Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What It Means To Be Free

Back in the old times, the Philippine Independence Day celebration used to be an event not to be missed. 

It was a tradition. 

Though I was not allowed to go to Luneta to see the parade with my own eyes, I was glued to the television to watch it aired live on PTV 4. The afternoon celebration begins with the sound of drums - as the flag is panned on the TV screen while everyone sings the National Anthem. The military band then marches in full view of the President, his distinguished guests, and high-ranking government officials. They are all perched on the Quirino Grandstand, listless and probably bored for it might have been a better idea to stay home and enjoy the holiday instead. 

The marching band is followed by columns of men and women serving the armed forces. Dressed in their well-pressed uniforms, the soldiers marched in perfect cadence with their bristling guns wedged between their arms and shoulders. They were fun to see. But not as eye-catching as the military hardware passing-in-review to boost the sagging pride of a broken nation. Though we have never boasted a mobile rocket launcher or a battle tank with Caterpillar wheels, the Simba armored carrier and the army trucks towing a 105mm Howitzer are enough. Their mere presence could already stir a nationalistic fervor among the curious audience.    

Those were different times and families really did flock the Luneta to see the parade. And while the uninspired floats from the government agencies were forgivable, the sense of pride is there, among the throngs of people waving the flag, the OPM songs blaring on man-sized speakers and the folk dances of participants mounted on moving trucks.

They say that in more oppressive regimes, failure to attend such patriotic gatherings is considered a capital offense. And so the masses came with their empty stomach to cheer a leader held in power by a military clique. A keen observer would see in their faces the empty smiles, the hollow glee; the tattered soul clothed in fine and colorful dresses. They have no choice but to show up, or their future and their children's future might be at stake.

I was about to write about my gripes with what seem to be a lackluster remembrance of our own freedom this year. Gone are the military parades, the dignitaries sitting at the grandstand, the flag waving masses that are all part of the Independence Day scene. Instead, what we have is a trending topic on Twitter, a picture of the Philippine Flag on someone's Facebook and greeting of "Happy Independence Day," to close friends and loved ones.

One can't help but scratch the surface and see nothing beneath.

But as I ponder inward, never have we been freer to express our thoughts or gripes with our institutions than it is today. A collective voice (echoed by the polling stations and news outlets) can quickly overturn a political decision in favor of the many. We could rally behind a kababayan competing in American Idol, in Las Vegas, or elsewhere around the world while waving our flag. We could name a body of water (because we can't claim its islands as our own) and get away with it.

We could even apply to become a citizen of another country, without giving up our own. 

These are some of the perks we enjoy as free men - even as others continue to doubt if we have ever been free at all. What I do know is that we have a country, run by people of the same color, tongue, culture and laws we ourselves wrote. And while we remember - in our own little, heartfelt ways - how our heroes fought for this land, I would just look back and think of the old times when soldiers paraded in Luneta.

And smile

Perhaps in some distant future, we would celebrate our Independence Day in a manner befitting our proud and noble nation.

Lupang Hinirang


Arnold Arre
Radioactive Sago Project
Rock Ed Philippines | Gang Badoy


MEcoy said...

i love that animated version of our national anthem
hhmm for me being free is simply being your self i guessau

red the mod said...

Iba talaga si Arnold Arre. His graphic style is clean without being antiseptic, and emotional without being propaganda.

On a different note, the issue of national identity is replete with conflicting and contradicting arguments, precisely because it is a result of our being archipelagic. This in turn, created a rather extremely regionalistic sense of identity.

Unity cannot be coerced when our mindset remains as tribal, clanish and feudal.

Justin said...

i used to always tune in to PTV4 every independence day. Feeling ko rose parade yung pinapanood ko. Siguro nga nag-iba na talaga ang panahon at tao.

shenanigans said...

I was one of the lucky uhm,,, pilipino who was ivnited by gloria in celebrating independence day last 2 years ago. doon nabuo ang blog ko. anyway, proud na proud ako noon habang nakaupo sa entablado bilang isang pilipino.. pero ang hindi nakaka proud dun eh yung mga katabing kong officials na lam mo na parang katabi mo lang si donya victorina at si don tiburcio.

Ran Perez said...

I was here yesterday afternoon! It's my first time to be in the Independence Day celebrations. Fiestang-fiesta. Families are here, enjoying the moment of being free. Kakaiba ang atmosphere yesterday.

Yas Jayson said...

I pity the dead.