EVERY JUNE 12, the Philippines celebrates the time when it finally felt free from its colonial invaders. This is all thanks to our national heroes who led in fighting for the country’s freedom. We Filipinos should take the time to remember the significant events that led to the culmination of this turning point for our country that has led towards the true meaning of patriotism to our motherland. 

¡Viva la Independencia Filipina!: A Revolution Carved in Stone 

Deep within the Pamitinan Cave in Rodriguez, Rizal, on April 12, the Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK), a secret revolutionary society led by Andres Bonifacio, sought refuge to plan a movement that would reshape the course of Philippine history. Driven by their unwavering desire for freedom, the Katipuneros inscribed “¡Viva la Independencia Filipina!” within the cave walls. 

Sonia Zaide contemplates in her book, The Philippines: A Unique Nation (1999), that this historical act echoed beyond the cave’s confines, igniting a zeal for change that would later be recognized as the first cry for Philippine independence, forever etched in the archives of Philippine history. 

The Cry of Pugad Lawin: An Awakening Echoed by the Spirit 

In the wake of the discovery of the Katipunan by the Spanish authorities, a clarion call pierced the stillness of the lush fields of Balintawak as Andres Bonifacio summoned his compatriots on the 23rd of August 1896 for a momentous gathering at the house of Juan Ramos. 

In the book “Revolt of the Masses” (1956), Teodoro Agoncillo describes the Katipuneros’ resounding display of unity and defiance, manifested as they tore up their cedulas (community tax certificates), as a reflective representation of the Filipino people’s collective will to break the chains of colonial oppression. Historically known as the Cry of Pugad Lawin, this defining moment marked the birth of armed resistance against Spanish colonial rule. 

The Death of Jose Rizal: A Hero Falls, a Nation Rises 

Although he embraced a pacifist stance and shunned direct involvement in a militant uprising, the Spanish colonial authorities recognized Dr. José Rizal’s role in the Philippine Revolution. Bound by the influx of his liberal aspirations, Rizal’s writings, such as Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo stood as powerful catalysts for nurturing seeds of revolt. As he faced execution by a firing squad in Bagumbayan (Luneta Park) with unyielding courage and dignity, his passing sparked a fiery resolve among Filipino patriots. 

In his widely-acclaimed biography of Rizal titled The First Filipino(1961), León Ma. Guerrero portrays December 30, 1896, as a mournful chapter in Philippine history. On that day, Filipinos grieved the loss of a National Hero, an emblem of unwavering valor in the face of Spain’s attempts to stifle the burgeoning sentiment of independence among the Filipino people. 

The Pact of Biak-na-Bato: A False Hope  

On December 14, 1897, the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was signed by General Emilio Aguinaldo and Spanish Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera. According to the Kahimyang Project, it was a pact that sought to bring a temporary resolution to the armed conflict by establishing a provisional government with a Supreme Council and enshrining fundamental human rights. 

In support of this, the revolutionaries agreed to surrender their weapons and accept exile in Hong Kong, expecting financial compensation and amnesty. However, the Spanish authorities failed to fulfill their promises, leading to a renewed determination among Filipinos to continue the fight for independence. While the pact seemed immaterial, it served as a significant milestone in the arduous quest for Philippine independence, offering a glimpse of the possibilities ahead. 

Marcella Agoncillo – the Philippine Flag in Hong Kong 

Before Emilio Aguinaldo returned to the country during the Philippine Revolution, he envisioned a flag with a white triangle, blue and red, an eight-ray sun, and three stars. But the person who led the creation of the flag itself was none other than Marcela Marina Agoncillo, who is known as the “Mother of the Philippine Flag” according to Amorico Alvarez and Nicolas Ricafrente of the Philippine Center for Masonic Studies. 

The wife of the first Filipino diplomat Don Felipe Encarnacion Agoncillo, and her daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa Natividad, the niece of Dr. Jose Rizal, seamed the Philippine flag. It took them five days to finish it. Gregorio Zaide pointed out in his book, “The Pageant of Philippine History: Political, Economic, and Socio-cultural” (1979) they had to redo the sun’s rays manually since the flag was made out of 100% silk. 

Julian Felipe – Marcha Nacional Filipinas 

As Filipinos, it has become a routine to us that the Philippine national anthem is always played every Monday or at the start of the day in schools or public places. Fun fact, Lupang Hinirang was originally called Marcha Nacional Filipinas, it was composed by music teacher Julian Felipe. What was initially planned for the day of declaration has since then become the national symbolic song for Filipinos. 

In addition to this, not only did he also fight during the revolution, but he was also part of The Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite in which almost all of them were executed on September 12, 1896, but only Felipe was proven innocent and got free months later on June 2, 1897. With that, Felipe is one of the proponents for the buildup of the country’s independence. 

Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista – Act of Declaration of Independence 

According to the Kahimyang Project, Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, a law graduate from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and better known as Don Bosyong, was tasked by Aguinaldo to write the Act of Declaration of Independence. And not only that, he was also instructed to read this at Kawit Cavite. Imagine the significant role he has played in writing and reading a letter that will forever change the political nature of the Philippines. And get this: he is also a distant relative to both national heroes Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. 

In addition, on the day of the declaration of independence itself, Arnaldo Dumindin wrote in a history book, Philippine American War 1899-1902 (2006), that in contrast to the belief of Aguinaldo, the former president, waving the flag, it was Bautista himself. Basically, he wrote, read, and even waved for nationalism which brought a spark for a love of country. 

Remembering our history is crucial, as George Santayana stated that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This past Independence Day, we commemorate and remember our Filipino brothers and sisters who fought to free us from our invaders.  

(with Rizian Veniz Balleta)