A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: One more Independence Day

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 June)  — Here comes the bride, all dressed in white.  This sentence – usually sung – figures prominently this month as June supposedly has been the preferred month for weddings as the woman in white wants to be known as a June bride.

But June is also the month when on one of its days – today – Filipinos celebrate their Independence Day. It used to be that in all small towns and cities across the archipelago, the day would be celebrated with a flag-raising ceremony at the town or city hall grounds and a parade followed with a program of prayers, speeches and Filipino songs and dances.  In the 50s-60s when I was growing up in Digos City, it was compulsory for all students to join the parade. Of course, attendance was checked.  But if memory serves me right, I think I was born already when the Independence Day celebrated by my parents was July 4, which is the USA’s Freedom Day and now labeled in our country as Philippine-American Friendship Day!

(An aside:  if the Americans have been treating us as friends, and yet look at how Washington has treated us shabbily through history, imagine if the USA were our enemy?)

So how is Independence Day being celebrated today throughout the Republic (supposedly one of the first to arise in Asia)?  I am sure there are flag-raising ceremonies to which public servants in the State’s bureaucracy from Malacañang all the way down to the lowliest barangays are required to attend. Check attendance, of course.  My hunch is that very few local government units organize a parade with all that jazz – floats with historical scenes, barangay contingents, the police and military brandishing their guns and a loud marching band with majorettes revealing their sexy legs and thighs!  Those were the parades I saw in my youth.

The TV networks, of course, outdo one another to have their Independence Day pakulo. But one wonders, if their Independence Day specials – mainly composed of songs sung by their own celebrities punctuated with advertisements promoting foreign products – really is a heartfelt valentine to the Filipino people. One can’t help but be cynical about this, as TV networks – viciously outdoing one another for the almighty ratings – just want to have seduced people’s patronage on a day when most family members are relaxing at home.

If today is really a day for us to celebrate our having attained an independent sovereign Republic status (read: we finally shattered the chains that enslaved us to colonial imprisonment) how can we celebrate it meaningfully? Well, we will need to deconstruct the word – Independence. Independent from whom and from what?  We all know that shortly after our Republic’s founding parents declared the Republic inside the Barasoain church, another Western State attacked us; consequently, we got shackled again by the chains of colonial rule.  Spain (a colonial power that invented the Inquisition) sold us to the United States of America (a colonial power that introduced Benevolent Assimilation which is an oxymoron; what was so benevolent about all that massacres that Americans committed against our people from Manila to Samar to Bud Dajo in Jolo?).

While today we should remember the Kagalang-galangan’g Kataas-taasan’g Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan and all the nation’s bayanis – men and women, elders and youth, elite illustrado and masang magsasaka, Tagalogs and all others, pre-colonial and post-colonial –  whose heroic exploits led us to that day at the Barasoain church, perhaps it is time our remembrance of this day will not just be an exercise of returning to the past but taking stock of where we are at present and projecting ourselves to the future.  We need to expand our vision of what it is to be a truly independent nation-state in the context of today’s realities not just in the realm of the socio-political-economic, but also that of the cultural-ecological.

Here are this writer’s humble suggestions as to how we can make our Independence Day this year far more memorable than just having a flag-raising ceremony and cocktails at Malacañang. We can expand the KKK’s coverage to read as Kagalang-galangan’g, Kataas-taasan’g Kalikasan. For truth be told, we need to immensely respect what would be the apex of God’s creation, namely Mother Nature of which we – human beings – are but a small unit. In fact, we are Johnny-come-latelys to this scene compared to other species that have been in this planet thousands upon thousands of years before the homo erectus made its entrance in this landscape.

Vis-a-vis policies and programs related to ecology – considering the threat of mass destruction that could come about if climate change worsens – it is important for us Filipinos to work towards sovereignty in regard to how we deal with the environment.

Thus, we should pressure our government – if it is truly of, by and for the people – to adopt nationalist policies in terms of the kind of investments the State should promote. We should not allow foreign entities with their local partners to lord it over our patrimony; instead we should push for our people’s control over our resources which are found in our remaining forests, seas and beneath the earth. We should become active advocates promoting alternative sources of energy, protecting our people from destruction that comes about because of what we do to our environment and we should do our best to be engaged in risk-reduction given how our islands are so vulnerable to the vagaries of natural calamities.

So Filipino people, especially those of you in Mindanao, particular in Davao City, support campaigns that would:

–          Stop all kinds of mining – especially open-pit mining – that destroy our eco-system, impoverish our people further especially the Lumad who get dislocated with such schemes, create animosities among us who are at the losing end of such operations and will contribute further to global warming.

–          Resist the setting up of coal-fired power plants everywhere.

–          Resist the temptation to explore nuclear power

–          Stop the housing projects aimed at Maa Shrine Hills and turn this place into a park that will benefit all of Davao City’s residents (this could be duplicated in all other towns and cities in the country where hills are usually turned into high-end housing estates without regard to the possible landslides that could happen)

–          Continuing destruction of our mangroves, coral reefs and forests

–          Plant more trees; for the DENR to allocate more funds for reforestation (and not just plant fast-growing trees but our indigenous hard wood trees)

–          Promote organic farming and cultivation of herbs for food and medicine purposes

–          Anything and everything that is good for the integrity of creation.

–          Anything and everything that will make Mother Nature independent from those who are so greedy they only care for the now and not tomorrow, for themselves and not for most people and the generations still to come (vis-a-vis the discourse of inter-generational justice) and for the material benefits they can squeeze out of the environment rather than the so many other benefits we derive when we truly love creation as a gift of our Creator.

Happy Independence Day everyone!  And to the June brides and bridegrooms: insist on wedding ceremonies and reception parties that help protect rather than destroy Mother Nature who is the source of all LOVE.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar of Davao City, is author of several books, including “To be poor and obscure,” “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures,” “The Masses are Messiah: Contemplating the Filipino Soul,” and the recently-launched“Manobo Dreams in Arakan.” He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English [A Sojourner’s Views] and the other in Binisaya [Panaw-Lantaw].)