Why we should not celebrate Philippine Independence Day

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?

Definitely not.

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?

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

Originally posted in the now defunct FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES; later condensed and included in the textbook “Language in Literature” published by Vibal Publishing House, Inc.

Another Emilio Aguinaldo speech in Spanish

In recent years, YouTube has become a wonderful site to search for vintage videos about our country’s storied past. There you will find hitherto rare documentaries about Manila’s still existing Hispanic character during the US colonization period, its heartbreaking destruction during World War II, and even presidential speeches in the Spanish language such as the one delivered by Elpidio Quirino sometime during the late 1940s. For this blogpost, we share a speech of yet another president, in fact our country’s first president: Emilio Aguinaldo. And it’s also delivered in Spanish.

Just a few years ago, a very early video of his was uploaded on YouTube and made the rounds of various local Facebook groups and pages which were advocating for the return of the Spanish language in Filipinas. In that rare 1931 footage (actually an excerpt from the documentary “Around the World in 80 Minutes with Douglas Fairbanks”), silent film star Douglas Fairbanks visited Aguinaldo in his home in Cavite el Viejo (now Kawit), Cavite and had the former president deliver a short message in Spanish. Although grainy with an almost inaudible audio, that video clip was shared many times not only on Facebook but on various social media, and was even featured in popular website FilipiKnow.


Screengrab of Emilio Aguinaldo delivering his taped speech from the balcony of his mansion.

Early last month, a YouTube user who goes by the name Lasotube uploaded another precious video of El Presidente who, at first viewing, appeared to be delivering a speech to an audience. It turns out that he was in fact recording his speech which topic seems to be about “moving figures” that “emits voices”. Aguinaldo was probably describing the television (TV). Without further ado, here’s the recording of that speech with an accompanying transcription below it…


Me pide usted dos palabras. Diré algunas ideas mías sobre los inventos.

El aparato que usted manipula es maravilloso porque reproduce la figura movible al mismo tiempo que emita el sonido de la voz. Cuando con el tiempo se perfeccione este invento, el mundo quedará sorprendido ante los cuadros vivientes y parlantes que ellos exhibirá sobre el tiempo.

La ciencia ha acrecentado del paso acelerado de los adelantos modernos. Por medio de la ciencia, conservamos la salud e inclusive devolvemos la juventud a los que la han perdido. La ciencia también ha impulsado los inventos que se dirigen a la destrucción del hombre por el hombre. Estas dos tendencias contrarias todavía nos dicen que la cantidad de la animalidad en nosotros es muy grande.

¿Cuándo podía la ciencia perfeccionar aparatos que reformen y regeneren a los hombres? ¿Cuándo podrá nuestra humanidad decir que va camino de perfección moral de la fraternidad de todos los hombres, de todos los pueblos, de todas las razas, y de todos los credos?

Cuando llegue ese día, habremos despejado las fronteras, destruido todos los aparatos bélicos, y sólo admiraremos un invento, un aparato, el más maravilloso, y el que haya traído paz y concordia entre todos los hombres del universo entero.

The invention that El Presidente was referring to in this taping could surely only be a television. Below is my free translation:

You ask me two words, but I will share some ideas of mine about inventions.

The equipment that you operate is wonderful because it reproduces moving figures at the same time that it emits voices. When this invention is perfected over time, the world will be taken aback by the moving and talking pictures which these equipments will exhibit.

Science has increased the accelerated pace of modern advances. Through science, we are able to conserve our health and could even retain youth to those who have aged. But science has also promoted inventions that are aimed at the destruction of man by fellowman. These two contrary tendencies still tell us that the amount of brutality within us is very great.

When could science perfect devices that can reform and improve men? When will our humanity be able to say that it is already on the path of moral perfection with regards the fraternity of all men, of all peoples, of all races, and of all creeds?

When that day arrives, we will have erased all borders, destroyed all warlike devices. And we will only admire an invention, an apparatus, the most wonderful, one that has brought peace and harmony among all men throughout the world.

TV technology was invented in 1927, or two years before Aguinaldo’s speech was recorded (according to Lasotube, it was on 11 February 1929, recorded much earlier than the 1931 Fairbanks documentary). However, it should be noted that TV was introduced to Filipinas only during the 1950s. Maybe Aguinaldo was referring to the very same apparatus which recorded this speech of his — the video recorder?

While the speech was very brief, it was recorded in two takes. And before the second take was about to begin, President Aguinaldo uttered his introduction in a rather halting but sure English, to the point of even sounding British!

There must have been other takes of this speech that are not yet uploaded. Lasotube didn’t divulge enough details of what exactly Aguinaldo’s speech was all about, or what the purpose was. Neither did he reveal where he got this precious footage. But the video is still made more interesting since one could grasp background details of the president’s surroundings: a few seconds into it, one could hear people whispering in Spanish (probably the crew who were to record the president’s speech), roosters could be heard crowing, and birds chirping all throughout the recording. This reveals how rustic Cavite el Viejo was during the late 1920s as compared to today. And towards the end of his speech, the mild tolling of the bells of nearby Santa María Magdalena Church could be heard interspersing with the president’s sonorous Spanish, punctuating the fact that his speech was about to end.

In this speech, the former president also waxed philosophic. As he extolled science for this new invention that he was marveling at, at the same time he expressed his reservation more because of man’s brutality. He also longed for the day when all warlike devices are finally destroyed. This, coming from a man who once rebelled against Spain!

This is just one of those videos proving that Emilio Aguinaldo was no stranger to the Spanish language, as how he is usually depicted in schools and textbooks. Yes, it was a speech that was read, but it doesn’t take rocket science to determine that he was comfortable in speaking it.

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