The Philippine Declaration of Independence simultaneously marked the end of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine Islands’ assertion to sovereignty and independence from Spanish colonial rule. However, neither Spain nor America recognized such a stake to independent nationhood, and on December 10, 1898, the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris for the price of US $2 million, marking the end of the Spanish-American War.1
A short two months later on February 4, 1899, armed conflict erupted between Philippine revolutionary forces and U.S. military occupants in Manila. By June 2, 1899, the First Philippine Republic officially declared war against the U.S. that lasted until July 4, 1902. Approximately 20,000 soldiers were killed in action while the civilian death toll reached an estimated half-million persons.2 Though the war officially ended in the summer of 1899, guerilla freedom fighters continued to challenge U.S. occupation for several more years.
It was not until July 4, 1946, nearly fifty years later, that the United States formally recognized full Philippine independent nationhood with the enactment of the Treaty of Manila. On a rainy day in Manila’s Luneta Park, 400,000 onlookers cheered as the American flag was lowered and the Philippine flag was raised in its place. Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland reported that the day was “one of the most unprecedented, most idealistic, and most far-reaching events in all recorded history.”3
July 4 was officially recognized as the National Day until August 4, 1964 when President Diosdado Macapagal signed the Malacanang Republic Act No. 4166 that effectively made June 12—the day that General Emilio Aguinaldo and his revolutionary peers had originally claimed as the Nation’s Day—the country’s official Independence Day.
Today, Filipinos around the world from Saudi Arabia to Los Angeles, California continue to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 12. In America, Filipino Americans, otherwise known as FilAms, use this day to commemorate the Philippines’ independence from colonial rule, celebrate Filipino heritage-pride, preserve cultural roots, promote cultural awareness, and bring FilAm communities together.4
The largest Philippine Independence Day celebration takes place annually in New York City on Madison Avenue between 23rd and 38th street on the first Sunday of June. An estimated 100,000 people turn out to take part in various events and to march in a parade that represents FilAms and the 7,000 plus island clusters that constitute the Philippine archipelago. FilAms proudly donned outfits representative of their regional origins, academic affiliations, professions, favored sports team, and more.5
In Washington, D.C., the Philippine Embassy and Filipino American Organization host an Independence Day Gala, commemorative festivals, and other cultural activities.
1. The Philippine Revolution: http://www.univie.ac.at/Voelkerkunde/apsis/aufi/history/mabini2.htm
2. “The Independence Day That Wasn’t,” http://www.bibingka.com/phg/misc/july4not.htm
4. “What does Philippine Independence day mean to FilAms?” http://asianjournal.com/aj-magazine/midweek-mgzn/2033-what-does-philippine-independence-day-mean-to-filams.html
5. “Filipino Immigrants Return to their Roots at Independence Day Parade,” http://news.feetintwoworlds.org/2011/06/07/filipino-immigrants-return-to-their-roots-at-independence-day-parade/