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I Am Free

>> Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Today, the Philippines is celebrating its 114th Independence Day. The internet has its share of celebrations -- with the "Happy Independence Day" and "Philippine Independence Day" on the worldwide trending topics for Twitter, and the lovely watercolor doodle on the Google search homepage. 114 years ago, the Philippines formally decided to rule their own country and break free from the reigns of the Spaniards.

While the country did not really have full reign because of the American and Japanese invasions, it was on that fateful day of 1898 that the Filipinos knew that they had a country to defend. It wasn't anymore about defending tribes or cities, but the whole of the Philippines with 7107 islands. Even the name Philippines reminds us of our history -- that we were handed a country scarred by the Spanish colonization. But it also a reminder that our ancestors worked hard for our freedom, that something good happened 114 years ago.

Now, we are running our own country. Sure we do have help from other countries, but that's the effect of globalization and changing times. Our independence gave us freedom to choose for the sake of the country and its people. And because of the efforts done by our heroes, I can say that I am a Filipino and I am free.

What does independence mean to me?

Freedom to "do." It's a free country so I have the freedom to do anything. No one can stop me from choosing the course I want to take, the job that I want to accept, the land I want to build my house on. However, along with the freedom is the responsibility to follow rules. It will be chaotic if there are no rules to govern. I think people should learn to see that rules are not meant to hinder activity. Rules are meant to keep things in order, to remind people to be responsible for their actions. Rules check if the members of a community do not violate common values. I can do what I want, as long as it benefits the country.

Freedom to "be." I think the Philippines is still trying to find its true identity. We have lived so long under different colonies and we have adapted to every one of them. Our national language is heavily influenced by the Spanish colonization. There are words that are similar to the Spaniards. Majority of the Filipinos are bilingual (English and a Filipino language) or trilingual (English, Tagalog and another Filipino language) probably because of the American era. I don't know what we got from the Japanese (probably the strictness and rigidness?) But isn't that who we are -- the adaptation and the culmination of the various countries who colonized us? I think we could be that kind of Filipino -- the discipline of the East and the views of the West.

Freedom to influence. Each of us is destined to influence others. We have Filipinos in the other countries who can be good influences to other races. We need to keep up with the great work ethics and show their foreign employers that Filipinos can actually excel in something, given the right opportunity and time. I know Filipinos are hard working. I think they just need to find their gift and what they are really good at.

Freedom to worship. I can pray anytime and anywhere. I have the freedom to choose my faith. I have the freedom to share it. I have the freedom to show how God has blessed me, my family, my work and my country. I have the freedom to use work and school as my form of worship. The government may deal with the rules, but my relationship with God deals with my values.

So on this special holiday, the people in my history books do not just remain as words that we need to memorize. I am thanking them for giving me freedom. I thank God for giving them lives who were willing to die for the country's independence and the freedom of the generations to come. If it weren't for their lives, I would not be free today. July 12, 1898 is more than a day of independence. It is a day of thanksgiving for the heroes who dreamed of a better Philippines. Now it is my turn to fight my own battles so that the next generation will remain free.

[Also seen on Tumblr.]


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