Monday, June 15, 2009

Independence Daze

By Siesta-friendly

There are quite a few “moments” of Philippine Independence. The Philippines having been colonized twice: Spain from 1565-1898, the U.S. from 1901-1946. Plus, there were a couple of occupations: of Manila by the British from 1762-64 and of the entire nation by the Japanese from 1941–1945.

But official Independence Day is June 12 for it was on June 12, 1898 when the Act of the Declaration of Independence[1] was read in public and the Philippine Flag and the National Anthem (then instrumental) were formally adopted. So, it was more than independence from Spain that we declared that day but independence as a state as well.

Who cared?

Beyond Filipinos, apparently no one. The Spanish-American War was ongoing at the time (as a consequence of Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain and the U.S.A.’s willingness to help Cuba to feed its own desires for world dominance (what else is new). This is relevant to the country’s independence because the U.S. also wanted to annex other Spanish territories: Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. This eventually happened upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898.

Incidentally, prior to the war, U.S. news reports had accounts of Spanish cruelties in Cuba. This fueled the American public to favor war. And eventually the U.S. invaded Cuba. Sound familiar?

To this day, the U.S. still owns Guam and Puerto Rico. Cuba, obviously not; although there’s this Cuban bay called Guantánamo over which it has jurisdiction and control even as the U.S. promised never to occupy Cuba. Well, okay, the promise may have referred to Cuba as a whole and not just a piece of it. Fine. The Philippines you ask? Well … yes and no but that’s another matter.

Going back to the independence issue: and so, whatever the Filipinos were doing in the Philippines (oh just the minor detail of winning its revolutionary war against Spain and declaring independence) was against U.S expansionism.

Mock and Draw

In their fight for independence, what did the Filipinos in was their trust of the Americans (again, what else is new). They were initially informed that they and the U.S. would form an alliance to fight oppressive Spain and to gain their freedom. Such naiveté. They even followed U.S. instructions to hold off their attack of Manila – which they had already surrounded and of which they were on the verge of taking control – to wait for their American allies (who unknown to them were forging a settlement with Spain).

Spain and the U.S. then staged a mock battle to allow Spanish soldiers to pull out of Manila and ‘surrender’ to the American soldiers thus excluding the Filipinos from the transfer of control.

If the Filipinos weren’t then surprised by the devious surrender, their complete shutout from the Treaty of Paris negotiations must have opened their eyes wide open to the reality of American annexation.

Treaty of Paris[2]

There are quite a few Treaties of Paris. But there was only 1 in 1898. And only 1 that forever changed the independent course of Filipinos. Since it is this treaty that ushered American era, influence and control (well beyond their official departure in 1946).

It is also the treaty that serves as a nationwide slap to Filipinos who were led to believe that their so-called allies were trying to help them gain independence. In truth, as embodied in the treaty, their ‘allies’ paid Spain $20M to buy their beloved Philippines.

American rule

Hence, with the capital, Manila, in their control, and the deed of sale (okay, treaty) in their hands, the Americans officially took control of the Philippines and for the next 5 decades, lorded it over the islands.

The Filipinos, of course, waged war against the new colonizers. But against U.S. military might and in the face of genocide (reportedly over 1 million Filipinos were killed amongst a population of 7 million), the Filipinos inevitably surrendered after 3 years.

The U.S. would later acknowledge Philippine independence (in the Treaty of Manila) but set the date to be July 4, 1946 the day they officially agreed to surrender control and relinquish sovereignty over the country.[3]

Regardless, the Philippines in 1964 enacted a law declaring Independence Day as June 12.[4]

President Manuel L. Quezon famously said he would prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans. Whatever you may think of his granted wish, it marks a people’s independence: that they can choose their own leaders and their destiny.

[1] Act of Declaration of Independence. Retrieved June 12, 2009, from Philippines-Archipelago Web site:

[2] Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain; December 10, 1898. Retrieved June 12, 2009, from The Avalon Project Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy Web site:

[3] Treaty Of General Relations Between The United States Of America And The Republic Of The Philippines. Signed At Manila, On 4 July 1946. Retrieved June 12, 2009, from United Nations Treaty Collection Web site: .

[4] Republic Act No. 4166, “An Act Changing The Date Of Philippine Independence Day From July Four To June Twelve, And Declaring July Four As Philippine Republic Day, Further Amending For The Purpose Section Twenty-Nine Of The Revised Administrative Code”, August 4, 1964.


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