An Opposing View

July 4, 1946: True Philippine Independence Day

by Bobby Reyes
© 1996 by Bobby Reyes
All rights reserved

Philippine Flag The Philippine government talks of the coming centennial of the Philippine independence de- clared in 1898. President Diosdado Macapagal signed an executive order in 1963 (The correct date is May 17, 1962. - Ed.) that "moved" the Philippines's independence day from 1946 to 1898. On the basis of the June 12, 1898, (alleged) declaration of independence by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, he thought that it was his mandate to correct "history." He thought it would serve better the national aspirations of the Filipino people to adopt that date as the Philippines's independence day. Can President Macapagal's executive order change history?

I do not think so. It seems that a vast majority of Filipino Americans share my view.

Wars of Independence

We argue that the war that led to General Aguinaldo's proclamation of independence was but one of a series of wars for independence that the Filipino people waged.

If we were to trace the Filipino struggle for independence, we could mark April 27, 1521, as the day the Filipinos first declared their freedom. The naturalized-Spanish explorer, Fernando de Magallanes, died on the beach of Mactan, Cebu, Philippines, on that day at the hands of native freedom fighters. But do historians admit that fact? No. The Philippines, at that time, consisted of warring tribes. The archipelago was not yet a nation. In 333 and 48 years, respectively, the Spaniard and the American colonial masters nearly unified the Filipinos. They managed to unite nearly all the people of the Philippines into a semblance of a nation.

There were many wars of, and for, independence of the Filipino people. Prior to the founding of the Katipunan in July 1892, there were at least 32 instances, since 1754, of rebellions, mutinies and revolts against the Spanish government in the Philippines. If we were to count the uprisings during the British occupation of Manila from 1762-1764, the number would total 41. There were sporadic revolts in 1763 in the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Tayabas (now called Quezon), Cavite, Camarines (Bicol region), Samar, Panay, Cebu and Zamboanga.

The total of 41 revolts from 1574 to 1888 does not even include the war for independence waged by Princess Urduja of Pangasinan. If my memory serves me right, Princess Urduja's army fought the Spaniards from 1680 to 1692.

The war for independence in 1898 actually began in 1892. The founding of the secret society of Filipino rebels called the Katipunan was on July 7, 1892. Prior to the execution of Jose P. Rizal on Dec. 30, 1896, there was the so-called "First Cry of Philippine Independence" on April 10, 1895, in Montalban, Rizal. The more famous Cry of Balintawak was on Aug. 26, 1896. The Filipino rebels fired the first shots of the revolution on the same day. There was the first encounter in the sitio of Pasong Tamo that was then a part of the Bulacan province. In that encounter the Katipunan suffered more than 3,000 casualties. The Battle of Pinaglabanan in San Juan, Rizal, followed on Aug. 30, 1896. The 1896 revolt spread to the other provinces. On Sept. 2, 1896, Mariano Llanera and his 2,000 followers rose up in arms in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.

General Aguinaldo declared Philippine "independence" over the dead bodies of the Katipunan founder, Andres Bonifacio, his brothers and their followers. Aguinaldo's goons murdered these freedom fighters. History has it that Aguinaldo ordered also the assassination of Gen. Antonio Luna in Vigan, Ilocos Sur (Luna was killed in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. - Ed.). These were among the reasons the Aguinaldo proclamation of "independence" was parochial in scope. He had only limited support in his native province of Cavite and some neighboring areas. On June 12, 1898, the Spaniards still controlled cities such as Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Legazpi, Zamboanga, Vigan and their adjacent towns (Only Iloilo was still under Spanish control. - Ed.). The Americans controlled the walled City of Intramuros, Manila, after their May 1, 1898, naval victory at Manila Bay.

There was not even a single (third) country that recognized the proclamation of "independence" made by General Aguinaldo. The Filipino people did not ratify the 1899 Malolos constitution, which ostensibly gave "retroactively" Aguinaldo his "emergency" powers to declare a dictatorial government in 1898.

There are many Filipinos and Filipino Americans who think that the 1998 centennial celebration will be a commemoration of a fictional independence. Filipino leaders can amuse themselves into thinking that the Philippine independence will be 100 years old by 1998. Even if we were to assume arguendo that the Philippines were already independent by the turn of this century, still the right year would have been 1896 and not 1898.

There are many of us who want to set the record straight. We celebrate only what is real and factual. We cannot distort historical facts. We cannot celebrate an event that only "resembles the truth." We reckon that it was only on July 4, 1946, when the United States granted it independence that the Philippines became politically free as a country.

U.S. 48-star flag This is what the 48-star United States flag that was hauled down at Luneta Park on July 4, 1946 looks like.

The Philippine-independence centennial in 1998 will have no relevance to the United States and the American people. We believe that the Philippine National Centennial Commission and the Philippine leaders who insist on the June 12, 1898, independence are insensitive to the facts of history. They are also insensitive to the feelings of the American people, especially those of Philippine ancestry. To ignore the July 4, 1946, independence is hypocritical. It demonstrates, once more, the myopic view of some Philippine leaders who think that to be pro-Filipino is to be anti-American.

A Lesson in World War II History

In case the Philippine national leaders have forgotten, the United States lost more than 20,000 American lives in recapturing the Philippines from the Japanese invaders in 1944-1945. The Americans, with the help of the Filipino soldiers and guerilla fighters, had to drive out first the Japanese invaders in order to give independence to the Philippines. This was the independence that the Aug. 29, 1916, Jones Law provided, as amended by the March 24, 1934, Tydings-McDuffie Law.

Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt could have sided with the American Navy top brass in October 1944 and avoided American casualties in the Philippines. The admirals wanted to bypass the Philippines, drive the Japanese from Formosa (now Taiwan) and attack mainland Japan from there. Gen. Douglas MacArthur appealed to President Roosevelt. The general said: "To bypass the Philippines would admit the truth that we had abandoned the Filipinos and would not shed American blood to redeem them." President Roosevelt agreed with General MacArthur and authorized the October 20, 1944, landing at Leyte. The rest is history, as the cliché goes.

Ingratitude has never been a trait of the Filipino people. Some critics have said that might be part of the character of the Filipino national leaders. We refuse to believe these critics.

A Philippine-American Centennial?

What we ought to celebrate is the centennial of American involvement in the Philippines. This would make the 1998 centennial relevant in the United States. We could celebrate the 100 years of special ties between the peoples of the United States and the Philippines. To make this centennial truly international, we could commemorate in 1998 the centennial of the Spanish-American War.

The Filipinos, especially the Filipino Americans, therefore, will have to put their thinking caps on and select which independence day to celebrate. We are confident that the more than three-million-strong Filipino Americans, many of whom are now citizens of the United States, will support our stand. Yes, the Philippines has only one independence day. The date of independence is July 4, 1946. What say you Filipinos and Filipino Americans?

Editor's note:

Bobby Reyes is a "media advocate and founder of the Media Breakfast Club (MBC)" according to a piece of literature he handed out recently. He is also the main organizer of the Philippine- American exhibits and shows that occasionally grace the halls of the West Covina Mall in Southern California.

This article is an excerpt from a paper that Reyes released on March 3, 1996. Commas, quotation marks, italics, and information presented are the author's.

To cite:
Reyes, Bobby. "July 4, 1946: True Philippine Independence Day" in Hector Santos, ed., Philippine Centennial Series; at US, 3 June 1997.

PHGLA Logo The Philippine History Group of Los Angeles invites you to send your comments to the author, Bobby Reyes, or the editor of this Philippine Centennial Series, Hector Santos.

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