113th Independence Day

Keynote Speech

Congressman Jerry P. Treñas

My dear compatriots, today we look back in history and take pride for what we have accomplished in 113 years as a nation. We celebrate the 12th of June, 1898: a day that gave birth to the first republic in Asia.

A day when we refused to go quietly into the night as individuals lost forever in anonymity; a day when we banded together as one nation and stood firm against a mighty colonial power.

Our forefathers brought liberty to this great archipelago of over 7,100 islands. Through the blood of the martyrs of the Katipunan, and through the pens of our intellectual elite, our heroes allowed this great nation of ours to be born out of the ashes of revolution.

The 19th century witnessed a period of great upheaval and political unrest. The age of colonialism and absolute monarchy began to fade as the spirit of self-determination began to spread all over the world. The American and French Revolutions caught the imagination of patriots and inspired even our very own revolutionaries.

While the colonies of the European powers in Asia remained intact and subjugated, the Philippines already saw the turning of the revolutionary wheel despite the passive acceptance of its Southeast Asian neighbors of foreign colonial rule. The revolutionary machine was fueled by the abusive nature of the Spaniards. However, it was sparked by a wave of progressive thinking spurred by the intellectuals and literary geniuses of the Philippines. The members of La Soliradiridad and La Liga Filipina espoused a pro-Filipino movement, as the educated Filipinos started to push for equal rights for Filipinos. The most distinguished member of these two groups, our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, became the symbol of nationalism during the revolutionary period.

Rizal was the ultimate renaissance man: he was a poet, a writer, a doctor, a fencer, and, above all, an ardent patriot. His intellectual revolt against Spain, though lacking in threatening uproar and violence, proved to be the key catalyst that gave confidence to the Filipino people to challenge the abusive Spanish regime. The death of Rizal triggered the fall of the Spanish colonial government, as his martyrdom inspired the Filipino revolutionary war.

While Rizal used his wit and words to advance the cause of the Filipino people, the members of the Katipunan used their guns and bolos to fight for freedom. Through the bravery of Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan was able to challenge the superior army of Spain despite having sparse resources. The leadership and military tactics of Emilio Aguinaldo allowed the Katipunan to fight toe-to-toe against the Spaniards, even in conventional skirmishes in the field.

Our heroes have sacrificed so much in order for our people to gain freedom. We owe to the likes of Bonifacio and Rizal the very liberties that we enjoy today. It is therefore our obligation, as Filipinos, to keep the torch of freedom burning. We must forever stay vigilant against tyranny and oppression and safeguard the independence of our great nation gained through the sacrifice of our martyrs.

Let us never forget the 12th of June. Let us always remember the day when the Filipino people declared to the rest of the world that they are free.