berkeley and San Francisco State University. Their quest is to attain liberty and justice for all.