What’s really on June 12

THE title seems absurd considering that on this day the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day. Many historians dispute this day for several reasons, among which is that the declaration in Cavite is unclear. The independence was not recognized by a single country in the world and the people who decided on it were Tagalogs only. They were even fighting among themselves, particularly assassinating their enemies to power.

The “independence” that Emilio Aguinaldo declared was even questionable because the representative from the United States was there and Aguinaldo hinted at the Philippines being protected by the “sovereign” nation of America. In effect, the Philippines declared “free” was behind the scene an American protectorate. Succeeding events would show this fact until the United States said, “not so” when it prevented the Filipinos from entering Manila. Thus did the Aguinaldo army begin to fight the Americans.

The alleged representatives from the other regions of the country, like Negros were not from this province but were also Tagalogs.They were appointed just to create a farce of a national movement. In fact, Western Visayas had already its own Estado Federal de Visayas based in Iloilo and recognized by the leaders in Negros who later on, after defeating the Spaniards, established a separate government.

The two governments, Negros and Panay, eventually fought each other. Negros took the easy road by collaborating with America while Panay took the path of resistance. The collaborators won; the defiant lost. Eventually, both came to realize the futility of resisting a superior force and moved within its realm until in 1946, the American yoke was lifted.

Freedom is a virtue that Independence Day celebration is supposed to raise high upon the citizens, a character that should be inculcated in the old and the young so that they will have the courage to defend it and prevent any attempt to stifle it. Indeed, what does freedom means but the capability to think, write, act and decide without the shackles of despotism?

Many, unfortunately, prefer the shackles that provide them with wealth and honor, like birds preferring the golden cage where they need not look for food, water or shelter. In times of war, we call this collaboration as treason; in times of peace, we call this opportunism.

The June 12, 1898 declaration was a prelude to things that divided the leadership of this country during that period. I refer mainly to the leadership because most of the ordinary citizens were “bond men”, that is, they are bound to the landowners or the merchant classes.

June 12 did not stir the calm waters in Negros but underneath the leaders of the island, notably the occidental side, had their own ideas about liberation but they kept their peace. Indeed the Spanish government considered the hacendados as their allies. The hacendados were satisfied with their lot. The province was producing over 1.5 million piculs (60.2 kilos/picul) of sugar and the authorities considered this fact a dampening factor against a revolution. And so, June 12 came and was gone just like any other day. In this sense, the day is without historical link to Negros.

However, as with the American revolt against England, it is said to be “a shot heard around the world”. While the June 12 declaration by Aguinaldo did not stir Negros, it did ignite a cord that eventually led to the uprising on November 5 and put an end to Spanish rule in the island.

It is ironic, however, that when Negros won, it declared its own independence and established its own government, distinct and separate from that established by Aguinaldo. The leaders of Negros did not consider the Aguinaldo declaration of June 12 as its independence day. To Negros, November 5 is its freedom day.

Just being courteous, Negros sent a telegram informing Aguinaldo that they had already removed Spanish sovereignty and established their own government. Later Negros opened the possibility of being part of a Philippine federal state. Aguinaldo attempted to dissuade Negros from separating, but was spurned. He even conferred (a bribe?) a general’s rank in the Aguinaldo army to Juan Araneta, the Negros Minister of War. But while Araneta accepted the commission, he refused to comply with Aguinaldo’s orders, among which was humane treatment of priests.

Anyway, Negros celebrates June 12 because there is a law to do so.

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