By Marichu A. Villanueva | The Philippine Star
One Sunday ago, our nation observed the 113th Independence Day. It passed without so much fanfare and the usual hoopla of past celebrations. It was the first Independence Day celebration under the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Unfortunately, there was nothing in the Independence Day program that made the celebration memorable. Even the speech of P-Noy for that one glorious moment in our country’s history was forgettable. Neither was there much effort on the part of the government to drum up public interest and attention days, or even weeks, prior to the 113th anniversary of Philippine Independence.
The only indication that we celebrated our Freedom Day was the traditional simultaneous flag-raising rites in various parts of the country. President Aquino led the rites at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite right on the balcony where Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo – as the Republic’s first President – supposedly first raised the Philippine tricolor.
It was former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) who started this tradition in Kawit when we celebrated our Independence Centennial in 1998. In the past, the main flag-raising ceremony led by the President used to be held in front of the monument of our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, in Luneta.
It was quite sad though that this year’s Independence Day celebration was discernibly not given its due importance. I gathered it was the National Historical Institute (NHI) that took charge of the organizing committee of government agencies assigned to come up with commemorative activities for this year’s Independence Day.
Unlike Independence Day, there has been more intensified publicity to drum up attention to the 150th birth anniversary of Rizal. Since Rizal’s birth anniversary fell on a Sunday, Malacañang Palace even declared June 20, today, a special non-working holiday throughout the country through Proclamation 154.
Thus, schools and offices are enjoying today the last day of their long weekend, popularly called “holiday economics.” This refers to the Congress-approved law on movable dates of official holidays to either Monday or Friday to enable the people to enjoy a long weekend to go out of town or engage in other activities to spur the economy and domestic tourism. The movable dates of official holidays do not apply to religious holidays like Lent, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
A non-believer of the previous administration’s “holiday economics,” President Aquino issued Proclamation 154, upon the NHI’s recommendation, declaring June 20 a special non-working holiday to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Rizal’s birth instead of the actual birth date of June 19, which fell on a Sunday this year.
Maverick Senator Joker Arroyo used to needle P-Noy for this turnabout on “holiday economics” when the latter, as senator of the 14th Congress, voted in favor of its passage into law. But P-Noy earned brownie points from foreign and local business groups for abandoning the “holiday economics” policy in favor of productivity as this resulted in the loss of lesser man-hours and lower labor costs for overtime pay.
Meanwhile, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has proposed to move the national observance of Rizal Day from Dec. 30 to June 19 through Senate Bill 2743. For the young Marcos, it is now the right time to set historical records and significance by paying tribute to Rizal on his birth anniversary and not on the day he was killed and martyred during the Spanish rule in the country.
“It is fitting then that Filipinos commemorate Rizal Day on June 19 as a day of triumph of his nationalism and patriotic ideals,” Senator Marcos pointed out. His bill though has stirred a hornet’s nest, so to speak, among Rizalistas and nationalists who naturally balked at his proposal.
By whatever date we honor the memories of our country’s national hero, Filipinos regard Rizal as the most “genuine” among Philippine heroes. In the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted last March 4 to 7, majority or 75 percent named Jose Rizal as their number one choice of genuine Filipino hero. Thirty-four of the SWS survey respondents named Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio, and 20 percent, assassinated Sen. Ninoy Aquino.