His Excellency Diosdado Macapagal
President of the Philippines
On Independence Day
[Delivered at Luneta, Manila. June 12, 1962]
HONOR AND DIGNITY IN FREEDOM
I GREET ALL OUR PEOPLE on this day of our freedom. In the discharge of my responsibility as President of the Republic, I moved the observance of the anniversary of our independence to this day because a nation is born into freedom on the day when such a people, molded into a nation by a process of cultural evolution and a sense of oneness born of common struggle and suffering, announces to the world that it asserts its natural right to liberty and is ready to defend it with blood, life and honor.
Freedom is the inherent right of every nation. The national right to liberty does not derive from a grant or recognition by another but is the God-given and natural attribute of every people. Other nations may accord recognition to the independence of a nation in the interest of peace and justice, but it is not such recognition which creates the right to freedom. That right is an integral quality of the nation itself. For this reason, it is proper that what we should celebrate is not the day when other nations gave recognition to our independence, but the day when we declared our desire to exercise our inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.
In celebrating the declaration of our independence today, we find an instructive precedent in American history. The thirteen American colonies declared themselves independent on July 4, 1776. Their independence was, however, recognized by England, their former mother country, more than seven years later, on September 3, 1783. Nevertheless, the American people have regarded July 4 as their day of freedom. In the same way, June 12, 1898 is the true birthday of an independent Filipino nation, for it was on this day that they called the whole world to witness their powerful resolve to consider themselves absolved of allegiance to the Spanish crown.
Let me say, however, that the celebration of our independence on this day does not detract from the respect and gratitude which the Filipino people have for the people of the United States. Indeed, the Declaration of Philippine Independence of June 12, 1898 itself contains two references to the United States. The first reference to America declared that the Philippine Independence being proclaimed was “under the protection of the mighty and humane North American Nation.” The second reference in connection with the description of the Filipino flag said that “the colors blue, red and white, commemorate those of the flag of the United States of North America, in manifestation of our profound gratitude to that great nation for the distinguished protection she is extending to us and will continue to extend to us.” We say therefore that despite the transfer of the celebration of our independence, the Filipino people will preserve their esteem and gratitude for America, and in the present state of the world, I believe I bespeak the sentiment of our people in declaring that we will be ready to fight on the side of America, as in the past, in defense of freedom and human dignity for ourselves and for all mankind.
Let me avail of this opportunity to disabuse the minds of those who suggest that the transfer of our commemoration of independence was prompted by the action of the American Congress in backing out of a material commitment and obligation to our people. There is no casual relation between the two events. We commemorate our freedom on this day because the permanent truth and historical reality so justify and not for any transient reason. To suggest that we have moved the commemoration of our independence because of the influence of material factors is to offend the Filipino people and their leaders; because the heroic exploits of our patriots and people which led to the declaration of independence on June 12, 1898, as well as acts of patriotism of Filipino heroes thereafter, are incontrovertible proof that in weighing the merits of patriotism, the Filipinos neither count the cost nor consider material rewards but are moved solely and nobly by their fervent love for their country and the pursuit of its noble ideals.
The irrefutable claim of June 12 as our day of freedom is bolstered by the fact that it is the culmination of many acts of patriotism and nationalism beginning with Lapu-Lapu’s defiance of the Spanish conquistador, Ferdinand Magellan, who died in battle in Mactan in 1521.
We can cite other instances:
In 1571, the fiery Rajah Soliman, who had been driven from his kingdom in Manila by the forces of the Spanish invader, Miguel de Legaspi, gathered together the men of Hagonoy and Macabebe and the other balangays of Pampanga and Bulacan, and leading his fleet down the channel of Bangkusay, he sought to free his kingdom and his people. Soliman was slain in battle and his forces were routed, but his heroism was not obscured, not even by the establishment of Spanish domination over Manila and Central Luzon.
In 1574, Rajah Lakandula, king of Tondo and uncle of Soliman, led an uprising in protest against the Spaniards’ ill treatment of his countrymen. However, the rebellion was cut short by a new danger from the north—the invasion by the Chinese forces of Limahong—and the Filipinos were forced to join efforts with the Spaniards in the bloody defense of the islands.
In 1588, the people of Tondo revolted against Spanish rule with the aid of the Japanese who lived in several pockets in Luzon. The rebellion failed, however, and all the leaders, including Magat Salamat, were executed. Later the northern provinces, led by two brothers from Cagayan, rose in rebellion; unfortunately this, too, was put down, with the aid of treachery.
In the years following, fierce revolts broke out in various parts of the archipelago, including the Pampanga revolt of 1660 and the eighty-five-year rebellion in Bohol started by Francisco Dagohoy.
The coming of the British triggered off the Ilocos revolt led by Diego Silang and, after his assassination, by his wife, Gabriela, who was subsequently captured and hanged.
When the Spanish Constitution of 1812 which gave protection to Filipino rights was abolished in 1814, some fifteen hundred Ilocanos rose in revolt in defense of liberty and equality. It was perhaps the first Philippine revolution over constitutional rights. In 1840, a religious revolt erupted in Tayabas, led by Apolinario de la Cruz.
In 1872, the Filipinos in Cavite revolted in protest against the high-handed rule of the new Spanish governor-general. The mutiny was quickly suppressed and Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, suspected of complicity in the uprising, were executed. But it was one of the events that led to the national revolution of 1896.
Filipinos indeed had revolted many times before against foreign domination—against the Spaniards, against the Chinese, against the British. But these were isolated acts of rebellion, regional stirrings of the Filipino national spirit in gestation.
Finally, on June 12, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo rose and galvanized the entire Nation to action. By his leadership, he brought to life the aspirations of all Filipinos, the poor and the rich, the intellectual and the peasant, for human dignity and liberty. When he formally assumed political command and declared his country free from the political ties that bound it to the colonial power, a Nation came into being, where before there had been only scattered loyalties seeking national expression.
It is thus a historical fact that the proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 gave colonial Asia its first free and united nation.
There had been other Asian revolutions before. But the revolution which culminated on June 12, 1898 was the first successful national revolution in Asia since the coming of the West, and the Republic to which it gave birth was the first democractic Republic outside of the Western hemisphere.
It was a Republic with a Constitution predicated on a clear understanding of the principles of democracy and of the enduring values of freedom. The Malolos Constitution proclaimed that “sovereignty resides exclusively in the people.” It explicitly respected and protected the fundamental God-given rights of the individual person. It provided for a popularly elected legislature and an independent judiciary.
June 12, 1898 is pregnant with meaning not only for our people as the birthday of their sovereign nation but also for the world, since it was our Filipino patriots and leaders, Rizal, Aguinaldo and Bonifacio, who led the nations of Asia in breaking the chains of colonialism in order that they may breathe the fresh air of individual liberty and national dignity.
In the course of their long struggle for freedom, the Filipinos have produced countless heroes and martyrs. To my mind, six of them have earned by the sublimity of their love of country and the magnitude of their patriotic labors a special niche in the hearts of their grateful countrymen. Dr. Jose Rizal, the greatest of them all, aroused to unparalleled intensity the national consciousness of our people. General Emilio Aguinaldo successfully led the revolution which Rizal’s martyrdom had inspired. Andres Bonifacio started the revolution on August 26, 1896 but lost its leadership to Aguinaldo. Lapu-Lapu was the first Filipino leader to assert the Nation’s spirit of liberty by resisting the invasion of Ferdinand Magellan whom he killed in battle in Mactan in 1521. Jose Abad Santos, by his sublime martyrdom during the enemy occupation in the last war, established that the spirit of martyrdom, with which Rizal had glorified the Filipino character, had not been in vain. Finally, after the successful revolution of Aguinaldo and Bonifacio against Spain had been thrust aside by the American superiority in arms, Manuel L. Quezon carried on the libertarian struggle by a campaign of peaceful agitation which culminated in the recognition by America of the Filipino’s right to independence. This right Aguinaldo had first proclaimed to the world on June 12, 1898.
In glorifying the short-lived Philippine Republic, as the first in Asia, and in recalling our great heroes, it is fitting that as we commemorate the anniversary of the declaration of our independence and as we recall the glorious events surrounding it, we should examine ourselves and ask if we have been worthy of the heritage of freedom which our heroes bequeathed to us and for which thousands of our patriots so willingly shed their blood. Let independence day therefore be an occasion not only for commemoration, but for spiritual self-examination.
It is noteworthy that no one among the half-dozen great heroes of our history, Rizal, Aguinaldo, Bonifacio, Lapu-Lapu, Abad Santos and Quezon, has played a role in the Republic that we administer today. This fact emphasizes the responsibility which devolves upon us to whom they bequeathed the fruits of their heroic labors to fashion this Republic as an instrument for the welfare and happiness of our people.
How enduring is our Republic today? How faithfully have we kept the ideals of freedom and democracy which our patriots and heroes, through their efforts and sacrifices and even with their blood, have etched deeply in the national conscience?
Our heroes now have a right to ask of us: We gave you the first Republic in this country, we founded for you the first Republic in Asia. How strong is your Republic today? How well has your Republic today kept faith with the ideals of the Republic which we brought forth in this country 64 years ago?
Our heroes might well ask the farmer of today: What have you done with the soil which our heroes have enriched with their blood? Have you tried to increase your production so that you and your family and your countrymen may have more to eat? They might well ask the businessman: Have you taken steps to improve your methods of production, have you tried your best to increase your marketing efficiency, so that prices may be lowered for the sake of the consumer?
They might well address the student: Have you been studying with diligence and seriousness, not only for high marks, but for the sake of learning, so that you may contribute your full share to the country’s wealth of knowledge, to the efforts to improve the country’s economic condition, its intellectual quality, its social climate and its moral atmosphere?
They might well ask the politician: Are you a statesman who places the larger good of the Nation above narrow self-interest?
They might well ask the housewife: Are you bringing up your children to love their neighbors, their country and Almighty God, inculcating in them a sense of duty, responsibility and sacrifice?
And they might well ask you who are here today: Have you betrayed the democratic institutions for which we laid the foundations in 1898? What have you done with your ballot? Have you sold it like a common commodity—for money, for jobs, for preferential treatment by the government?
Our heroes might well ask us all: What have you done for your country? Our Administration will provide the opportunities and incentives to enable this Nation to rise to new heights of social and economic progress. We will give every man the opportunity to live in circumstances worthy of his status as a human being made in the image of God. But that is all that this Administration—or any Administration for that matter will do or can do or ought to do. Only the people, as individuals or in groups, singly or jointly, can shape and contribute the fine stones needed in the building of a great Republic. In the end, the citizen alone can ensure for himself a life of honor, dignity and prosperity. Let us then all of us, on this day of solemn commemoration, relying mainly upon our own efforts, consecrate ourselves anew to the great ideals that animate our heroic forbears, the ideals of excellence in creation and production, excellence in learning and wisdom, and excellence in patriotism and sacrifice, for the country’s honor and dignity in freedom.
Source: Presidential Museum and Library
Macapagal, D. (1965). Fullness of freedom : speeches and statements of President Diosdado Macapagal (Vol. IV). Manila : Bureau of Printing.