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110 Years of Independence and How London Celebrated!

This year Filipinos across the globe celebrated 110 years of Philippine Independence. Let us look at the history behind our nation’s big day… It was on 12th June 1898 that Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite. This was the culmination of a two-year war that began with the ‘Cry of Balintawak’, on 23rd August 1896. This was the day when Andres Bonifacio and his men tore up their cedulas (community tax certificate or Spanish identity card) symbolising their determination to take up arms against Spain.

Although the first significant act of defiance against Spain occurred 375 years earlier, on 27th April 1521, on the Island of Mactan, Cebu, when Chief Lapu Lapu killed Ferdinand Magellan. There were also several uprisings during the British rule between 1762-1764, the sight of the Spanish being defeated by the British was enough to sow the seeds of revolution in the Philippines, though this did not really come to fruition until the time of Dr. Jose Rizal and the Katipuneros a century later.

It was on 13th August 1898 that the United States of America officially took possession of the Philippines from Spain in a ceremony in Manila. Gen. Aguinaldo’s Filipino Independence movement was not involved in this process. The defining moment in America’s decision to go to war with Spain in the first place was, ironically, their determination to free Cuba from Spanish colonial rule. It was not until 4th July 1946, some 48 years later that the Philippines were granted political freedom by America.

In light of these facts, when is the true date of Philippine Independence? Many Filipino Americans cite it as 4th July, stating that 12th June should be celebrated as the end of Spanish colonialism, the beginning of Philippine-American relations and the commemoration of the Spanish-American War. Many British Filipinos, perhaps uneasy with the 4th July date, prefer 12th June as it celebrates the end of over 300 years of often brutal colonial rule.

In any case, on 17th May 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal signed an executive order that changed the official date of Philippine Independence from the American imposed 4th July, to the 12th June date of the declaration of independence made by Gen. Aguinaldo. It is strange that his daughter, current President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now seeks to introduce Spanish language back into the Philippine education system, after her Dad officially recognised Spain’s departure as the day of celebration for the Philippines!

In my opinion the end of over 300 years of colonial rule, that changed our islands of warring tribes into a giant melting pot of fused Spanish, Mexican, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Polynesian and Indigenous tribal cultures, though still warring, is a day to celebrate. And celebrate we did! There were three main events this year celebrating Philippine Independence.

On 1st June there was the joyous 110th Anniversary of Philippine Independence Day Mass held at the Victories Church in High St. Kensington. Various community leaders, Filipino priests and Catholic parishioners from all over came to celebrate our Independence. There was food and drinks served afterwards, where people saw old friends they might not have seen for a while.

On 8th June was the 110th Anniversary of Philippine Independence Day Barrio Fiesta in Lampton Park, Hounslow. It was the first year of this particular event, managed by Philippine Alliance UK. There were many people there, different stallholders than usual and some A list stars such as Judy Ann “Juday” Santos, Ryan Agoncillio and Rufa Mae Quinto. So successful was it, that newly installed Mayor, Boris Johnson made an appearance, gave a rousing speech and upon hearing his name being chanted, decided to don a Barong and walk amongst the People!

For the livelier of us here in London, on 14th June there was the Malaysian Airlines Philippine Independence Party held at the Agenda Bar in the City. It was the second year of the celebration and was again organised by PinoysFinestUK. A number of 2nd generation organisations and Filipinos from all over London descended to catch up and celebrate being Filipino! There was even a raffle with the top prize being a return ticket to the Philippines with accommodation from Malaysia Airlines.

There is a growing feeling in the community that we need a definitive day to celebrate being Filipino. Jut like the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Chinese have New Year, the Afro-Caribbean nations have the Notting Hill Carnival! Which of the aforementioned events that occurred this year, or even those events that might happen next year, will claim that place?

Whichever date you feel should be our official Independence Day or which ever celebration you would prefer to have, no one can ever say we are not proud to be Filipino!

Written by Adrian Williams.

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