Xavier University urges youth to ‘learn from history’ on Independence Day

Stephen J. Pedroza

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Xavier University urges youth to ‘learn from history’ on Independence Day
'We celebrate this declaration as a symbol of our bravery, determination, and unity to live free, with human rights and dignity,' says Dulce Dawang of Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Beyond rekindling the timeline on how we acquired our independence from the colonizers, Filipino academics here put the spotlight on seeking the truth in studying our history and its promotion, particularly to the millennials.

“Why do we still need to study our history?” drummed Dr Dulce Dawang, vice-president for basic education of Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan (XU) during the celebration of the 118th Philippine Independence Day on Friday, June 10.

“I remember in our History 10 class, I didn’t understand why we need to study our history again and again, from elementary up to college,” Dawang recounted.

“One day, there was a long test and we had to answer what the significance of the Battle of Tirad Pass was in our nation’s history. I had to know the important dates, protagonists or the cast of characters in that battle, but what I knew was limited,” she related.

“My answers were unsubstantiated, just flattery here and there. The next meeting, our teacher returned our papers and she wrote a comment on my two-page answer, ‘How sad naman.’”

It was a defining moment for Dawang – she could not forget that part of her freshman year in college. She had to study her history lessons harder.

Fighting for freedom

“We celebrate this declaration as a symbol of our bravery, determination, and unity to live free, with human rights and dignity,” she said. 

Observed by Filipinos across the globe, Araw ng Kasarinlan (Independence Day) is an annual holiday every June 12, commemorating our liberation from Spain on June 12, 1898 and to heighten the awareness on our culture.

“Even though we are an archipelagic country, our islands are separated from one another and we speak many languages, our forefathers still managed to unite to simultaneously revolt against the Spaniards in 1898 and centuries before that. Despite many differences, they were united for one cause.”

DEFINING MOMENT. Vice-president for basic education of Xavier University, Dr Dulce Dawang tells senior high school students to draw lessons from our country's past. Photo by Trajano Dagala Cabrales

“Why? Our ancestors were not stupid, those Filipinos were not cowards. They knew and it was clear to them what was right and wrong, and they stood in the side of the truth.”

Dawang told young students to pursue the truth in knowing the history, to see through the unfounded claims and to learn from the mistakes of the past.

She added that it is the students’ responsibility to safeguard and nurture the freedom that the brave heroes fought for.

“But we have our breaking points, too. We do not want a system where our human rights are stripped, where those in the position abuse their power. We condemn the unsolicited arrest and torture (of political activists), and the discrimination against fellow Filipinos.”

Dawang cited a few historical events where the Filipino people trampled a crooked system and rose against tyranny, most prominently, the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

“This is what our heroes had died for: change.”

Beyond the timeline

On June 12, 1898, the first Philippine Republic, led by President Emilio Aguinaldo, ratified the “Acta de la proclamacion de independencia del pueblo Filipino,” where “Lupang Hinirang” was also first sung in public in Cavite.

Those who paid attention to their history lessons will remember that the Philippines did not remain free from an imperial power after that 1898 declaration.

However, rather than to acknowledge the declaration of the Philippines, Spain, whose power over the Philippines was already severely weakened at the time, chose to sell the country and its other colonies to the United States of America via the Treaty of Paris, signed in December 1898.

Until July 1946, years after Aguinaldo’s Declaration of Philippine Independence, the country was ran as a colony by the US.

On July 4, 1946, US granted the Philippines its independence but with “many strings attached.”

Sixteen years later, in 1962, then President Diosdado Macapagal, through Proclamation No. 28, moved the Independence Day celebration from July 4 (also the US Independence Day) to June 12 to follow the 1898 declaration.

Pagkakaisa, pag-aambagan at pagsulong

Carrying the national theme, “Kalayaan 2016: Pagkakaisa, Pag-aambagan, Pagsulong,” the celebration at XU featured a flag-raising ceremony and a showcase of performances from various performing arts companies and artists.

Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) director Hobart Savior was at the helms of show. “I would like to emphasize that the theme to me is like a collective prayer which reminds us that we have a responsibility and opportunity to help our country attain progress, eradicate extreme poverty, and stop corruption.”

Nationalistic performances by the talents from the XCCA Artist Center, Soundtable, XU Glee Club, and XU Cultural Dance Troupe dotted the event that, as Savior put it, has “promoted a sense of identity and pride as we stand for our independence.”

The members of the audience, mostly composed of Xavier Senior High School students, tied ribbons of the Philippine flag colors – blue, red, and yellow – to the trees positioned in different locations inside the covered courts.

Xavier Stage artists also rendered “Dapat Bantayan,” a song that encourages the electorates to exact accountability and claim what was promised by politicians during the May 2016 polls, now that the country is about to shift administrations.

“The theme also tells us to move forward despite all the political squabbles brought about by the recent election,” Savior said.

He concluded: “All we have is our choice to be one as citizens of this republic and be part of the change and be changed from within ourselves and then our country benefits the nature of our songs to progress.” – Rappler.com

Rappler’s Lead Mover in Cagayan de Oro City, Stephen Pedroza is a journalism graduate from Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan and he attended a course on new media in journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

A Xavier student, Trajano Dagala Cabrales is a member of the Ateneo Camera Club.

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