Philippine ‘Independence’ Day on June 12: a desperate claim to a false achievement

Guess what’s coming up: “Independence” Day. More precisely, it is the could-have-been day of independence unilaterally declared by General Emilio Aguinaldo back on the 12th of June 1898 that we are celebrating this coming 12th of June. Many who see that day as a day that defines “Filipino nationalism” are right. We are a nation because someone said so. It began way back in the 16th Century when Spain by royal edict came to administer the archipelago as a colonial administrative unit — more commercial in nature than political. That was the century that the “Philippines” came to be recognised as something bigger than a collection of tribes living on a geological accident.

Come to think of it, I don’t really know what exactly Aguinaldo’s flag waving or Bonifacio’s fist pumping actually meant in the sense of actually having achieved anything original of enduring quality. Just shortly after that date, Uncle Sam came in and threw a wet blanket over the revelry of these erstwhile “revolutionaries”. Tinapay na nga naging bato pa, kung baga (bread in hand turneth to stone). That pretty much set the theme for the rest of Philippine history. Subsequent history would go on to reveal a truth about “Filipinos” consistent with this experience — that much of the “bread” that we get our hands on was for the most part baked by someone else.

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Indeed, Fatherland España did most of the grunt work that went into uniting (even just for commercial purposes) the lot of volcanic rocks that make up today’s “Philippine” archipelago. They even had the foresight to name them after their infamously Inquisitous king. That’s what I call foresight — the name actually stuck and went on to routinely describe the very many ironies surrounding the “nation” it identifies!

Look around and we will see ourselves enjoying traces of the bread our colonial masters baked for us. To this day, two legacies of the marvels of human achievement that are American engineering and administration remain the premier playgrounds of the Philippine Elite — Baguio City and the former Subic Bay Naval Base. In Manila, Intramuros, Dewey (now named “Roxas”) Boulevard, and Corregidor — all colonial remnants — are pretty much the only sites of consequence within that metropolis that show up on tourism radars outside the islands.

There is no short answer to the short question that is begged:

What exactly have “Filipinos” built?

Imperial Spain and, later, Expansionist America may have been motivated by interests less noble than the “nationalism” that supposedly motivates our modern-day “nationalists”. But here’s the thing: those less-than-“noble” intentions that our emo historians whine about did the job of politically and economically uniting the islands now known as “the Philippines”. Key word here: results. Results are a by-product of a job getting done (I highlight it because that simple concept is news to most Filipinos).

Today, we hear a lot of calls for “unity” coming from bozos who see themselves as possessing of far more “noble” intentions than Big Bad Spain and Big Bad America. But ask the simple question…

Where are the results?

… and we get either deafening silence or quaintly amusing platitudes.

Here is one of them (my boldface included for emphasis):

We have nothing but hope for the Philippines, […] and we know that with transparency, opportunity for all, and education, this country will continue to bloom.

One question though: Hope in what exactly, Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr?

Considering the way something historically fundamental as our real Independence Day has been euphemised into the “Philippine-American Friendship Day” it’s no longer a puzzle how bullshit has become such a banality in Philippine society.

So was independence really won on the 12th of June 1898?

The whole effort of the Philippine Revolution of 1898, as history does reveal, was simply poo-poohed by the global movers and shakers of the time as Randy David in his article “On our nation’s birthday” himself concedes to…

At the point of our emancipation from Spanish colonialism, however, Spain ceded to the United States the fiction of its remaining sovereignty over the islands and its people. America seamlessly took over and scoffed at our claims to being a sovereign people. While we had become aware of our shared fate as a people, we were far from being sovereign in our own land. We remained subjects, a conquered people all over again.

The Filipino revolutionary war against America was short-lived. It was decisively crushed by American troops with superior arms. Total US hegemony was accomplished subsequently by the tools of public education. Mis-education, as Renato Constantino termed it, swiftly produced a docile population. But pockets of resistance remained, becoming the nurturing ground for new generations of anti-colonial Filipinos.

A few key words:

“scoffed at our claims to being a sovereign people”

“crushed […] with superior arms”

“Mis-education […] produced a docile population”

Why did they do it?


Because they could.

Why were we granted independence by America in the 4th of July 1946?


Because they had it in their power to do so.

It’s not too different from the reason why people in those Cordillera and Mindanao regions are considered “autonomous”. It’s because we, the Filipino Nation have it in our power to allow them to be so, much the same way as we allow the cultures of all indigenous people within the islands, and all other communities who wield arms vastly inferior to those held by our government, to endure within our sovereign territory.

So, for all the “moral” ascendancy expressed in what are really nothing more than pathetic boo-hoo words that assure us of our “right” to be independent in the world order of today, consider first that this world order was won in battle by the United States and its allies in that last Great War at the cost of millions of lives of their own citizens.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that there is much the Filipino needs to learn about the real sense of what it means to win. Only when we learn this lesson can we truly honour Manny Pacquiao and other real fighters amongst us.

* * *

[Based on articles “The real sense of what it means to WIN independence” and “Happy ‘Independence’ Day to a nation baked by someone else” written by the author for, both of which are archived here and here respectively.]

12 Replies to “Philippine ‘Independence’ Day on June 12: a desperate claim to a false achievement”

    1. “If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that there is much the Filipino needs to learn about the real sense of what it means to win. Only when we learn this lesson can we truly honour Manny Pacquiao and other real fighters amongst us”


      Not just Filipinos, Benign0, to be fair…ALL Humans in general, no matter how advanced or backward their societies are.

  1. The irony is that the collective psyche is so reliant on these “achievements” to provide whatever motivation they may have, that if these were debunked then they would instead give up all hope rather than genuinely seek out what it means “to win.”

  2. I’ve been struggling to write about what is missing in Filipino patriotism, which tends to be a waving of cloth rather than commitment to values. Occasionally something deeper pops up among a few people, and Edsa was a fine flame-up. But there seems to be no sense of common good that people strive for, no sense of commitment to the “other Filipino”, no sense of sacrifice. No willingness to confront those who permit their beautiful land to be besmirched.

    Ahahahahaha. “Besmirched.” What cranial nook has that word been buried in all these years?

    But seriously, folks. Try caring. A little “feel good” about waving the flag will not clean this place of stray dogs.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Joe America.

      Compare and contrast the Philippines and Singapore. Singapore produced an absolute tyrant (and I am a fan – this is not a criticism) in Lee Kuan Yew but he used the power he grasped to create a better Singapore and a better life for ALL Singaporeans.

      The Philippines has thrown up a tyrant or two before – Marcos being the pre-eminent example – but Filipinos simply do not care about other Filipinos. No Filipino politician is EVER going to do something that will result in an improvement of the nation and the lives of his fellow Filipinos. It’s all about self-interest – just look at BS Aquino as he pursues his uncle’s commands to protect the family interests.

      That’s also why I object any time people claim that the Philippines is a Christian nation. No, it is not. It is a Roman Catholic nation. And Roman Catholicism is renowned for producing lip service in its adherents (and for embracing paganism and idolatry with gusto!). If it was a Christian nation, the golden rule of Christianity – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – would be part of the moral fabric of this nation rather than something memorised in Confirmation classes and then soon forgotten.

      Perhaps it is best to say, the problems in the Philippines aren’t in the head, they’re in the heart.

  3. Where are we, after more than a century of “independence”?

    (1) The Hacienderos still own vast tracts of lands; practicing the European Middle Age Feudal system.

    (2) The Theocracy of the Roman Catholic Church still prevails. Bishops and Priests took over the powerful Spanish Friars…

    (3) The Oligarchy; mostly descendants of the Spanish colonizers are still on top of the economic hierarchy. While most of the Indios, remain poor.

    (4) Corrupt Public Officials, are still in places.
    The Philippine treasury was always almost empty, during the Spanish colonization. Today, we are almost always economically bankrupt…

    (5) Power Patronage is still the call of the day.

    (6) People are using whitening solutions to whiten their skins, looking like their Spanish colonizers…

    The more things change; the more they remain the same…Independence means; we have removed the remnants of our colonizers…used what were good, they brought in…but discarded, what were bad…
    It seems, the bad are still there;and we cannot distinguish the good from the bad…

  4. Excuse me, but most of the old Spanish families are now so impoverished they have nothing to their names but their own old blood legacy.

    Today’s oligarchies are mongrel clans with hardly a trace of Latin-ness in them save their names.

    And the rich folks who are Iberian, are also of Basque stock who started off poor and made it rich through hard work.

    And there is no connection at all of whitening up to look like Hispanics.

  5. Let’s all just boycott Indepenence Day, aftr all, when has the Philippines or the Filipino people been truly independent? Have we ever really been able to stand on our own? We can’t even defend ourselves from foreign powers or stand up for ourselves against overwhelming odds without having to rely on the other foreign powers to support us in our righteous endeavors.

  6. “It’s not too different from the reason why people in those Cordillera and Mindanao regions are considered “autonomous”. It’s because we, the Filipino Nation have it in our power to allow them to be so, much the same way as we allow the cultures of all indigenous people within the islands, and all other communities who wield arms vastly inferior to those held by our government, to endure within our sovereign territory.”

    We are autonomous because we fought for it, stupid! You Filipinos, who do not claim to be indigenous, are mere slaves to foreigners. Why are you not indigenous? Did you come from Spain or America? Ha! You only wish so. But the only ones who have Spanish blood are those whose forefathers are bastards of Spanish friars. And those with American blood are those whose fathers/forefathers were bastards of Americans in whatever era.

    The Moros were sovereign for a long time. We were never slaves. And we will be free again.

  7. Manny Pacquiao has victories, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves to think that an individual’s victory is the victory of an entire nation, despite popular opinion.

    what has the Philippine Government Achieved?

    If individual Filipinos have more to be proud of their own personal achievements than the achievements of their own government, then this government reflects poorly on us.

    There are so many Filipinos we can say that we are proud of. But how many of us can honestly say that we are proud of our Government?

    most governments can boast of great military, economic, and diplomatic achievements. However, the trick is not to win, but to keep on winning.

    countries are interdependent upon one another, rather than completely independent, which is why achievements through competition and cooperation amongst nations, measures the true worth of a nation.

  8. The fact that so-called “Philippine independence” is celebrated on 12 June shows how clearly many Filipinos are blinded to historical facts.

    The hard truth there is that Spain SOLD the Philippines to the United States in 1898, and thus we were never really independent as a nation until 4 July, 1946.

    To call 12 June as “Independence Day” is therefore historically inaccurate. I would rather that it be called “National Day,” because even if independence was not really declared then, at the very least it could be a time to ponder on what being a Filipino is as a nation.

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