Every year on February 4, as far back as I can remember, my mother would tell me and my siblings about how important that day is in the life of our nation and for all Filipinos. She would always start out by saying that it is the day that we Filipinos have been taught to forget, and if only for that, 4 February 1899 is a day we must remember with our hearts and our minds.
What happened on that day?-- my younger siblings who had not quite fathomed the lesson would inevitably ask. On the streets of Silencio and Sociego in Santa Mesa , mother would way, brave soldiers of the First Philippine Republic, Filipinos like us, were guarding the blockhouses at the agreed dividing line between the US forces and the army of the Republic, after the surrender of Manila by the Spaniards.
Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo thought the Americans were our allies, and so did many of his generals, some had gone to Bulacan on leave. Suddenly, that Sunday evening , a group of American soldiers called out “Halt!” to a Filipino patrol who ignored them, and they started firing upon the Filipino lines and all along the street the firing began. That was the outbreak of the Philippine-American War.
Why is it important for us to remember that night and that first battle that followed?—mother would ask to stress the value of the historical lesson. Then she would continue with the core of her message: Filipinos today are often told that we are lost and foundering, that we find it hard to solve our problems. That is because those who do not know where they came from, will never reach their destination or learn where they are going. We must remember our past so we can reach our future destiny. That is why we must remember 4 February 1899. We must remember where we came from.
And this is where we came from: In January 1899, we Filipinos inaugurated our own free, independent First Republica de Filipinas, the first in all of Asia. We had a parliament, a Constitution, an armed forces, an operational government with a cabinet, even a university. We Filipinos had won the anti-colonial Revolution against Spain. We had fought and besieged the City of Manila and it had surrendered. The envoys of the First Republic were sent to Paris and Washington to negotiate the support of foreign nations.
All that means that we were not naked savages the American politicians said we were. We wrote and spoke a world language, Spanish, in addition to our own languages. Our young men won prizes in painting, music and literature in the capitals of Europe. We were Christians, civilized Asians with our own unique culture . We were a free people who had fought for our independence and set up our own Republic. We were building a nation! That is where we all came from. That is where we must start again today and everyday.. We must revisit 4 February 1899 to save ourselves today.My siblings and I have remembered that valuable lesson in various degrees. I am doing my utmost to pass it on to my children and grandchildren.