When learning about Filipino history, one would find that there are two dates declaring Philippine Independence Day. The first and most recognized by almost all Filipinos around the globe, is June 12th, 1898 declared during the Philippine Revolution and people’s victory against colonial Spain after more than 300 years of oppression. The second, is July 4th, 1946, when the United States of America declared the Philippines independent after almost 50 years of US occupation following the Philippine- American war of 1898. Now that 115 years have past since the initial declaration, Filipinos in the Philippines and in the diaspora revisit the question, is the Philippines is truly independent?
During the numerous celebrations around Philippine Independence Day on June 12th, 2013 members of BAYAN USA investigated this question and conducted on the street interviews asking Filipinos in the United States, what “independence” means to them and if they thought the Philippines was truly independent?
Jose Montemayor, a student at San Francisco City College replied:
Independence means being totally self sufficient and not having to rely on anyone else. Do I think the Philippines is Independent? No I don’t think so, they’re certainly dependent on the United States for a lot of things. Until the Philippines can free itself from foreign dependence I don’t think it’ll ever be self sufficient.
Pyxie Castillo, a community leader added, “It is much too reliant on the US at the moment and I think this is because of the long standing US colonial history.”
The US colonial impact upon Philippine society as a whole can be seen through various structures such as those mentioned by Theresa Jaranilla an educator in Southern California:
The Philippines is not yet truly independent, looking at the influence of other countries especially the US, they still have control over the Philippines politically, economically, culturally, and the people still don’t have what they need, their basic rights are denied and their basic needs are still not fulfilled.
Why would the United States be interested in the Philippines historically and at the present? The Philippines is one of the most strategic military locations to acquire in order to pose any threat to the Asia Pacific region. After waging war with the indigenous peoples across the Americas during America’s Expansion, the US sought lands beyond the sea leaving the Philippines one of the first targets for colonization. At present, the Aquino government in accordance with the US military and economic pivot to the Asia Pacific, announced the reopening of Subic Bay Base and Clark Airfield Base, formerly closed US Bases, allowing for additional US troops to occupy areas in the Philippines. The current conflict between China and the Philippines also provides the United States with a “legitimate” excuse to increase their military presence in the Philippines.
Hiyasmin Saturay adds:
At sa military, alam natin, napakaraming americano sundalo sa pilipinas, at sisimula na sa pagpapadala ng mga drones, at iba pang malaking weaponry sa pilipinas para tulongin na ibagsak yung movement ng mga pilipino para ipaglaban ang kanilang soberano.
And the Military, we know there are so many am soldiers in the Philippines and now they are sending drones and other big weaponry to try to bring down the movement of the filipinos to fight for their sovereignty.
The majority of Filipinos interviewed shared the opinion that the Philippines has yet to be a truly independent nation because of the major influence and control of the US upon the Philippines. Therefore, BAYAN USA members also asked Filipinos, what does it take for the Philippines to become Independent? What is the National Democratic movement all about?
Johnny Rodriguez from Long Beach, CA:
The National Democratic Movement is fighting for their own autonomy, so the Filipino people can make their own lives, their own national industry that will actually benefit the Filipino people, as oppose to the current system that is setup to benefit other countries, like the United States.
Jay Jimenez of the Filipino Migrant Center adds:
It is fighting for a more just and free Philippines and a government that is more supportive in addressing the needs of the people, respecting the land and culture of the indigenous, and upholding the rights and welfare of the Filipino people, not just there but also here in the US, for the OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) who struggle everyday just to make a living.
With unemployment reaching more than 12.1 million people last year, Filipinos have no other choice but to migrate. More than 4,500 Filipinos leave the country daily to work and live abroad, “just to make a living” as Jay mentioned, while being separated from their families only to experience racism, discrimination, low-wages, and exploitation.
Philippine Independence Day is a day to celebrate the revolutionary history of the Philippines and the Filipino people. It is also a reminder to continue the fight put forth by our ancestors for National Democracy and struggle for genuine Philippine Independence. If the Philippines became independent from US imperialism, bureaucratic capitalism and feudalism, and instead invested in national industrialization and infrastructure in addition to land reform that eliminated foreign control, and the government reflected the masses of the people, only then will the Philippines truly be independent.