Every year on this day we celebrate our independence from colonialists (particularly Spain). But are we really independent from a foreign power?
The answer is in the negative. The truth is, the Philippines has never been independent. Never was, never is.
As I have contended many times, the Philippines is a Spanish creation. For good or for worse, without the Spanish conquest of this oriental archipelago which we now claim to be our own, there would have been no Philippines to talk about. Thus, the Spanish conquest should not be considered as days of colonialism (in the Spanish context, colonialism is different from its English counterpart).
What happened on that fateful day of 12 June 1898 was borne out of a Tagálog rebellion led by Andrés Bonifacio and his band of Katipuneros. Emilio Aguinaldo, after suffering defeat from the hands of both Spanish and Filipino troops a year before (which culminated in the controversial Pacto de Biac-na-Bató), sought the help and support of his brother US Masons while in Hong Kong. He was, in effect, preparing for another showdown against the Philippine government (a clear violation of the pact which he had agreed to). It is implied, therefore, that during his stay in Hong Kong Aguinaldo had learned the rudiments of democracy and republicanism (something that an unschooled person could never learn overnight), and he planned to install these Masonic ideals once Christian monarchy falls in the Philippines. Several days after the US invasion of the Philippines (commonly known as the Battle of Manila Bay), Aguinaldo returned from exile, interestingly aboard a US dispatch-boat. And then a month later, on 12 June 1898, he unabashedly proclaimed the independence of the whole country despite the fact that the Spanish authorities have never given up the seat of power. This premature independence declaration was pushed through because Aguinaldo thought that he had the powerful backing of the US. This is evident enough in the declaration of independence itself:
…los Estados Unidos de la América del Norte, como manifestación de nuestro profundo agradecimiento hacia esta Gran Nación por la desinteresada protección que nos presta…
That makes the independence declaration a hollow one. It is as if we could not become independent of our own accord if not for the assistance of another country. And to make things worse, the Aguinaldo government was never recognized by both the Spanish and US authorities nor was it recognized by the international community of nations. His presidency was not even recognized by the whole country. Filipinos outside the Tagálog regions, although they were (or could be) aware of the political turmoil that has been happening in the capital since 1896, could not have known nor heard about the independence declaration in Cauit (Kawit). And would have they supported it?
This is unknown to many Filipinos today: in the siege of Aguinaldo (which culminated in the aforementioned Pact of Biac na Bató), both Spanish and Filipino troops united to defeat the Tagalog rebellion. And that defeat was celebrated in Manila afterwards.
It is more correct that what we should commemorate every 12th of June is not Independence Day per se but the declaration of our independence, an independence that never was.
To his credit, Aguinaldo tried hard to legitimize that independence declaration by sending emissaries to the Treaty of Paris. But the Philippine delegation was not accepted there. And following the events of 12 June, Aguinaldo belatedly realized the inevitable: that the US did help him, but at a cost: our nation itself was to become their first milking cow. In short, he was double-crossed by those he thought were his allies.
After a brief but bloody tumult (World War II), the US finally granted us on 4 July 1946 what we thought was our full independence. But in exchange for that independence, we had to agree to the notorious Bell Trade Act of 1946; among other unfair clauses in that act, it forever pegged the Philippine peso to the US dollar. That date (which is also the date of the US’ independence from the British colonials) had been celebrated until 1962 when then President Diosdado Macapagal put back 12 June on the calendar of Philippine holidays. According to some nationalists, Macapagal believed that the Philippines was already independent from Spain since 12 June, and that the US simply did not respect our autonomy from the Spaniards. But in doing so it only paved the way for more hispanophobia, making Filipinos of today hate our Spanish past even more.
It is becoming common knowledge —especially in recent times— that the independence granted to us by the US (the real colonials) was nothing more but a hollow declaration written on cheap paper. In a stricter sense, we are no longer a colony of the US, but we are still under their mantle — through neocolonialism, the new evil. The Philippines has never been independent. Never was, never is. But will it ever be?