The mañanita we all deserve to to celebrate

June 12th of 1898 marked our “independence” from Spanish colonial rule. The image of the late President Emilio Aguinaldo unfurling the Philippine flag as our proclamation of independence was welcomed by the setting sun will forever be remembered in our history books. And yet, the Philippine-American war proved that we were still slaves—only to another master. Even to this day, we are at the mercy of foreigners, begging the question: are we truly free?

Since the beginning of 2020, we faced an impending world war, a dangerous pandemic, and an array of bad governance decisions that affected the poor and the workers tremendously in negative ways, uprooting us from the normal we thought was good. The year feels surreal to most of us with its twists and turns that include sci-fi-ish elements and historical phenomena that make us feel as if our lives belong to an ambitious novel, one that has too many plot devices working all at once.

Our independence was by no means a one-act play, not to mention the fact that we had multiple independence dates because we had more than one declaration. It took years of oppression before our ancestors broke free, only to fall into the hands of other imperialists. Filipinos had to fend off the foreigners who conquered our lands and manipulated our people into their liking. In the midst of these struggles, our national heroes became symbols of hope that lit the forgotten torches within the hearts of the masses, spreading nationalism and courage. 

The illustrious Dr. Jose Rizal himself wrote about the discrimination and degradation of his people, advocated for better education, and criticized the actions of the government. He was executed for his enlightening novels that challenged the dubious traditions of the church and Spanish rule. Alongside with him was the father of the revolution, Gat Andres Bonifacio, who took up arms and fought valiantly in an attempt to seize our yearned independence from the colonizers. He was one amongst other children of our islands who died at the hands of our own people, the traitors who were dogs to the imperialists. 

This is nothing new to us, we have been taught in our elementary history classes who these people are. But they were nothing but names in a textbook or statues in a park. What we should be asking is: do we understand the gravity of their sacrifices? Our fallen brothers and sisters in the Katipunan and other militant groups bled for the democracy we are still fighting to uphold. They understood that freedom is not something the oppressors will grant, it is something we must claim.

Today, we wrestle with police brutality and condemn how it employs racism.  We march with pride and express how our sexuality is nothing we should be shunned for. We defend with activism and wield our human rights against those who brand it as terrorism. 

Our annual Independence Day, especially in these times of crisis, has become more than a holiday. It stands for everything we fought for, everything we gained, everything we lost, and everything we are still fighting for.

It is more than a historical event that transpired for the Filipino people centuries ago, it is a reminder of how far we have come and how much more we need to achieve within our country and within the world itself. 

Educate yourselves and defend our freedom by asking the right questions, ones that beg to be answered. Remember our heroes—the popular and the nameless——who lived with tenacity to fight for our rights as people, how their fiery souls united as a resistance to oust their oppressors. Instead of waiting for change to happen, become the change that this world needs, because black lives do matter, pride is a protest, and activism is not terrorism. And despite all the odds, the year might just give birth to another declaration of independence—the mañanita to end all mañanitas.

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