We missed out on Independence Day this year – Philippine Independence Day, that is.
Our plans to go to the Independence Day parade and Street Fair on Madison Avenue were unfortunately sidelined by an x-ray and a trip to the operating room. So much for our day of total immersion in Pinoy culture and the inevitable barbecue and pansit… Sayang. But perhaps next year.
Amidst the perpetual clicking and tapping of crutches throughout the house, I realized something for the first time this year (perhaps since we were home and not celebrating elsewhere!). And that was this: Every year, Philippine Independence Day – June 12th – precedes two seemingly unrelated events. The first of this is Flag Day, celebrated on June 14th.
Flag Day commemorates the day in 1777 when the U.S. flag was adopted by Congress, a year after its independence from Great Britain. We celebrated, as we now love to do on patriotic holidays, by heartily singing along to the CD Wee Sing America.
(The Philippines, too, celebrates Flag Day, or “Araw ng Watawat”, on May 28th, in honor of the Battle of Alapan – after which victory was declared and the Philippine flag unfurled for the very first time. This day sparks off a 2-week celebration culminating on Independence Day.)
The day after U.S. Flag day, June 15th, another event is commemorated, of which this year is its 800th anniversary: the signing of the Magna Carta (Latin for “Great Charter”). Written by a group of 13th century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king, this charter of liberties was the first of its kind. For the first time in history, not even a king was above the law.
Though seemingly unrelated, both of these events played a role in Philippine Independence.
Though the barons who wrote the Magna Carta intended it for their own purposes and not for the common good, less than 600 years later, it inspired colonists in America to fight for their own rights and independence, thus paving the way for democracy, and the adoption of the U.S. flag as a symbol of national unity.
One hundred years later, the Philippines too began its fight for independence – first from Spanish, then from American colonization. And as we moved towards independence from America, we nevertheless sought to retain the very same American democracy inspired by the Magna Carta.
And so it seems only appropriate for our kids to have a triple history celebration every year, about a week before the summer solstice – Philippine Independence Day, followed by (U.S.) Flag Day, followed by the anniversary of the Magna Carta.
Three events in three separate continents, centuries apart and yet intimately linked.
Even as we celebrate these events, it is good to remember with gratitude the people throughout history who by their efforts secured for us the freedoms we enjoy today – and their reasons for doing so. May we be as zealous in preserving the fruits of their efforts today.