Spain brought us Christianity that bordered on the ritualistic, sometimes pagan rites and the almost deification of the clergy.Â The Spanish bureaucrats and the soldiers subjugated the tribes into smallÂ fiefdoms and then ruled them.
For 400 years, Filipino generation upon generation were made to believe we were near slaves, incapable of governing ourselves and that not embracing the spanish brand of Christianity was a one-way ticket to hell.
The Americans made us believe that we owed our Independence and freedom from them.Â The Americans felt that they â€œliberatedâ€ the country from Spain by destroying the Spanish armada fleet in Manila Bay.Â Thereafter, after 400 years of Spanish oppression, a jubilant Filipino armed leader Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines independence from across his house balcony in historic Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.
But the greedly Americans were not to easily give up this country which became the second most progressive nation in Asia (next to Japan).Â We were then an extension of Americaâ€™s interests in Asia â€“ a virtual fiefdom without its being called so.Â Regardless.
It was only when the Americans again â€œliberatedâ€ the country from the Japanese Imperial Forces in 1946 were we â€œgrantedâ€ our true independence specifically on the 4th of July, Americaâ€™s own Freedom Day.
To the credit, then, of former President Diosdado Macapagal that he changed the Philippine Independence Day celebration from July 4 to June 12 beginning 1962 â€“ which is indeed the more appropriate date.
Dates aside, how free sometimes indeed are we now as to say we can truly celebrate our Independence Day?
The first freedom is the freedom to live â€“ and therefore freedom from want â€“ otherwise the idea of freedom is merely an abstract concept for Juan dela Cruz.
For indeed a free man must have both economic freedom and political freedom.
Millions wallow below the poverty line and the nation lives in an inverted pyramid where 10% of the population controls 90% of the nationâ€™s wealth.Â It is re dangerous social volcano.
For Filipinos to be economically free, he must be either gainfully employed or runs his own business as entrepreneur.Â In a capital starved country like ours, the savings rate versus the GDP is simplyÂ not there â€“ for the simpleÂ reason that everything Juan de la Cruz earns he consumes for his sustenance.Â Very often, his expenditures exceed his income. Â Usually, he ends with your famous usurer and not all of them wear turbans, we tell you true.
He cannot go into business because the Banking System does not always give credit where credit is due.Â For instance, the criteria for extending loans to business â€“ often called the â€œthree C of creditâ€ automatically exclude the poor Juan dela Cruz from the matrix.
For Juan de la Cruz does not have the first C:Â â€œcollateralâ€ â€“ he often lives in a shanty or a dwelling he does not own; his appliances under financing terms.Â He does not have the (second C) â€“ â€œcapacity to payâ€ and his (third C) â€œcharacterâ€ â€“ requires a co-maker who is often unavailable or is over-borrowed himself.
The Banking system apparently only gives credit to those who donâ€™t need it.Â It has therefore sometimes become unwittingly an instrument in the perpetuation of the inequality of wealth distribution and opportunity.
Others look at Education as the goose that lays the golden eggs.Â But how many can afford Philippine education today?
Only one out of the ten students who enter Grade One will ever get to finishÂ College â€“ due to economic and other reasons. So therefore, the expensive GovernmentÂ program of giving free elementary and high school education is laid to waste then.Â Without a college diploma, at least, who will employ him? Is the K-12 the answer?
And even with a college diploma in town he joins the ranks of the 1 million new graduates every year â€“ searching for scarce jobs â€“ competing among themselves and the unemployed. It is no wonder that the Department of Foreign Affairs approves papers of 1 million Filipinos every year to get a chance for themÂ Â to be workers in a land not our own.
Are we economically free, therefore? Politically free?
Are we independent country when people who have the money â€“ buy peopleâ€™s vote, those who have the guns terrorize the results of the election and those who have the political clout force command votes and coerce people to vote like slaves without will and power?
Are we free with the snailâ€™s pace of justice and with many of the courts manned by judges derided as â€œhoodlums in robes?â€ Can a justice system thrive with such a miniscule budget while the Military gets at least P50 billion per year for Modernization (on top of its gargantuan budget)?
Are we really free when some Media men themselves sell their press badge and dignity for thirty pieces of very dirty silver? Who will give us that freedom of choice or freedom of thought?
Are we free when the scores of extrajudicial killings and disappearances have not been solved and Gen. Jovito â€œThe Butcherâ€Â Palparan vanishing like a bubble?
Are we free when the country is dubbed the second most dangerous place for media men outside of war-torn Iraq and Syria? â€œAre we worse than free,â€ as Vergel Santosâ€™ famous book is titled?
Our hard â€“ earned democracy â€“ fought for and defended from Mactan to Balintawak to Bataan and Corregidor, Tirad Pass and EDSA â€“ is work â€“ in â€“ progress.Â But we just work on it like laggards.Â Such a pity.
Let us henceforth value our independence by acting like we are free.Â Shall we?
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