By Gemma Cruz Araneta
History is a protest against forgetting—I would have wanted that to be my original very quotable statement, but unfortunately, it is not, somebody else said even before my mother was born. I think it was Eric Hobsbawn, a British historian who was born in Alexandria in 1917, and wrote about the history of capitalism and socialism and other esoteric subjects. But that is very true, at least in my case, I take refuge in history because I do not want to forget who we were and who we are and what we have achieved as a nation. That is very Jose Rizal, isn’t it? You have to bring the book or books of the past into the present and future.
Despite heavy rains, we celebrated the 120th anniversary of our Independence, the one and only one declared in Kawit on 12 June 1898. Imagine for almost 16 years we were celebrating Independence day on the 4th of July! I cannot imagine what Emilio Aguinaldo and the veteran revolutionaries must have felt when the Americans tampered with the date of our Independence, without a peep from the Filipinos. Anyway, thanks to President Diosdado Macapagal, the error was rectified in 1962 when Aguinaldo was still alive. I last saw him in 1964 sitting beside President Macapagal during the Independence Day parade. I was strapped to the float of the Dept. of Education (I was information editor of the National Museum which was attached to that agency) because I had already won the Miss Philippines competition sponsored by the City of Manila, a fund-raising endeavor for Boys Town and Girls Home. I remember feeling rather thrilled and honored that both presidents waved at me.
Whenever Independence Day is just around the corner, some of my historian friends brace themselves for this facetious question: Tunay ba tayong malaya, are we really independent? That question is calculated to cause rippling unease among Filipinos who believe in what occurred in Kawit on 12 June 1898 and are thankful for it. Yet there are rhetorical questions about being free from hunger, injustice, fear, etc.
But this year, when there are undeniable signs of malaise, I hear myself asking, not if we are truly independent, but if we have we lost our Independence. Three Filipino fishermen, not the industrial type bloke with enormous frigates, but humble ones rowing their outriggers at Sandy Cay (or whatever that bit of national territory is called) to catch fish for their sustenance were bullied by coast guards of the People’s Republic of China. We were bullied in our own backyard!
Sec. Harry Roque had the nerve to say there was no evidence. A friend of mine was perverted enough to suggest that it was barter trade, prize catch in exchange for plastic noodles and cigarettes. Why not mirrors and bells? I nervously digested the implications of the aggressive behavior of the Chinese as I gazed at the photo of Pres. Duterte and the PRC ambassador chatting animatedly during the Independence Day celebration in Kawit. It goes without saying that China wants her immutable presence felt in the West Philippine Sea and its contiguous coastlines. A military aircraft landed in Davao, parked for three days in the guise of refueling. Why Davao? Haven’t they built all those military facilities in our economic zone? Why don’t they refuel those shoals they have converted into artificial islands?
Pardon my surrealistic rant about the indignities of life in our Motherland, but I feel corralled as there are suddenly too many aliens in the village where I live. We were informed that the mayor gave blanket permission for online gambling which is strictly prohibited in China. So, they pretend to open Internet cafes to conduct gambling operations. Many unit owners in high rise condominiums are watching their property managers with eagle eyes as many of them have allowed these migrants from the mainland to convert apartments into dormitories, staff houses, and commissaries/cafeterias thatservice on-line gamblers. For the moment, I will desist from writing about their lack of civility and urbanidad.
Because of all the above, I am deeply saddened by the untimely demise of former Congressman Roilo Golez. He was a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and the Annapolis Naval Academy, one of the few Filipinos who knew about naval and maritime strategy. Roilo was a national security adviser of former Pres. Gloria Arroyo. More importantly, he was a fierce advocate of our rights to the West Philippine Sea and an outspoken critic to the current government’s wishy-washy position. He is gone, now that we need him most. I would have wanted to ask Roilo if we are losing our Independence.