By Darryl John Esguerra

KALAYAAN 2024. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. leads the 126th Independence Day ceremony at the Jose Rizal Monument in Rizal Park, Manila on Wednesday (June 12, 2024). The First Family, government and military officials also witnessed the wreath-laying ceremony on the monument and the singing of the Bagong Pilipinas hymn and reciting of the Bagong Pilipinas pledge. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc) 

MANILA – As the Philippines marks the 126th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the true spirit of freedom can be seen in every Filipino’s fight against daily challenges and oppression.

In his message for the Independence Day commemoration, Marcos lauded the admirable characteristics of every freedom-loving Filipino exemplified by the country’s farmers, fisherfolk, teachers, and soldiers.

“While the times may be different our struggles remain the same. Still, we continue to witness the true spirit of freedom in every Filipino who fights fairly in their day-to-day lives,” Marcos said.

“We see it in the resilience of our farmers and fisherfolks as they provide us sustenance. We see it in the dedication of our teachers as they nurture the minds of the future generation. We see it in the tenacity of our soldiers as they protect every inch of our territory, adamant as they are in the certainty that Filipinos do not, and shall never, succumb to oppression,” he added.

Marcos led the nationwide commemoration in a flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Park Monument in Manila.

He also laid a wreath before the monument of national hero Jose Rizal and led the recitation of the Bagong Pilipinas Pledge and Hymn.

Simultaneous flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies also took place at the Dambanang Emilio Aguinaldo in Cavite; Barasoain Church Historical Landmark in Malolos City, Bulacan; Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine in San Juan City; Mausoleo delos Veteranos dela Revolucion in Manila North Cemetery; Andres Bonifacio National Monument in Caloocan City; and Museo ng Kasaysayang Panlipunan ng Pilipinas in Angeles City, Pampanga.

He is one with the Filipinos in commemorating the proclamation of Philippine independence, the President said.

“On that glorious day in Kawit, Cavite 126 years ago, the triumphant tunes of our national anthem echoed throughout the jubilant air as our flag freely waved for the first time,” Marcos said.

The First Family (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

“It heralded the birth of the Philippines and declared to the world the untiring resolve of the Filipinos to chart their own destiny as a sovereign nation,” he added.

He then commended the strong sense of nationalism of Filipinos and their resolve to be united in protecting the freedom passed on by our ancestors.

“A century and a quarter have passed since we unshackled the chains of subjugation yet the fervor of nationalism persistently burns brightly in each of us today. We stand united as ever, upholding with pride the hard-earned liberty bequeathed to us by our forebears,” Marcos said.

He also urged Filipinos to be dedicated to aspiring for a “Bagong Pilipinas” (New Philippines) where they can have a brighter future.

“As we celebrate the founding of our nation today, let us dedicate ourselves to the challenging but rewarding task of realizing the full potential of the Filipinos and building a Bagong Pilipinas – one that truly embodies the ideals of a just, progressive, and independent Republic,” he said.

‘Protect freedom from threats, intimidation’

Marcos also called on Filipinos to protect the country’s hard-earned freedom and ensure that it would remain unfazed by intimidation, conquest, and oppression.

In a video message for the 126th anniversary of the Philippine Independence, Marcos paid tribute to the gallantry of the Philippines’ forefathers who fought to liberate the country from colonizers.

“Isang karangalan ang mapabilang sa lahing Pilipino na ang mga ninuno ay magiting at nakipaglaban upang maibalik ang kasarinlan at kapayapaan sa ating bansa (It is an honor to belong to the Filipino race whose brave ancestors fought to restore independence and peace to our country),” Marcos said.

“At bilang tagapagmana ng kalayaan na tinatamasa natin ngayon, tungkulin ng bawat isa sa atin na pangalagaan ito at tiyakin na hindi na tayo kailan man magpapatinag sa banta ng pananakot, pananakop at pang-aapi (And as inheritors of the freedom we enjoy today, it is the duty of each one of us to protect it and ensure that we are never again swayed by the threat of intimidation, conquest, and oppression).”

Bearing the theme, “Kalayaan. Kinabukasan. Kasaysayan”, this year’s event embraces the new Bagong Pilipinas tradition of commemorating the country’s freedom.

Various fun activities and entertaining events are being held at the Quirino Grandstand celebrating Filipino heritage and patriotism.

Tourism frontliners honored

The Department of Tourism also honored tourism frontliners on Independence Day, describing them as one of the country’s modern-day heroes.

“Our modern-day heroes, which include our tourism workers, both here and abroad, play a vital role in showcasing the best of what our country has to offer — from the welcoming smiles at our airports to the passionate tour guides sharing stories of our rich history, and the hardworking individuals behind the scenes ensuring unforgettable experiences – they are the heart and soul of Philippine tourism,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said in her Independence Day message.

“Their passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment continue to inspire us all,” she added.

Frasco had been personally awarding millions worth of free insurance and tour guiding kits to tour guides across the country.

Some of the tour guides based in Lake Sebu and General Santos City were among the latest recipients of the insurance policies last week.

Unite to protect freedom

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos urged the Filipino people to look back and pay tributes to heroes for their unparalleled bravery and love for the nation that achieved freedom.

“Tayo ay magkaisa upang masigurong ang ating tinatamasang kalayaan ay maprotektahan at mapangalagaan tungo sa sagana, payapa at ligtas na Bagong Pilipinas (Let us unite to ensure that the freedom we enjoy is protected and preserved towards an abundant, peaceful and safe New Philippines),” he said in a statement.

He encouraged the public to help the government in fighting illegal drugs, criminality, corruption, and other social ills that cause pain and suffering to the people.

For his part, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rommel Francisco Marbil renewed his call on police force to continue serving the Filipino people well.

“We recognize that a secure and peaceful environment is essential for realizing our aspirations for a prosperous and resilient future. In this light, we continue to uphold the values of service, honor, and justice in our daily duties,” Marbil said in a statement.

“This Independence Day, let us rekindle our sense of patriotism and our dedication to the principles of democracy, equality, and unity. Together, let us celebrate our freedom, shape our future, and honor our past, for we are one nation, one people, and one destiny,” he stressed.

The PNP deployed over 11,000 police officers to secure the celebration of the country’s 126th Independence Day.

‘Rally behind our leaders’

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the faithful to pray and rally behind the government officials and Church leaders.

“Greetings to my beloved Philippines as she celebrates Independence Day. I pray that Our Almighty Father bless our beloved country as she faces today herculean challenges both locally and internationally,” Military Ordinariate of the Philippines Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio said in a statement.

“I also pray that we the constituents of the Philippine Republic be blessed as well so as to rally behind our leaders both the government and the ecclesiastical leaders for the betterment of our country and not just a few people,” he said.

Florencio, chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, emphasized the importance of conversion and humility to the Lord to find the grace of the Holy Spirit for the country.

“Send your Holy Spirit upon us oh Lord so that together we renew our community and our country with much humility and love so that this beloved country might be a better place to live. We shall proclaim to the whole world that you are our Father and Lord. Long live the Philippines,” he said. (Joyce Ann Rocamora, Ferdinand Patinio and Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)