It seems like yesterday when the Philippines marked its Centennial of Independence in 1998, the first country in Asia to break the bondage of western colonization. We would subsequently become a constitutional republic a few months later, another first on the continent.
A quarter-century later, we are on the cusp of another landmark year to celebrate the momentous occasions that gave birth to our nation. To drum up public interest in the nationwide observance, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines recently kicked off the yearlong festivities with a 100-day countdown at the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite, with a fitting amount of pomp and pageantry.
According to newly-installed NCHP chair Dr. Emmanuel Franco Calairo, the celebration is themed “Kalayaan, Kinabukasan, Kasaysayan”and seeks to keep the libertarian ideals burning in the hearts of Filipinos.
Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, the event’s guest of honor spoke on our timeless aspiration for freedom, notwithstanding our many differences as a people.
The kickoff featured a grand program showcasing the artistry of Bughaw Folkloric Dance Group and Imusicapella as they portrayed the colorful tapestry and rich cultural heritage of the country’s various indigenous peoples.
Lending a martial air to the event is a parade that was led by the Banda Matanda of Gen. Trias, Cavite, a marching band that can trace its roots to the San Francisco Malabon Band, which played the Julian Felipe-composed “Marcha Filipina Nacional” during the proclamation of independence.
Adding lilting music is the world-famous Banda Kawayan which rendered folk songs arranged for march, while the Republica Filipina Reenactment Group (RFRG) portrayed the victorious revolutionary troops of Gen. Aguinaldo. Also joining the parade are youth flag-bearers who carried 125 banners of government agencies and local government units taking part in the commemorative programs, 125 Philippine National Police Academy standard-bearing cadets, and a huge 125-foot flag that will be flown at the Independence Day rites at Rizal Park come June 12.
Capping the evening is a colorful fireworks display that lit up the skies as Nyoy Volante, Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante, Lara Maigue, and the Gian Magdangal group sang the 125th anniversary celebration theme song, “Samo’t Saring Iisa,” which is written by Kent Charcos and arranged by Marlon Barnuevo.
Calairo said that to make the celebration nationwide and inclusive in scope, several historic events marking their 125th year will also be observed across the archipelago by the LGUs, the NHCP, the local communities, and stakeholders.
Among the major events getting the spotlight are the Cry of Candon, Ilocos Sur (March 25), Cebu City’s Tres de Abril Revolt led by Gen. Pantaleon “Leon Kilat” Villegas, the Battle of Alapan in Imus (May 27), where the Philippine tricolor was first waved victoriously, the Bacoor Assembly (August 1), where Filipino civilian officials signed another independence declaration, and the Malolos Congress (September 15), which convened to frame the Constitution of the First Philippine Republic and ratification of Philippine Independence by the said Congress on September 29.
Expected to take place around September are modern recreations by restaurants of the tell-tale Malolos Congress Banquet, which featured international dishes served at the opening dinner of the historic legislative assembly. The intricately-worded menu written in French is hailed by many historians as an equally monumental document of the Congress, which highlighted the coming of age of Filipino nationhood.
Other noteworthy regional milestones are the Start of the Siege of Baler (June 28), the first flag hoisting in the Visayas led by Gen. Martin Delgado in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo (November 17), and the Liberation of Panay (December 25).
Of national significance are the formation of the Academia Militar, the forerunner of the Philippine Military Academy (October 25), the ratification of the Malolos Constitution (January 21) and the First Philippine Republic (January 23), and the outbreak of the Filipino-American War (February 4), which pitted the newly-formed nation against a new colonial master.
Many lesser-known events that are not within the NHCP’s official list will also be celebrated to memorialize fringe events that liberated the entire archipelago from the yoke of Spain’s 333-year colonial rule. Among these are the Liberation of the Bicol Region from Spanish rule (September 17), the dramatic Cinco de Noviembre Revolt (November 5) in Negros Occidental, where the beleaguered colonizers surrendered to the Filipino revolutionaries without putting up a fight, the first flag-hoisting in Mindanao held in Surigao (December 25), and the first observance of Rizal Day and the ground-breaking for the First Rizal Monument in Daet, Camarines Norte.
With an array of fringe commemorations that is still growing with the emergence and addition of more historic events, we can only hope for the same public hype and energy in celebrating our spirit of patriotism and nationalism in this day and age of globalization and neocolonialism.