What is Independence Day in the Philippines All About?
For 108 million Filipinos, nothing tastes sweeter than being free. This aptly explains the logic of why Independence Day in the Philippines is the biggest legal holiday in the archipelago.
On June 12, 1898, or more than 122 years ago, then Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo first hoisted the Philippine flag and played the Philippine National Anthem as he proclaimed the independence of the Philippines from the Spanish colonial rule in Cavite el Viejo (now referred to as Kawit), Cavite.
Considered as the pinnacle of patriotism, June 12 was deemed as the symbolic date. It is reminding the nation of its independence from foreign colonies. Interestingly, it was only in 1962 that then-President Diosdado Macapagal issued a Presidential Proclamation officially declaring June 12 as the country’s Independence Day.
Taking a cue from the Presidential Proclamation, the Philippine legislators, later on, passed Republic Act No. 4166 institutionalizing the celebration on June 12.
Incidentally, the Philippines was the first to declare Independence Day at a time. While other neighbouring Asian countries were mere colonial territories.
The government’s lead agency in the celebration of Independence Day in the Philippines is the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
Mandated to oversee the nationwide Independence Day celebration, NHCP makes sure that the momentous date would allow as many Filipinos to join the festive mood despite the national health emergency in view of the global pandemic.
Without fanfare, the annual celebration nonetheless saw patriotism among Filipinos who were not able to take part in the celebration due to government restrictions. What many Filipinos did was to hoist or display Philippine flags in homes, offices, buildings, etc.
Things You Can Do During Independence Day in the Philippines
Independence Day in the Philippines is a grand event. It’s so big that the event dominates airtime in most of the Philippine television channels and the radio stations. Also, the front pages of major newspapers and even social media.
Previous celebrations are often embarking on grand parades, a long-list of programs and activities, re-enactment of the June 12, 1898 event in Kawit, Cavite, among many others. Incidentally, with the pandemic scare still there, the Philippines shunned activities that would for a gathering of sorts. Because it violates existing guidelines which include the prohibition of public gatherings.
How Independence Day in the Philippines is Celebrated
Filipinos celebrate it in the Philippines in a manner reminiscent of the days 122 years ago.
Top national leaders start the day with a wreath-laying at the Rizal Park. This is where a monument of national hero Jose Rizal stands. After the wreath-laying, the national anthem is played and capped by gun salutes from snappy cadets forming part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Then, followed by a brief program where the President speaks on the importance of being free.
Another government agency, the Department of Education leads the academic community in holding activities related to Independence Day. This is including the historical quiz bees, oratorical and literary competitions, school programs and a flag parade with a particular motif. They both are Filipiniana, Barong Tagalog for men and Baro’t Saya for women.
Venues and Specials Events for Celebrating Independence Day in the Philippines
The Philippine Independence Day is a nationwide celebration involving all government agencies [both national and local], and various sectors, which include the youth, academicians, professionals, among others.
Witnessing It Live at the Rizal Park
Celebrations could actually be held anywhere. But, the government takes pride in starting the day marking the Philippine Independence, Rizal Park. This is where remains of the national hero lie in state. A tight security cordon is in place for the Head of State. But, the public could actually watch the President administer the annual wreath-laying from a distance of about 30 meters.
Watching Live Television Feed On Malacañang Palace
The President may also choose to host a formal program commemorating at the Heroes’ Hall in Malacañang. Attendance is limited only to those whose names appear on the list of invited guests and Malacañang journalists.
81 provincial governors traditionally do the same program in their seats of government. The Philippines has 81 provinces.
City/ Municipal Halls
Mayors from the country’s 1,488 towns and 146 cities also hold their Independence Day rites at their local government centres, halls, plazas and parks.
On Independence Day itself, everyone can actually take part in the celebration in their own little way. This year, citizens and foreigners alike pose for a photo of themselves while holding on to a small flag. The photos with a caption thanking medical front-liners were posted in the social media as their way to greet the Philippines a “Happy Independence Day.”
Not even the toughest of times have stopped Filipinos from celebrating Independence Day, which is, by the way, the biggest historical public holiday in the Philippines.