It’s the time of the year when street hawkers include the Philippine flag among their line of products. The blue, red and white with three stars and an eight-rayed sun scores a prominent spot beyond the flag poles of schools and government buildings.
Of course, June 12 isn’t as big of a holiday as Christmas, Holy Week or All Saints’/Souls’ Day. It doesn’t inspire exodus from the capital and (worse than the usual) horrendous traffic jams. It’s a token public holiday that had its grandest celebration 12 years ago during the centennial, when a few million pesos were spent on fireworks alone.
On most years, Independence Day just merits a ceremonial event attended by the president and customary parades by coerced government employees. Some would express their nationalistic zeal by displaying the flag on their vehicles or, in more recent fashion, wearing a shirt with a print of the Philippine map.
The popular idea of independence is that of freedom from our colonial masters, of ending more than three centuries of foreign rule. Technically, we only attained self-rule in 1946 but we chose to recognize Emilio Aguinaldo’s 1898 declaration anyway. On that day when the flag was raised and the national anthem was played, we proclaimed ourselves a sovereign nation.
The problem with independence is, as post-colonial states realized, we would actually have to govern ourselves and run things on our own. One hundred twelve years later, we’re still figuring out how to do it right. For the most part, we still suck at it.
Independence is more than just kicking out the colonizers and then basking in the lofty ideals of freedom and nationalistic fervor. It’s also about taking on obligations and having a stake in the welfare of the country.
It’s not just about being a Filipino; it’s also about being a Filipino citizen. The former refers to a shared identity; the latter entails a shared responsibility. This means more than just wearing a shirt with a Philippine map or brandishing a flag.