IT PROBABLY wouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve never been a fan of government-organized holiday commemorations (live or on TV). Too many memories of giant Martial Law parades and bombastic speeches by da Apo; predictable and formulaic fill-in-the-blanks declamations sounding too much like the Independence Day address of our current president, which by the way is the typical performance that doesn’t always work (sorry for the bluntness). And while I’m at it, Araw ng Kagitingan and National Heroes Day, for me, asserts a more forceful narrative towards national consciousness than 12 June, 113 years ago. The 1898 Proclamation was nice, but it didn’t stop colonial powers from shopping us around, running our country to the ground, and using us as pawns in the chess game of Cold War brinksmanship.
Which is why it was more than a pleasant surprise for me to not only enjoy, as a willing participant, the recent Araw ng Kalayaan celebrations organized by the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I was inspired, and actually stood proud of both ourselves as Filipinos and the people who represent us away from the Inang Bayan.
I actually had a ringside ticket to the celebrations, as I was invited to march as color guard prior to the symbolic flag raising ceremony traditional to our Independence Day event. My gouty limbs, the frosty morning and a queasy stomach brought about by an unwise decision to munch stale sweets should’ve been enough to decline the honor, but I had already said yes a week before, and as you very well know, a Pinoy is only as good as his word 🙂 besides, the Pinoy-themed buffet and taho smoothie promised by the event never failed to make my day.
Apologies for the opportunistic picture above, but it captured something that I don’t do often, and in retrospect is something not many people are invited to do. In a land far away from home, you celebrate your country’s birthday in the most solemn way possible, and help raise your national flag along with your President’s highest official representative among the family of nations.
But it didn’t end there. The speeches I heard grasped at various themes, but the recurring theme seemed to be our new found economic freedom, brought about by a confluence of factors not the least of which was the faithful persistent homecoming of OFW and balikbayan remittances as well as the remitters themselves. This obviously hit close to home to this overseas worker and the kabayan around him, that day of Pinoy freedom at the embassy.
The Ambassador touched on simple gestures to perpetuate the Filipino dream of livelihoods and prosperity. Keep bringing money home. Send a kid/s to school. Give three kabayan seed money for a business. Support a well-loved Philippine institution, the PGH (Philippine General Hospital), for example.
Most of these things we were already doing, she said, but moving out of the comfort zone of family and giving others a real chance in life was the growing challenge for us outside the Motherland.
As we said earlier, it’s not often that we get to beat our breast as Pinoys, but I’m happy to say that the 12th of June last Wednesday was one of those occasions. And again you might not always believe it, we have our government, represented by the irrepressible Ambassador Gee Benavidez and her do-everything staff to thank for that. If I had the time, I would go around town with a T-shirt saying Proud to Be Pinoy for the rest of the day.
Especially after afritada, pancit canton, pan de sal, pan de coco and taho with sago for brunch. Promise remembered, wish granted.
Thanks again kabayan, Ambassador and friends! Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan, mabuhay!
- our kabayan shines in NZ via sushi (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- Independence Day Number 115… Meh. (mrpaulfarol.wordpress.com)
- Kapuso stars at Independence Day events in US and Canada (manilastandardtoday.com)
- readjustment bureau (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- 691: Independence Day (sevenhundredfifty.wordpress.com)