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Every year people in the UK mark up dates in their Calendar, I do the same. For many, first it’s Birthdays, then Easter and Christmas, then Bank holidays, next it’s events and occasions such as Valentines, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Chinese New Year, St Patrick’s Day, Notting Hill Carnival, Glastonbury, Bonfire Night, we could go on! Yet very few people I know ever mark up or even ask what’s happening for Philippine Independence Day. Why is that?
Perhaps Independence as a concept is lost on generations brought up in relative peaceful democracy, especially if born abroad. Maybe it is because many still feel oppressed or have little faith in the government. In many countries all over the world the same experiences and circumstances ring true; an aggressive and oppressive colonial master grants Independence after an often bloody war, then follows a period of implosion, where other nations may try and take over or the country itself fails socially and politically, before a dictator seizes power and imposes martial law and is then driven out by a peaceful modernizing liberator. What then? For me, as a young British Filipino, I am very proud of our Independence from Spain, however I am less proud of the American occupation and the eventual descent of the country financially, politically and socially. Were we actually free when the Spanish signed us over to the Americans? Were we in a better situation when the Americans finally granted us true Independence in 1946? Has the agenda of those in power been anything other than obtaining more money for themselves and their families? There are so many questions, so many reasons why Independence as a concept has been dampened after over 250 years of Spanish Colonialism and it’s sad.
The dampened effect could also be because Philippine Independence Day was changed from 4th July to 12th June, by former President, Diosdado Macapagal (father of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo). The timing was a direct response to the American administration’s rejection of the $73m additional war payment bill for the Philippines. The decision had already been made on the grounds of 4th of July was already too big a day for Americans and so any state celebration or dinners would not be attended as people would instead go the American celebration! Another reason offered is the lack of Inspiration the date would offer in contrast to the day when General Aguinaldo stood on that balcony in Cavite waving the new flag of the Philippines.
It is this idea of inspiration that we should concentrate on. I believe we have lost this feeling of inspiration and pride, Philippine Independence Day should serve as a day for us to believe in ourselves, to believe we are equal to anyone, to break down the perceived barriers that stop us from achieving. We should feel inspired to do something on Independence Day, to not only remember how many people fought and died for us but also to celebrate that we are a nation in our own right. Many other cultural celebrations are open to and celebrated by all. Why do Filipinos in the UK still market everything we do to ourselves?
Independence still means something today, to remember that we were a thriving people before Spanish rule is important, to know that we can travel the world, live, work and integrate freely is important to know we still have our own languages is very important. How many other Spanish colonies can boast that? The will and determination to be recognized as equals is what drives many causes and it has driven the Philippines forward, however the culture of working abroad, sending money home and ‘not causing any trouble’ is not what the country should be focusing on. The inspiration and drive would come from encouraging the younger generations of Filipinos in the Philippines to remain in the country and drive it forward. Instead, many are training for a life in another country so they can send money home to family and send a relative to college. This does not imply that we are free and independent, it is a difficult situation and one that must be addressed, otherwise the ratio of dependents in the Philippines to workers will be skewed in the wrong direction. Over 10% of the country is abroad working, this leaves a dependency figure of at least another 10% of the country not working as they are expecting money to be sent to them, that means 20% of the population are not working in the country. This may not even include those out of work or children, not very inspiring numbers.
Either way, which ever country Filipinos reside the acknowledgement of our own culture still remains through food, music, cable TV, barrio fiestas and more importantly the community! This is the biggest success story of OFWs. As a child of a migrant worker I am thankful my mother came to the UK, my life is vastly different to what she experienced, likewise my daughter’s life will be vastly different to the one I experienced, it is this progression that is inevitable. What we must maintain though is the celebration of the reason we are all here today…Philippine Independence day.
Philippine Generations are holding an event open to all on Saturday, 12th June 2010 at Paddington Recreation Ground in Central London. It is the first ever Philippine Independence Day World Cup, with 16 teams and over 80 players competing to be crowned Champion. Each team is named after a place in the Philippines and must contain at least one Filipino. It is free to come and support & watch, if you want to play there is a small charge to cover costs. What this does mean however, is that this is one of the first sporting events in the Filipino community that is truly open to all! How inspiring will it be to see people of all races playing the world’s number one sport under the Philippine flag and in the name of Philippine Independence?!
By Adrian Williams