THINK ON THESE: Fil-Am Friendship Day

In the United States, there are two big celebrations that Americans really welcome. No, it’s not Christmas Day nor New Year’s Day. Americans celebrate Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day with much ado.

Some years back, I had the pleasure of being in the US when Independence Day (yes, it was made into a movie which became a blockbuster all over the world!) was celebrated. I was staying in the house of my uncle Carl Day and his wife, aunt Aida, in Winchester Canal, Ohio.

My sister Elena Chase and her family – husband Daniel and two sons, Erik and Phil – had to travel all the way from Grand Rapids, Minnesota to join us. (I did join them when they returned back to their place.)

Carl Jr. and his wife also came. Tina brought her parents and his brother. The other son, Chris, wasn’t able to join us since he and his family were living at that time in Alpharetta in Georgia.

Uncle Carl brought a lot of fireworks. My aunt Aida and my sister Elena cooked several food while Dan and myself grilled some chickens and beef. We had a lot of fun. At night, we had a memorable fireworks display.

“Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States,” Wikipedia notes.

What makes the celebration even more popular is that Independence Day is the National Day of the United States. That is the reason why “Fourth of July” or “July Fourth” has a deeper meaning among Americans.

There was a time when we also celebrated Fourth of July as our Independence Day. The reason: on July 4, 1946, the Treaty of Manila was signed granting the Philippines independence from the United States.

Here’s a bit of history from the book, Handbook Philippines, edited by Niklas Reese and Rainer Werning. In the summer of 1898, American President William McKinley gave an account on how he was prompted for more than one night to wrestle the Philippines from Spain:

“And one late night it came to me this way – I don’t know how but it came: (1) That we could not give them (the Philippines) back to Spain – that would be cowardly and dishonorable; (2) That we could not turn them over to France or Germany – our commercial rivals in the Orient – that would be bad business and discreditable; That we could not leave them to themselves – they were unfit for self-government – and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there, worse than Spain’s was; and

“(4) That there was nothing left for us to do but take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace to do the best we could for them, as our fellowmen for whom Christ also died.”

And so it came to pass our country was an American possession from 1898 to 1946, first as a territory and then as a Commonwealth beginning in 1935.

“Between 1941 and 1945, the Empire of Japan occupied the Islands during the Second World War; the Commonwealth government-in-exile headed by President Manuel Luis Quezon was based in Australia and later in the United States,” Wikipedia reported.

“A campaign to retake the country began in October 1944, when General Douglas MacArthur landed in Leyte along with Sergio Osmeña, who succeeded to the presidency after Quezon’s death in 1944. The battles entailed long fierce fighting; some of the Japanese continued to fight until the official surrender of the Japan on 2 September 1945,” it added.

On fourth of July in 1946, the Philippines gained complete independence.

Today, July 4 is known as Philippine Republic Day or Filipino-American Friendship Day. We celebrate Independence Day on June 12, the day when we declared our independence from Spain.

Three years ago, The Manila Times came up with an editorial. It went this way: “The celebration of Philippine-American Friendship Day is meant to remind us – and Americans – of our two countries’ long-standing friendship. This developed after the forces of the First Philippine Republic were defeated by those of the United States and our archipelago became an American colony.

“The Philippines and the United States have maintained closeness that some Filipinos call a ‘special relationship.’ Cynically, some Filipinos laugh about that fiction – for they say the US government does not do anything with, in and for the Philippines unless it serves US interests. That, to us, is an unproductive and unnecessarily negative way of seeing these ties. For our government also does not do anything with, in and for the USA unless it serves our interests. That is how mature governments deal with each other.

“It is true, however, that some Filipinos are more sentimentally attached to America than others. And we suspect that for various reasons – the foremost one being the predominance of American good life images on TV and films – much more than 50% of all Filipinos would vote for the Philippines to become an American state, or Commonwealth (as in the years from 1935 to July 4, 1946), or even an American protectorate if there were such a referendum.

“That is because our Filipino leaders have governed our country like hell (as the Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon said he preferred to being governed by Americans). It is hard to deny that life for the majority of Filipinos was better because we were better and less corruptly governed when we had American governors-general than when we had Filipino presidents…”

In the beginning, July 4 was a holiday. But it was formally abolished during the time of President Corazon C. Aquino. Section 26 of the Administrative Code of 1987 specified a list of regular holidays and nationwide special days that did not include July 4.

Hail to Filipino-American Friendship Day!