Today, June 12, is Independence Day in the Philippines. On June 12, 1898, 120 years ago today, Filipino leaders declared independence from Spain, which had ruled the Pacific Island nation since the 1500's. Philippines Independence Day is celebrated throughout the Philippine Islands as well in Filipino communities around the world. For several years, the celebration was held on July 4—the day the Republic of the Philippines actually gained independence in 1946. In 1962, however, the Philippines government recognized the date of the 1898 declaration as Independence Day, and changed July 4 to Republic Day.
In the Philippines, government offices and many businesses are closed for Independence Day, and people enjoy the holiday by gathering with family and friends and attending concerts, fireworks shows, and parades. The Philippines flag is prominently displayed throughout the nation, and in Manila and other cities there are official readings of the 1898 document declaring Philippine independence. Readings are given both in the document’s original Spanish and in Tagalog, the primary language of the Philippines.
In the United States and Canada, countries that are home to millions of people of Filipino heritage, Philippines Independence Day is marked by celebrations and parades in such cities as Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver.
The story of Philippine independence is a complicated one. The 1898 declaration came at a chaotic period in Filipino history, a time when foreign powers—Spain and the United States—were fighting for control of the Philippine Islands. Philippines independence was not won in 1898, as the United States, which gained control of the islands from Spain, refused to recognize it.
Filipino rebels fought against U.S. rule in the Philippine-American War from 1899 to 1902, but American influence remained in the Philippines for many years. In 1935, the Philippines became an American commonwealth with its own elected government and constitution. The United States retained authority in such areas as foreign affairs and defense. After Filipinos and U.S. soldiers fought together against the Japanese during World War II (1939-1945), the Philippines at last gained complete independence on July 4, 1946—a date chosen to coincide with Independence Day in the United States.
Image 1: The flag of the Philippines dates back to the nation’s struggle for independence in the 1890’s. Credit: © Loveshop/Shutterstock
Image 2: In Tagalog, the primary language of the Philippines, Independence Day is known as Araw ng Kalayaan, or Day of Freedom. Credit: Republic of the Philippines
Image 3: Philippines
Credit: WORLD BOOK map