It is well that we celebrated yesterday the 120th year of Philippine independence without excessive optimism or dogmatism about the concept.
While we accept that our nation-statehood began in 1898, the notion of our independence should be subject to continued interrogation and reflection.
In a world where so many internal and external pressures are brought to bear on a nation-state as ours, are we truly independent?
In a context of humanity’s aspiration for a genuine family of nations, to what extent should we be independent?
What is independence and what are its sources?
Any grade school student will eventually realize that our independence was in our early history negotiated, a result of the exigency of subjugation by foreign powers that prodded our tribal communities to band together or perish or suffer under colonial masters.
Looking at our contemporary, unfolding history, I wonder whether we experience individual freedom at the root of our independence as a blessing or as a curse.
Some people are of the opinion that we need a strongman to lead our march to progress, that the surrender of individual freedoms to a great ruler or to a system or institution is a small price to pay for attaining economic prosperity.
This line of thought puts to waste the sacrifices of our forebears and underestimates the value of individual human freedom.
Our heroes did not fend off foreigners with who had imperialist schemes for our country so that we may sacrifice our freedoms to domestic caudillos or at the altar of money.
Each time we keep quiet when a leadership denigrates women, legitimizes uncouth speech, trivializes murders, desecrates remembrance of the dead, equivocates on defending our national territory, marginalizes alternative thought, and belittles the perversion of freedom of expression that is fake news, all because build, build, build seems to be doing well or because of some other reason, we fail to use our freedom and are complicit in its
Worse, we end up with the illusion that the enemies our are very own countrymen and women simply because they seem to oppose the man we idolize. Are we that incapable of accepting critique as test and purification of good intentions?
So here we are, 120 years old, supposedly free of alien overlords yet overseen by local lords whose loyalties may in fact be to foreigners in a world where nation-states ought to treat each other with respect that may be long in coming our way on the world stage considering that we do not seem to have understood and lived what it means to be self-respecting and free.
We are free.
Man is free in the image and likeness of his Maker. We are free from many ills. But what are we free for? Are we free for what is good and beautiful and true?
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