To my utter shame, yesterday’s Independence Day commemoration nearly slipped past me unnoticed. I was too busy luring in the day’s catch to put on the table to remember. I suspect though that even if I were forced to sit still and remember, the recollection would weigh like a heavy burden upon me. Freedom from Spanish occupation seemed such a distant memory, so distant that even history textbooks have made a sorry mess of the details, making us suspect someone started a trail of lies along the way.
The recollection is a burden for me not because my skin has been bleached white and my consciousness injected with western sensibilities. It is a burden because even as we celebrate a distant freedom, we remain enslaved. My hair has turned white and my eyes have dried with the bondage of a mentality that breeds corruption, a hand to mouth existence and an inner poverty that characterizes the common Filipino man. Sadly, the common Filipino is no longer even the average middle class worker but the man in the gutter.
But at the last minute, I chose to remember and I hope others have chosen to do so too. By remembering the freedom of the past, we realize that we are once again enslaved and that we owe it to our children’s children to not allow this again. It doesn’t start on the streets when we tell those thick-faced, high class thieves to return our taxes. It starts in and with us when we tell our children that lying, stealing and cheating are inexcusable even if it means passing a test, obtaining popular approval or getting an extra loaf of bread.
The fight for real Philippine independence has just begun.