For the 114th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence, the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) has prepared an interactive historical timeline on key events of the Philippine Revolution—spanning the years 1872 to 1907.
Today, we present you a new historical timeline, the contribution of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) to the commemoration of the 114th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence. This is a narrative familiar to us all, but translated into a new medium. It is a platform that exploits our perspective—we are privileged to stand more than a century beyond the history now being recalled. The dates with the most reverberations beg the audience to call them milestones and viewers of the project can point to a person and call him “hero” or “martyr” or “filibustero.” This is the context—and the convenience—that our histories have always provided us with.
With context, however, we tend to forget that despite the narrative—in spite of the order provided by syllabi and tables of contents and pundits—it is necessary for us to examine closely each event, each date that resonated, each man and woman who rose among their peers. And this, we hope, is what the timeline offers—that hand in hand with perspective are the myriad opportunities to lean in close.
The PCDSPO has taken its cue from President Benigno S. Aquino III, who, last year, launched the commemoration of the 113th Anniversary of Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite—where the Philippine flag was first waved before its people, where the nation first heard the martial beat of Lupang Hinirang. From Kawit, the President echoed the rallying cry of our forefathers: That we were ushering in a new chapter in our history, where every Filipino held his fate in his own hands, that the rewards of his future can be reaped by him alone. He underscored the true essence of a free Philippines—that as our heroes had stood up against foreign rule, so do we stand resolute against the twin scourges of the modern-day world: corruption and poverty.
In choosing Kawit as the site of the commemoration, President Aquino led the retracing of our collective narrative—of a holistic view of the nation’s story, and, yet, with a focus on particular, significant events. There is a recognition of all the elements that make the whole stronger—that with knowledge and due appreciation of certain events and struggles and personalities, all the more profound and prized does our freedom become.
This year, the President heads the ceremonies from the historic Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan—the venue of the Malolos Congress, which then drafted and promulgated the Constitution of our First Republic. (The curious may note that the President’s great-grandfather, Servillano Aquino, was a delegate to the Malolos Congress—in many ways, today’s commemoration at Barasoain is a homecoming.) From within this church did the first democracy in Asia rise—General Emilio Aguinaldo would take his oath as President of the Philippines, thus cementing the basis of our independence and Philippine government itself, as creations of the sovereign will of the people themselves: the first to overthrow a colonial power in the Orient.
Today marks one hundred and fourteen years since the Philippines declared itself independent from Spain with the full panoply of nationhood: flag, anthem, and a head of state. It was meant to be the culmination of an arduous crusade to attain liberty from colonial rule.
The Kawit Proclamation, too, put forward a narrative: one harking back to ancient times, organic authority, duped and crushed by colonial rule; and it traced the resurgence of native pride and its transformation into nationalism.
First, a nation needed to be established—and it took the execution of three priests. Through their deaths reverberating down history and among men who felt most strongly the urge to stand up for the equality of Filipinos and Spaniards, was the nation born. This near-fragile idea of the collective then needed to be nurtured; we needed a man who, in his life and through his books, would ruthlessly point to the injustices and inequities of more than three centuries: thus was Rizal and his fellow Propagandists who vowed to prove the pen truly mightier than sword. But then came the paradox of Enlightenment: that in the face of colonial stubbornness, reason by itself could not prevail.
We then rose up in arms and began to fight—fiercer fights, fights that had an ultimate goal: to seek and attain independence as one country, as a people that kept its own counsel, that had a right to itself. Blood was shed, documents were signed—and a revolutionary society, the Katipunan, was forged. But this first crusade, at its completion, was only the beginning: it came to an end in fraternal strife in Tejeros, where the Supremo Bonifacio was deposed, and Aguinaldo declared Generalissimo.
After a temporary settlement at Biak-na-Bato, the Revolution resumed, with Aguinaldo coming home from exile to proclaim independence at Kawit. With our freedom still in its infancy, foreigners once again came to our shores with the threat of reinstituting the subjugation, under the guise of “benevolent assimilation,” that we had just unshackled ourselves from—that which we had just fought against—and we once again rose to defend our rightful independence.
Phrased this way, there is a linearity to this chapter of our history—and this rote causality may be why the story of how we freed ourselves from Spanish rule (only to face off with American imperialists) has become deeply embedded in the collective consciousness. Indeed, we can point to six major movements in our pursuit of independence—the first, from the execution of Gomburza, to the Enlightenment efforts of Rizal through his novels leading a campaign for reformation; the second, from the founding of the Katipunan to the tragedy of Tejeros; the third, from Aguinaldo’s assuming the mantle of leadership and the Pact of Biak-na-Bato; and the fourth, in the resumption of the objective of establishing a government, to that government fighting to retain its liberty against American forces—to the fifth, protracted yet peaceful campaign to restore our independence which led to our independent nationhood in 1946, and the sixth stage, where Filipinos had to reclaim their liberty and democracy from home-grown dictatorship: all these leads us to infer, correctly, that it was through many efforts, and many narratives, that we could call ourselves a nation free.
But this, again, is an inference granted by perspective. Indeed, the triumphs that most define our eventual attainment of independence stand alongside the missteps of fallible personalities, the casualties of suspect decisions, contrasting and even conflicting intentions, and even the bitter defeats—and we must take care to look at them one by one.
We have been most diligent in our attempts for linearity—we have insisted on labeling, on causality, on crafting a comprehensible chronology. We have sat through countless history lectures in our years in school and have been taught that because one indio bravo was shot at daybreak, our thirst for freedom was, at long last, triggered. We have read all the books when the sway of nationalism assails us, and we learn of skirmishes and valiant battles, not unlike fairytales—the heroes that people them not unlike myths. On the yearly commemoration of the anniversary of Philippine Independence, having bought newspapers from the manang at the corner with a bouquet of Philippine flags at her side, we open them and read commentaries on the true meaning of nationhood and testimonials on what independence means for us twenty-first century folk, those of us who’ve never taken up arms and ran, blood rushing, toward a fight for freedom.
These attempts, after all, spring from the perspective that modernity affords us. And this is a perspective that the PCDSPO has utilized and attempted to transform, in having prepared an interactive timeline on key events of the Philippine Revolution. Here is the whole of our pursuit of independence from foreign rule, and here, too, are all the elements that make up that whole. We then urge a fine-tuning to the methods of how we revisit our histories. This timeline hopes to do so with how we view the decades that gave rise to our independence: with an awareness of the whole story, and with keen attention to the individual events—and all their intricate makings—that nonetheless came together and gave birth to an identity, to a nation, and, ultimately, a state.
The challenge for us now is to take piecemeal the events and the personalities, the intentions and the motivations. The challenge is for us to keep remembering that our nation has long been in possession of a dynamic, ever-evolving definition of independence, and that all these definitions must be acknowledged—all the better to form one for our times.