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A Celebration of Freedom

The Philippines celebrates its 120th year of independence this June 12.  As the country prepares for this special occasion, we look at how Filipinos commemorate their independence day, not just in the Philippines, but all over the world.

It was on June 12, 1898 when the Philippines' first president, Emilio Aguinaldo first hoisted the red, white, and blue with sun and stars flag at his Kawit, Cavite home and declared freedom for the Filipinos.  

As the Philippines celebrates its 120th year as an independent country, the country will be abound with ceremonies. There are the traditional flag raising ceremonies, parades, and other festivities. Top officials will gather at different historic sites in the country to commemorate this event.

Last 2017, Vice President Leni Robredo led the annual Independence Day rites at Luneta Park. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano was there as representative of President Rodrigo Duterte who cannot make it because of health concerns and other pressing matters. The officials watched as members of the Philippine Army hoisted the flag at the shrine of Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero. 

The Vice President also spoke at the University of the Philippines’ Defend Democracy Summit. “The hard work of protecting democracy will require all of us to be strongly united,” Robredo said in her speech. “We may have disagreements on how to do things, but we should never allow these disagreements to divide us. These are extraordinary times, and if we are not able to lay aside our differences and talk to one another, we will be fighting enemies within as well as without. We will not stand a chance. It is imperative that we are united and focused on what are truly important. Let us not defend democracy as a concept but as a means to lessen the sufferings of our people,” she said.

Apart from the Luneta Park, other officials made their presence felt at the different designated freedom sites. Senator Panfilo Lacson and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo led the ceremonies in Kawit, Cavite. At Barasoain Church, Malolos, Bulacan, it was Senator Loren Legarda, while at Pinaglabanan Shrine in Manila, it was Senator Sonny Angara. 

It was not only at these historical sites that government officials were seen, as malls such as SM, also presented cultural shows. The National Museum remained open as it welcomed visitors on this holiday so that Filipinos will remember who they are and what they should be proud of. 

Celebrations Abroad
It was not only in the Philippines where Filipinos celebrated their freedom day. The country has one of the highest numbers of emigrants, so it came as no surprise when Filipinos living in other parts of the world held their own gathering. 

As June 12 is not a national holiday in other countries, Filipinos in other nations opted to hold their celebrations on the nearest weekend such as Filipino Americans in New York who held a grand parade at Madison Avenue on June 4. 

The festivities kicked off with a flag-raising ceremony in the morning. Afterwards, a street fair, a parade, and cultural shows were held where Filipinos showed off their heritage. It all ended at 6 p.m. 

Filipinos at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) chose to have their celebration in advance which was on May 9, 2017. Participants were already at the Dubai World Trade Centre by 7 a.m. as they got ready for a parade, cultural shows, an expo and various competitions. 

However, there were those who still preferred to keep June 12 a special date like the Filipinos living in Toronto, Canada – even if the ceremonies lasted only a few hours. 

Kathreen Pascual-Binaday of the Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDC) in Toronto said in an interview, “several organizations gathered in municipal, provincial and federal buildings to raise the Philippine flag to commemorate the day. Much like the celebrations in the Philippines, the flag raising involved government officials and performances from local artists.”

Apart from the flag hosting, PIDC also organized a large picnic on June 12 wherein people brought food. “The picnic was held in a park where we have a Jose Rizal bust and we had a wreath laying ceremony there to start our day,” Pascual-Binaday related. 

This year’s commemoration will have the annual Flag Raising at the Queen’s Park Legislative Grounds. Though it might be hard to have all these Filipinos in one place, Filipino Canadians (and for that matter Filipinos all over the world) make it work as it joins with other organizations whose members are also part of the PIDC.  

“We have participating organizations join in the celebration of Independence Day by ensuring they are part of the planning for the event,” Pascual-Binaday disclosed. “We normally plan our events one year ahead.  This is because we are required to submit permit requests several months in advance.”  

Sense Of Nationalism
These Filipino communities keep their sense of nationalism not just by partying for one day a year, as it is a continuous effort throughout the year. Filipinos plan other events and activities that will surely have their fellow kababayans geared up. They organize beauty pageants (for both little girls and young ladies), basketball cups, and many more. 

Pascual-Binaday also explained that it is their job to ensure that they showcase Philippine heritage and culture. “We highlight Philippine heritage and culture not only to Filipino-Canadians but to other ethnic groups as well,” she said.  

“We organize the largest festival in Canada called Mabuhay Philippines Festival,” Pascual-Binaday proudly said. This year’s Mabuhay Philippines Festival will be held on August 26, 2018 at the Toronto City Hall. 

“The event will feature a large street parade in which we gather over 100 associations and organizations to participate by parading in distinctive costumes of various regions and educational institutions. The event elicits national pride, particularly during the parade where participants get to march through downtown Toronto, most of them waving Philippine flags as they make their way through the parade route.” 

The organizers also ensure that their countrymen will be looking forward to their Independence Day by inviting celebrities. Last year, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, 2013 Miss World Megan Young,  and Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa joined the parade in New York City, USA. Singer Rannie Raymundo performed in Dubai. A year before that it was Young who was part of the activities in California, while actress Lovie Poe was at the UAE, and actors Tom Rodriguez in Canada and Dingdong Dantes in UK. 

The Tourism Promotions Board Philippines touts June as National Heritage Month. This month is a commemoration of the culture of the Philippines in festivities and events impressing the combination of culture of the different countries which had colonized the Philippines in the past, without of course forgetting their forefathers. Prepare to be overwhelmed by musicals, dances by ballet companies, concerts, and photo exhibitions to remind the Filipinos of their tradition of songs, dances, and cultural practices. 

Filipinos are known to smile, to uphold the spirit of bayanihan (of coming together to help each other out), and to celebrate the positive. This year will be no ordinary celebration as Filipinos remember the struggles of their forefathers and countrymen to give them the independence they deserve. 

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