Jun 21, 2010

Our Filipinas

It was four in the afternoon. The monsoon rains of the last two weeks had stopped and its ominous clouds scattered as the afternoon sun burned through, casting a golden hue that would soon turn bright crimson like blood, later to darken as shadows lengthened and then disappeared.

The young general strode to the large balcony window of his white wooden mansion in Cavite el Viejo. From the receiving room where he planned battles, he walked to where he would see what was worth dying for.

His rayadillo, with its diagonal weave, was crisp and immaculate. Its brass buttons, long left unpolished in the field, and its miniature chevrons and medals were now gleaming. From his side, a saber hung. Though now sheathed, it was a deadly witness to too many wars won and lost.

From the balcony window, the young general faced the people gathered outside waving banners, swords and muskets. His gaze was first on the immediate, scanning each face for a glow that reflected an anticipation that tomorrow would be a new day.

And then towards a future that only the mind's eye could see he looked beyond the fields that had been his family's source of livelihood.

It was time. Emilio Aguinaldo soon gripped a pole with a magnificent silken tricolor banner at its other end. It was the first time that the colors were unfurled, not as a field banner as it had flown recently, but, as the flag of a sovereign republic.

The sacred cloth had earlier been a banner at the battle of Alapang. It was brought back from Hong Kong where it was sewn by Marcela de Agoncillo, Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, and Lorenza Agoncillo, Marcela’s daughter. From fine satin purchased along Powell Street and later sewn in a house on Morrison Hill in Hong Kong, the sewing had taken five short days.

Soon after, it quickly saw battle. Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army had repulsed the Spanish royal marines at Alapang. Along the bay's shores, a typhoon drenched the province, blowing away remnant smoke from the burning Spanish garrison. But the cleansing had done more than that. Rainwater diluted colonial blood spilled along rock and dirt eventually forcing these into earth where it did not belong.

In the ensuing days, other Spanish forces were routed in Bataan, Cavite, Pampanga, Laguna, Batangas, Tayabas and Bulacan. In the old walled city, the Spanish were trapped within ancient stones and by their decaying hubris. Soon only Manila and the port of Cavite remained under Spanish control.

As the crowd cheered, Aguinaldo waved the flag. A field of blue dotted with miniature white flowers stitched over a field of red. An immaculate white triangle. Three hand-drawn six-pointed golden stars that unified the islands into a nation. And a golden sunburst, the mythical sun with a human face with each resplendent ray for those first eight provinces that defied Spain.

His pulse rose and dampness came to his eyes. The young general had stood defiantly against older and larger men who did not treat him well, thinking his youth was a weakness.

But they were mistaken. Few, oppressed and vulnerable, ever defied an empire that ruled more than half of the world for centuries.

As the cheering reached a crescendo, solemnity ever so slowly took over as a declaration was read.

Aguinaldo's highest adviser then was Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista. Reading the Act of the Declaration of Independence would be his last official duty. After today, a paralytic, from Batangas named Apolinario Mabini, would take his place.

Suddenly, the band outside played a stirring melody. At first it was rhythmic, pounding with pomp and pageantry. As it played, it turned grand and glorious. Drawing to a close, a crescendo rose and then fell as the melody invoked the songs of souls long gone.

The "Marcha Filipina Magdalo", played by the band of San Francisco de Malabon, was a march composed by Julian Felipe, a composer from Cavite. It was written in just six days and completed on June 11, 1898. Felipe would later change the name to "Marcha Nacional Filipina". One year later, on Aug. 1899, a young soldier named Jose Palma would compose a poem entitled "Filipinas". Filipinas would later be used as the lyrics of the anthem providing eloquence to what had then stirred passions.

On the 12th day of the sixth month in 1898, a new nation was born. The most beautiful the world had ever seen. A sovereign nation named Filipinas. Our Filipinas.

Dean de la Paz sits as an independent member of the Board of Directors of one of the Philippine's oldest banks and is a senior consultant to a government financial institution. He is program director for financial education at a UK-based university where he is also a professor of finance, strategic management and business policy.

Our Filipinas

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