Today, we celebrate the 119th anniversary of the declaration of our people’s emancipation from Spain. But are we truly independent? In the clash in Marawi City between the government forces and the Maute Group carrying ISIS flag and ideologies, the President did not know of US help beforehand. He was surprised like a child despite being the head of the state who has access to every sensitive information and channels regarding national security. How about China’s irrefutable bullying when it leisurely transformed some of our territorial islands and islets in the South China Sea? But in addition to these, I believe that the invisible wounds in the past still haunt us: the declaration of Martial Law at the latter part of the Marcos regime, the death of Ninoy Aquino, Jr., the decay of the people’s trust and confidence to some government officials because of corruption, the unsolved crimes, the human rights violations, the forced disappearance of activists like Jonas Burgos, the Maguindanao Massacre where 58 people have been killed, the failures in the justice system, and the insensitivity of the machismo-laden Congress and Senate to children’s and women’s rights. We remember one or two of these every now and then not because we want to but because similar things happen or intertwined events surface on the news that hinder us to forgive and to forget. Who would want to forgive those who betrayed, abused, and beguiled us? Who would want to forget the hardships some of us had to endure or our loved ones had to experience? Maybe, we need this moment to know how we should move forward as a nation. Maybe, just maybe, today, we’ll understand the true meaning of independence that the dignified and brave Filipinos in our history fought for that we may live in a country that’s unchained, unlocked, and free from elements of oppression and suppression; that we may continue to be vigilant with a peaceful heart not with rage or with the spirit to destroy; and that we may transform this unhappy country together against the 15th to 18th century Spain’s variations today – invisible or not.
There’s an ongoing crisis in the Philippines that’s worse than the Maute group attack in Marawi City. Yes, it’s greater than the Filipino fascination with heroes and cursing of villains. It’s our attempt to simplify things by resorting to one-liners, labels, and generalizations. It’s more convenient to describe single mothers as ‘na-ano lang’; the 16 million supporters of the current president as ‘Dutertards’; the PNoy true believers as ‘Yellowtards’; the corrupt media men and women who sold their honor to be a voice of a particular party instead of binding with the truth and reason as ‘Presstitutes’; the millions of addicts as ‘sub-human’; the gays and lesbians in our midst as ‘worse than animals’; Muslims as ‘terrorists’. These do not accomplish anything but create more divisions. And while we are busy figuring out how others are different from us, or on how one’s opinion gravitates from fake news at a glance, we forget to listen, to read, to research, and ultimately, to convince ourselves that in times like this, it’s best to pause and pray for our country.