The Philippine Declaration of Independence occurred on June 12, 1898 at this balcony in Cavite II el Viejo (now Kawit), Cavite, Philippines. With the public reading of the Act of the Declaration of Independence, Filipino revolutionary forces under General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the sovereignty and independence of the Philippine Islands from the oppressive, colonial rule of Spain. How real is our independence as a people? What are the indicators of a truly independent nation?

Today is Philippine Independence Day.

Many of my American missionary colleagues are still claiming that the United States gave us, Filipinos, our independence. They have some historical books to show me, written by American historians.

Well, actually July 4 was observed in the Philippines as Independence Day until August 4, 1964. But then, we were kind of embarrassed that our Independence Day was just a copycat of the American 4th of July Independence Day. So, President Diosdado Macapagal signed into law Republic Act No. 4166. Now, we’re celebrating June 12 as our Independence Day.

Independence cannot be given and cannot be simply received.

Independence is earned!

::  We have to earn genuine freedom from various military, economic, political, and religious systems that still enslave us. For example, both American and Chinese military forces criss-cross our so-called sovereign domain. Multinational corporations dominate our peoples’ labor and our peoples’ sources of livelihood. The so-called national interest is really not the people’s interest, but the interest of the few who influence our executive, legislative, and judicial processes to perpetuate their greed for wealth and power. Our religious expressions are still mostly a copycat of foreign, especially Western, church expressions.

Some still believe that the way to earn genuine freedom is through violence.

Many people, who have been burned out by violence, have given up their dream for justice and peace.

But injustice, unpeace, and poverty are as violent as the weapons of war!

I say, let’s open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to the many creative, active non-violent ways towards a radical transformation of our land.

:: We have to earn genuine independence by praying, advocating, working, even dying (but not killing) for the establishment of a government by the people, of the people, and for the people. This means that we have to train our children on how to make value-driven, ethical choices in choosing their leaders. The election in the school classroom officers and the election of student councils in campuses are good training ground to establish a government by the people.

Our students must be trained to own the platform — the list of good things that their candidates have promised to fulfill. If the candidate who have become a student council officer forgot the promises that was made, the students must be trained to remind the elected leader to fulfill the promises. This is how we train our young people to establish a government of the people.

They also have to learn to make a list of the good things they would do for the school and for the students. They have to learn to monitor the promises they heard from their candidates. They have to be trained to make a solution-oriented action when their student leaders renege on their promises. This is the kind of training on how to establish a government for the people.

Adults must be re-trained to practice their democratic rights. We must see to it that our national security policies are really for the people’s security — especially the protection of the poor and the marginalized segments of our society. We must know and understand our basic human rights, and we must make sure that they are respected regardless of economic, political, religious, ethnic and other discriminatory factors.

:: We have to earn our independence by earning our self-respect, yes, our dignity, as individuals-in-community. Most of us have become so individualistic that we have sold our souls to our selfishness. Our self had become an idol to whose altar we have offered the welfare of the Other in the community of human beings. This is the root of corruption. It is when we misallocate the resources of the community that we corrupt the systems which have been created to serve the communal welfare.

On the other hand, the community or the commune can be reduced to abstract categories like the massesthe people,the collective, that the individual person is eventually dehumanized. When we reduce the value of the individual person into a mere soldier-of-a-cause, then we are merely exploiting that person’s existence as a means to an end. When a person becomes a means to an end, we thingify that person — that is, we regard that human being as mere thing.

I’d say, we must learn to live as individuals-in-community. Our individuality is affirmed, determined, and enriched by our community. The community, on the other hand, is equally affirmed, determined, and enriched by our individuality.

When we learn to live as individuals-in-community, then we will learn to appreciate and enhance our dignity as individuals and as communities. This kind of dignity and self-respect is needed as we work together to define what is good for us as a people. This is the self-respect and dignity we need to face other countries like America, China, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Canada, Australia, and other countries with whom we trade and relate diplomatically.

At present, we are enslaved in unequal relations with the United States and other military-economic powers that drag us into unjust bilateral and multilateral relationships. We’re like being involved in a co-dependent relationship with others who exploit us. Unequal foreign relations will push us deeper into poverty as a nation.

:: We have to earn our independence by continually teaching our youth and children to love farming, to love the soil, to love the earth–to the end that we can ensure agricultural sustainability in the context of the 21st century global reality.

I entered Grade 1 in the early 1960s. I grew up in Sta. Maria, an agricultural town in Laguna. I remember Mr. Sanders, an American Peace Corps volunteer who taught us English and Math. “A is for Apple” was my early English reading lesson. He also taught us to sing “I Have Two Hands.” It goes like this:

I have two hands, the left and the right;
Hold them up high, so clean and bright!
Clap them softly, one, two, three,
Clean little hands are good to see!

40 years later, I realized that most of my batchmates did not stay tilling the land! Not very many of us wanted to dirty our hands with soil! Many became lawyers, teachers, accountants, police officers, politicians, journalists, nurses, physicians and many other career choices that contributed to a force we now call Overseas Filipino Workers. Oh yes, I became a religious clergy — Rev. Dann Pantoja (it’s not Reverend; it’s Revolutionary — the active non-violent kind).

In the biblical creation story, human beings were created by the Creator from soil or earth. The Hebrew word for human being is adam; the word for soil or dirt is adamah. Do you get it? Humanity is one with Mother Earth! Our survival and abundant living as human beings cannot be separated from our oikos — the Greek term for house or household. This is the root of eco-logy and eco-nomy. Our house and our livelihood are so integrated!

We have to rethink our economic and ecological behavior. We have to think of new economic ways and programs that would lead us to a sustainable future for both our rural and urban societies. Our economic-ecological transformation must be guided by a healthy understanding of global realities, balanced with appropriate local activities.

:: We have to earn our independence by training more entrepreneurs who think about the three bottom lines — people, planet, and profit.

Whoah! Profit! That’s bad!

Like money, profit is not evil in itself. Money is not the root of all evil — it’s the love of money.

On one hand, when profit becomes the highest value of the corporate world, it becomes an idol, a false god. That’s the picture of capitalism today; the people and the planet are sacrificed to the altar of a false god called profit.

On the other hand, if profit is people-oriented and planet-oriented, then it becomes a good resource for a kind of industrialization that truly builds a nation; this nation-building kind of industrialization leads to a strong, sustainable economy that would survive, even thrive in both local and global financial waves.

We have to multiply social entrepreneurs who have reverence for the Creator, who have respect for all people, who love our planet, and whose values are transformed to live as individuals-in-community.

:: We have to earn our independence by thinking about our right-to-self-determination as a multi-cultural society. We are a culturally-rich nation, put together in this archipelago like a mosaic. Each ethno-cultural group is a people dreaming to enjoy their right to self determination to the fullest.

But our colonial past left some traumatic wounds among many ethno-linguistic groups in this archipelago. The colonial masters left us with bad systems that oppressed us. Then, the new colonial masters — who look like us, who speak like us, who rule from Metro Manila’s centers of wealth and power — are perpetuating such oppressive systems. They are actually making it worse with acts of betrayal against their own people.

I am a Tagalog who wants to enjoy our right-to-self-determination (RSD) as a people. Likewise, I dream of a country where the Bangsamoros are enjoying their RSD as a people. I pray for the same freedom with all our sisters and brothers in the Cordilleras, our Lumad sisters and brothers in Mindanao, and all other ethno-linguistic groups who are wanting to taste real freedom!

So, who defines a people’s right to self determination. Not Manila. Not Malacanang. Not the foreign powers with interest in the natural resources where these people live. The Bangsamoros will define their own RSD. The Cordillera people will define their own RSD. Each ethno-cultural group will determine the meaning of their RSD. It’s their respective RSDs!

The path towards a country with a mosaic of people enjoying their respective RSDs maybe long and difficult. But as the Chinese saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

Can we unite a people with our respective RSDs? Yes, it would be a big, beautiful single mosaic!

:: We have to earn our independence by learning to truly respect women as equal partners at home, at work, in the academe, in government, in the church, and in all spheres of human life.

I grew up with very clear stereotypes about women.

Then I married Joji Felicitas Bautista. Enough said about my stereotypes.

Joji and I consciously sought to teach our children the principles and practice of democracy in our family life. We taught our children that freedom goes hand-in-hand with responsibility. Democracy is about an individual’s responsible exercise of freedom in the context of the good of the community. The community, in our case, is our family. We prayed, and worked hard, despite many failures along the way, to raise a democratic family so that our children will be good citizens in a democratic society. The equal partnership between Joji and myself are strong message to our family-community on what democracy is all about.

In our small organization called PeaceBuilders Community, women have been amazingly effective and efficient in their leadership tasks.

We hope to see more positive changes in our larger society in terms of the liberation of women from old, unjust stereotyping. We have much work to do as individuals-in-community.

May we truly experience genuine Independence Days as we journey together as a beautiful people in our beautiful land!


Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2013/06/we-still-need-to-earn-our-independence/

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