Celebrating Philippine Independence Day in the Year of the Pandemic

by Gus Mercado

It is 2020, the year the earth stood still while a deadly pandemic wreaked havoc on the world’s population. Millions were infected, many thousands have died, economies came crushing down, millions lost their jobs, and there is no end in sight. It is a year that all of us would rather soon forget, delete, reset, and start all over again.

While still living in the COVID-19 nightmare, we are hard pressed to find anything to celebrate. But the Filipinos, wherever they are and whatever their situation, do not forget to celebrate Philippine Independence on June 12 to honor the bravery and sacrifices of our heroes who fought for our independence against foreign invaders and paid the ultimate sacrifice so we may have the blessings of freedom and democracy that we now enjoy.

Among many chapters of Philippine history that were written in blood, two special chapters stand out in reminding all of us of the countless Filipino lives lost in their fight for freedom. The first is the Philippine Revolution against centuries of Spanish colonial rule which culminated in the declaration of Philippine Independence in Kawit Cavite on June 12, 1898 on the altar of brave men and women who lost their lives in the conflict, personified by the national heroes depicted at the top half of this slide.

The other indelible chapter in our history that memorialized the bravery of the Filipino people is World War II where the Philippine nation lost a million lives including civilians and more than 200,000 Filipino and American soldiers fought side by side against foreign invaders and gave their full measure of devotion to keep freedom alive. Unbeknownst to the younger generations, it was the heroism and sacrifices of these heroes that gave us free passage as immigrants into this country.

When General Douglas MacArthur ordered the combined American and Filipino forces to stand strong and defend the Philippines at all costs, that is exactly what they did. According to military historians, if the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor had not kept the enemies at bay for many long and brutal days in spite of lack of supplies, food and ammunition, while the Allied Forces were regrouping in Australia, the war might have had a different outcome. The region including the Philippines might have been, to this day, a territory of Japan. We would not be where we are today, enjoying the blessings of this great country. Thanks to the Philippines’ noble heroes who vowed that “never shall invaders trample ithy sacred shores”, the cause of freedom in the Philippines ultimately prevailed.

Remember Bataan. Just as Texas leader Sam Houston used the Fall of the Alamo battle cry Remember the Alamo to recapture Texas from the hands of the occupying Mexican army, General Douglas MacArthur used Remember Bataan as the battle cry in the successful campaign to defeat the Japanese forces and recapture the Philippines.

And it was this unusual gallantry of Filipino soldiers that inspired General Douglas MacArthur to say his immortal words: “I shall return!” And return he did, liberating the Philippines from enemy hands. And in great recognition of the Filipinos’ fighting spirit, the famous general later said: “Give me 10,000 brave Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world!”

The hard-fought Philippine Independence and what it stood for, both in the Philippine revolution against Spain and in the bloody aftermath of WWII, should remain ingrained in our consciousness and in our hearts. It is a noble legacy of love, valor, and patriotism that we should pass on to future generations of Filipinos wherever they may be. May the spirit of our heroes dwell within us, now and forever more. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas. Mabuhay tayong lahat!

Gus Mercado

About the Author: Gus Mercado, State Executive Director of PACC Texas, is an award-winning writer, publisher, business and community leader from Dallas, Texas. He published an international business and culture magazine, Global Business Horizons with his wife then-Honorary Consul Ethel Mercado. Reactions to this article may be sent to gusmercado@verizon.net