There were no grand fireworks to watch on the Twelfth of June in the home country unlike in the US of A where ‘Filipinos in mainstream America’ wait for the pyrotechnics to burst and brighten the skies on the night of the Fourth of July.
There was no parade at the Luneta either just like in the old days. The last one we remember watching was that of the centennial celebration in 1998.
Like in the past, government agencies set up booths at the Burnham Green of the Rizal Park to show their flagship projects and community services (Mga Pampamahalaang Programa at Serbisyo). The Department of Health, for example, provided free medical, dental and optical services. Tree seedlings and packets of vegetable seeds were distributed at the Dept. of Agriculture booth.
The booths of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were a big hit because it allowed visitors to carry high-powered weapons on display (without bullets, of course!). Many had their selfies with real soldiers with camouflage paints on their faces. Marching bands from various military services like the Philippine Air Force also provided entertainment at the Luneta Grandstand, and silent drills by units from the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Marines awed spectators there too.
For those who stayed up to the early evening, they could have enjoyed for free the 30-minute “Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal: Light and Sound Presentation”, which dramatizes the national hero’s final hours using eight sculptural clusters. This presentation is the collective work of National Artists Leandro Locsin, Lamberto Avellana, Lucio San Pedro and Rolando Tinio. The holiday crowd could also have enjoyed listening to various musical artists in the Harana sa Rizal Park at different performance areas around the park.
The Metro and Light Railway Transits provided free rides 7 to 9 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening for people who wanted to enjoy their holiday in various places in Metro Manila. The Pasig River Ferry Service also offered free cruises from 6 AM to 6 PM between its operating terminals: Plaza Mexico, PUP, Guadalupe and Pinagbuhatan.
These were some of the events in this year’s 116th commemoration of the proclamation of Philippine Independence, which carried the theme “Pagsunod sa Yapak ng mga Dakilang Pilipino, Tungo sa Malawakan at Permanenteng Pagbabago.”
Early in the day at eight o’clock in the morning, flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies were held simultaneously in seven historical sites all over the country led by high government officials: Plaza Quince Martires in Naga City; Rizal National Monument at the Luneta, General Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite; Mausoleo delos Veteranos dela Revolucion at the Manila North Cemetery; Barasoain Church Historical Landmark in Malolos, Bulacan; Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine in San Juan City; Bonifacio National Monument in Caloocan City and Pamintuan Mansion in Angeles City.
These rites were replicated in every town and city in the archipelago. In my hometown San Narciso in Zambales, for example, the flag rite in front of the municipal building was followed by the laying of floral wreaths at the monuments of Jose Rizal, Ramon Magsaysay, the Doce Martires (12 members of the town principalia who were executed in April 1898) and the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.
President Benigno Aquino III, guest of honor at Plaza Quince Martires rites, extolled the heroism of the fifteen Bicolano martyrs who were suspected of involvement in the Katipunan. Eleven of them were executed in Bagumbayan in January 1897 barely a week after the martyrdom of Jose Rizal, while four died in exile.
According to reports, some students from the Ateneo de Naga heckled Aquino while he was talking about the pork barrel scam. “Patalsikin ang Pork Barrel King! Walang pagbabago sa Pilipinas!,’ were apparently heard from the students who deemed that the president failed to fulfil his promise of ending corruption and bringing change to the country. One of them, Emmanuel Pio Mijares, was arrested.
Aquino challenged Filipino voters to“[c]hoose candidates who fight for the interests of the each and every citizen in the face of any challenge. We do not need a leader who can read a script, dance well or sing well.” Obviously, he was referring to Sen. Bong Revilla whose privilege speech included a song number.
At the Rizal National Monument, Vice President Jejomar Binay reportedly called for a “timeout” from politics, reminding Filipinos to remember the patriotism and bravery of those who fought for our independence.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also touched on the pork barrel scam cases when she spokeat the General Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine. According to reports, she assured that there will be no shortcuts in resolving these cases, and that the judiciary will always be guided by the Constitution and the Rules of Court in their resolution.
At the Barasoain Church, where the first Philippine Republic was inaugurated on 23 September 1898, the guest of honor was MMDA Sec. Francis Tolentino. He reportedly emphasized the importance of Malolos Constitution, and also spoke of the threats to our rightful ownership of some islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Senate President Franklin Drilon led the Independence Day rites at the historic Pinaglabanan Shrine, a memorial to the first battle of the Katipunan that started on 29 August 1898. According to reports, he appealed to the people to keep their faith in their democratic institutions despite the pork barrel scam controversies.
We witnessed the commemoration program at the Bonifacio National Monument. It was the Caloocan City Mayor who delivered the keynote speech. Theatrical, dance and musical presentations were performed by government employees and public school teachers.
It is presumed that similar flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies were conducted at the Pamintuan Mansion and the Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolucion.
For historical appreciation, Aguinaldo moved the seat of the government from Kawit, Cavite to Pampanga during the war against the Americans. He waved the Philippine flag from the second-floor balcony of the Pamintuan Mansion on 12 June 1899, the first anniversary of Philippine independence. On the other hand, the Mausoleo was built by the Veteranos de la Revolucion headed by Aguinaldo and inaugurated on 30 May 1920 as a pantheon of the heroes of the revolution against Spain.
The noise of the 116th anniversary celebration of our independence came from the rallies not only in Metro Manila but also in some cities in the country, a continuing reverberation of the Million People March to Scrap Pork Barrel on 26 August last year.
The festive colors came from the protest streamers and banners, and from the props such as masks and papier mache pigs of various configurations like the big one with a crown.
One reporter observed that “[a] funny thing happened to marchers protesting against the pork barrel in all forms. Their target turned out to be President Aquino.” This is evident in the ‘Pork Barrel King’ title given to him.
We were at the Kartilya ng Katipunan Shrine (or Bonifacio Shrine) near the Manila City Hall for the 6.12.14 Protest Against Corruption in the afternoon. This was put together by 6.12.14 Protest Coalition of various organizations comprising the Scrap Pork Network, Kilusang KonTRAPOrk, and Freedom from Debt Coalition. Hashtags used for social media communications were #OUCHPinoy, #ScrapPork and #JailALL.
Various sectoral representatives were given the chance to denounce the plunder of government funds through the PDAF or the popular pork barrel. There was a collective call for the Aquino administration to prosecute the people behind the pork barrel scam, those linked to the controversies including the allies of the president. “All those involved should be prosecuted and not just a few,” Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo emphasized.
Entertainment numbers were provided by popular singers like veteran activist Heber Bartolome and Jograd de la Torre with their nationalistic and protest songs, and rocker Eli Buendia of Eraserheads fame.
At Liwasang Bonifacio, a “Rally for Accountability” was led by the #Abolishpork Movement. This was joined by militant, civil and religious groups like the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), Artista Kontra Korapsyon (AKSYON), University of the Philippines (UP) Faculty versus Pork, Youth ACT Now!, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian (BABALA), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
Reports in the social media showed that this was preceded by a march to the US Embassy in Manila and a program at Kalaw Avenue where some protesters dressed up like Katipuneros and Katipuneras and carried make-believe bolos and rifles.
Later in the afternoon, the protesters marched to Mendiola with torches.
Present at both the Kartilya and Liwasang Bonifacio rallies was Mae Paner, more popularly known as Juana Change, who had porky faces adorning the front of her kimona and all around the hem of her saya.
The cheer up chants were variations on the theme of accountability. At the Kartilya Shrine: Sumagot, Managot, Kundi Lagot! Ouch PiNoy! At Liwasang Bonifacio-Mendiola: “Lahat ng Sangkot, Dapat Managot”