On June 12, 1898, the word “independence” took a special meaning to Filipinos. After over 300 years under Spanish rule, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, and those who called themselves Katipuneros initiated the first acts of emancipation from colonial conquest by tearing their community tax certificates (cedula) on August 23, 1896. Two years later, fellow revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed June 12, 1898 as a day of independence for the country, an event commemorated at his home in Cavite with the signing of a document by a group of Filipinos.
Over a century later, independence has come to mean many things to many different people. Even Pope Francis has his own definition: “Freedom means knowing how to reflect on what we do, knowing how to evaluate which are the behaviors that make us grow,” he told visitors from Jesuit-run schools in Italy and Albania at the Paul VI Audience Hall in 2013. “It means always choosing the good…. Being free to always choose the good is challenging, but it will make you persons with a backbone, who know how to face life, [and live as] courageous and patient persons.”
My Pope commemorates Philippine Independence 2019 by asking members of different generations to explain what independence means to them.
“Independence is being in a state where you have no need to ask for help from others for survival. It is the ability to stand on your own two feet and conquer whatever is ahead of you. Self-reliance can be acquired by anyone; it is a skill that we learn from infancy to adulthood. As we grow older, we discover more about ourselves and the world around us. This helps us learn how to fend for ourselves, to take care of the people around us, and to search for our own purpose in life. Independence is a gift on its own, it is a pair of wings that helps us soar towards this world’s harsh conditions and compromised situations, as well as life’s bountiful blessings and opportunities.”
“Ever since I was young, I always associated the feeling of independence with walking. Independence was tied to the literal act of walking where you needed to go, without someone holding your hand, and walking the path you chose. I always found solace in walking, especially walking alone, often becoming introspective along the way. No matter what sidewalk or road I find myself on, I like to remind myself that I am able to stand on my own two feet, and take literal and metaphorical steps to where I need to be. Independence always meant trusting those steps, and trusting the destination would be worth the journey.”
Yett Montalvan Aguado
“The mention of independence summons a litany of meanings. It evokes a sense of freedom, liberty, autonomy, self-sufficiency, or self-reliance. As a person, even if occasionally I am drawn to rely on others at certain moments, I am still compelled to nurture my own independence. By being independent, I learn to value my strengths and to follow the path I have carved for myself. Being independent to me is freedom from hindrances and the weight of outside influences, and putting my full trust on my personal gifts and expertise. We cannot be totally free as a social being, and we are naturally led to interact with other humans, but there is always space for independence, which we all need.”