By Darryl John Esguerra

CELEBRATING 126 YEARS OF FREEDOM. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. leads the flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Monument in Rizal Park, Manila, to commemorate the 126th Philippine Independence Day on Wednesday (June 12, 2024). Marcos said the times may be different but Filipinos continue to fight fairly in their day-to-day lives. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday urged Filipinos to show the world the country’s might through their patriotism and unity to defend Philippine territory.

“Ang ating mga ninuno ay hindi umurong sa digmaan, kaya’t tayo ay hindi rin tatalikod sa tungkuling ipagtanggol ang ating nasasakupan (Our ancestors did not back down from war, so we will also not turn our back on our duty to defend our territory),” Marcos said as the country marked 126 years of its independence.

Speaking at the culmination event of the week-long celebration of the country’s liberation from colonial oppression, Marcos said the observance is more than just a commemoration of the birth of the Philippine Republic but a strong affirmation of the commitment to continue defending what the forefathers fought for.

“Ipakita natin sa buong daigdig na ang tunay na kapangyarihan ay hindi nasusukat sa lakas o yaman, kung hindi sa tunay na kahulugan at katuwiran ng ating ipinaglalaban, sa alab ng pag-ibig sa bayan, at sa di-matatawarang pagkakaisa ng ating mga mamamayan (Let us show the whole world that true power is not measured by strength or wealth, but by the true meaning and integrity of what we are fighting for, in the flame of love for country, and in the immense unity of our people),” he said.

“Mananatili tayong matatag at hindi tayo matitinag (We will stand firm and we will not be shaken).”

With this, the President said the Philippines would not just look back on the past but also live on with its lessons to build a better and freer future.

The Chief Executive called on Filipinos to continue being proud of their race.

“Lagi lamang po nating tandaan: Ang kasaysayan ang siyang susi natin tungo sa wagas at tunay na kalayaan, at sa kinabukasang puno ng pag-asa, kaliwanagan, at kasaganahan (Let us always remember: History is our key to pure and true freedom, and to a future full of hope, clarity, and abundance),” he said.

The President made the pronouncement in the face of rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea, heightened by China’s continued aggression.

‘Commitment to defend PH enduring’

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año reaffirmed the government’s commitment to safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty and security “despite the complexities and uncertainties of today’s world.”

Año, likewise, maintained that defending our sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea remains a paramount priority.

“We stand firm in upholding the 2016 Arbitral Award and adhere to a rules -based international order to ensure our maritime entitlements are respected. The quest for peace and security remains at the forefront of our national agenda. We work tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of every Filipino, countering both internal and external threats to uphold our nation’s sovereignty and freedoms,” he added. (With reports from Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)