"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Filipinos must also celebrate our victories

Saying that the Filipino people must celebrate their victories instead of just their defeats, Sen. Richard J. Gordon led government officials and civic leaders yesterday (September 3) in commemorating the 111th anniversary of the Battle of Imus during the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

The senator called the event as “the defining battle of the Revolution” because it was the first victory of Filipino revolutionary forces and it rallied all of Cavite and other provinces to arms against the Spanish colonial government.

“But regrettably, not too many people – especially our young people – know about Imus,” he said. “They know more about Bataan and Corregidor, [which were] places of defeat and surrender.”

Senator Gordon was joined at the commemoration by former Prime Minister Cesar Virata (a grandson of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo), Cavite governor Ayong Maliksi, and thousands of civic leaders and Cavitenos.

Probing the national tendency to dwell on defeat, the senator quoted historian and diplomat Leon Maria Guerrero who wrote: “We (Filipinos) have a national fondness for tragedy…We may applaud and honor the resolute fighters who serve their country with the strength of their arms…but we reserve our highest homage and deepest love for the Christ-like victims [and] their tragic failures….”

As a result, the Filipino official calendar is filled with holidays dedicated to agonizing setbacks like Bataan and Corregidor and the martyred and fallen. “But we forget to reserve a place for those who have stood tall and triumphant at the barricades,” Gordon said, “starting with the great chief Lapu-lapu who opened our historic encounter with the West with a historic and defiant ‘No.’”

The Battle of Imus had a “transformational impact” on the Katipunan uprising that had been prematurely triggered by the betrayal of its plans. “Until the storied battle [in Imus], the revolution had been mainly a series of setbacks and retreats,” Gordon said. After three days of fighting in Imus, from September 1 to 3, 1896, however, Filipino forces led by General Aguinaldo and Imus leader Col. Jose Tagle defeated the best of Spanish forces led by General Aguirre.

The Filipino revolutionaries captured 70 Remington rifles, assorted battle equipment, and General Aguirre’s saber. “To both the Filipino and Spanish forces, the rebellion had become a revolution,” Gordon said.

But the historic battle did not enter the national memory like Balintawak, Pinaglabanan, Bataan and Corregidor. One big reason why, according to the senator, is that in the early days of the American occupation, “it was forbidden even to fly the Filipino flag.” The Americans did not want President Aguinaldo and other revolutionary leaders “to become living heroes to our people.”

After the recovery of national independence in 1946, Filipinos nonetheless continued to “accept the selective memory of our colonizers,” according to Gordon. They accepted “the self-serving histories of those whose chief deed was to compromise the revolution.”

Saying that Filipinos need to recover “the unbroken, continuous life of our nation” and recapture the seamless whole, Senator Gordon said that we should mark and celebrate days like the battles of Imus and Mactan in this day and age.

“Whatever the reason, we are wrong to select only our defeats and tragedies for homage, forgetting our great moments of triumph and vindication,” he said. “We are wrong to forget key chapters in our national story out of politeness to others, for they form one seamless thread of our national saga and journey. They affirm the continuity and glory of our race.”

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