INDEPENDENCE DAY marks the nation’s independence from Spanish rule on June 12, 1898.
Known in the Philippines as “Araw ng Kasarinlan” or “Freedom Day”, Filipinos have celebrated it every year for 124 years.
Since the mid-16th century, the Philippines had been part of the Spanish Empire. A secret group called ‘Katipunan’ made up of Filipino activists who wanted independence had been uncovered in 1896. This led to the start of the independence struggle.
In 1897, a truce had been signed between the revolutionaries and the Spaniards, the leaders of the revolution agreeing to go into exile outside the Philippines.
In 1898, after attacks on American interests in the region by the Spanish during the Spanish-American War, the United States lent its support to the independence movement, bringing back the rebel leader
Emilio Aguinaldo from exile, who rallied local Filipino support. United against the Spanish with American forces, more than 300 years of Spanish rule came to an end when Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence at Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898. The flag of the Philippines was raised and its anthem national was first played in 1898. However, the freedom was short-lived as Spain and the United States did not recognize the declaration.
The 1898 Treaty of Paris ended the war between Spain and the United States. Spain ceded the entire archipelago including the Philippines to the United States. Under the Treaty of Paris, Spain agreed to cede the Philippines to the United States upon payment of $20 million.
A year later, some Filipinos began to think that all that had happened was that Spanish rule had been replaced by American rule, leading to the Philippine-American War. The result of this was the suppression of the Philippine insurgency and the ongoing American occupation with limited autonomy.
The Philippines started a revolt against the United States in 1899.
In 1935, the Philippines became a self-governing Commonwealth. Manuel Quezon was elected president and charged with preparing the country for independence after a 10-year transition.
In 1942, the islands fell under Japanese occupation during World War II. American forces and Filipinos fought together from 1944 to 1945 to regain control. On July 4, 1946, the Republic of the Philippines acquired national sovereignty through the Treaty of Manila. Independence Day was officially celebrated on July 4 until Republic Act No. 4166, which moved the holiday to June 12, was approved on August 4, 1964, by President Diosdado Macapagal.
Independence Day is a public holiday. It’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.
In 2022 it falls on a Sunday and some businesses may choose to follow Sunday business hours.
A public holiday, 16 Flag Days
As President Fidel V. Ramos ordered in his Executive Decree No. 179 in 1994, Independence Day must be celebrated for 16 days, from May 28 to June 12. By this decree, the period was designated as Flag Days, during which all offices, government agencies, commercial establishments, educational institutions, and private homes are requested to display the Philippine flag.
The Philippine flag was adopted in May 1898. Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista mentioned in the Declaration of Independence in 1898 that the three colors – red, white and blue, serve as a debt of gratitude to honor the American flag. However, this was later contradicted by Emilio Aguinaldo. He clarified that the red color represented the bravery of the Filipinos, the blue represented the way the Filipinos would rather die than surrender to the enemy, and the white color symbolized the Filipinos’ love of peace.
How is Independence Day celebrated?
Independence Day is a day when many people, including government officials, employees, and students, participate in nationwide parades. However, the main highlight is the police and military parade in Manila led by the country’s incumbent president, followed by a speech and a 21-gun salute. Many Filipinos spend the day in parks and malls. Many Filipino communities in other countries also observe the country’s Independence Day celebrations.
Philippine Independence Day is a public holiday, so government offices are closed. There are absolutely no courses in all schools. Many commercial establishments are closed with the exception of shopping malls. Public transport such as buses, jeeps and tricycles still operate, but their routes may be limited due to the closure of streets used for parades.
The flag of the Republic of the Philippines, representing the country is symbolized by the following:
- Royal blue field – peace, truth and justice.
- Scarlet red field – patriotism and bravery.
- White triangle — equality and fraternity.
- Three stars at the corners of the triangle – the three main geographical regions of the country, namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
- The sun in the center of the triangle – has eight rays representing the eight provinces of the Philippines that started the revolt against Spain.
The flag is seen at various locations in cities and towns across the Philippines during the country’s Independence Day. Many cars also fly miniature flags on this day.
Three facts about Independence Day
- The yo-yo was invented in the Philippines as a traditional hunting weapon.
- The islands were named after King Philip II of Spain by 16th century Spanish explorers.
- The flag of the Philippines is the only national flag flown differently in times of peace and war. One part of the flag is blue, while the other is red. The blue part is flown over in times of peace and the red part is flown over in times of war.