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Malolos: The first republic

The Philippines celebrates its 118th year of being a republic

Published

By Sara Grace C. Fojas

Video by Jay Cedric Bustamante and John Alvin Veri

Images by Pinggot Zulueta

  • FIESTA REPUBLIKA Students from various towns in Bulacan celebrate the 118th republic day of the Philippines

  • Malolos Mayor Christian Natividad

  • REPLAYING HISTORY Students replicate the heroism of their ancestors through a theatrical play on the street or ‘Dulansangan.’

  • REPLAYING HISTORY Students replicate the heroism of their ancestors through a theatrical play on the street or ‘Dulansangan.’

  • REPLAYING HISTORY Students replicate the heroism of their ancestors through a theatrical play on the street or ‘Dulansangan.’

  • NOT YOUR ORDINARY FIESTA Every Jan. 23, Malolos, Bulacan celebrates our country’s 118th year of being a republic at the historic Barasoain Church

  • CELEBRATING FREEDOM The First Philippine Republic is testament that the Philippines has always valued democracy, freedom, and sovereignty

    On the 12th day of June 1898, the Philippines gained its freedom from the Spaniards after 300 years.

    On the 23rd day of January, 1899, the Philippines officially became a country and was called the Republic of the Philippines, the First Philippine Republic, complete with a government and a constitution. This historic event happened in the small town of Malolos in the province of Bulacan, just 40 kilometers away from Manila.

    But 118 years later, this significant event was somewhat forgotten by Filipinos, and even some of the residents of Malolos didn’t have any idea why Jan. 23 is declared as a holiday in their town.

    The Philippine Panorama talked to the mayor of Malolos, Christian Natividad, to help enlighten the Filipinos about this almost-forgotten part of our colorful history.

    What happened during that historic day of Jan. 23?

    The Philippine freedom was finally declared in June 12, 1898. After which, this freedom gave birth for the country to have its own constitution, the Malolos Constitution, which is the first constitution in Asia. In our current constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Church and State emanated from that first constitution. On June 12, we became known as the Filipino race conquered by the Spaniards; on Jan. 23, the Philippines was declared as a country on its own, a republic. The freedom to express, the freedom to do a lot of things, it all emanates from the drafting and the gratification of the Malolos Constitution, which is the constitution of the first Philippine republic. Even the separation of church and state, having a legislative, judiciary, and executive all came from that. On that day, our ancestors became the citizens of the Republic of the Philippines. It’s just unfortunate that we did not give it the appreciation it deserves after all the hardships our ancestors suffered under the reign of the Spaniards.

    What is the difference between June 12 celebration and Jan. 23 celebration?

    The first President Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo first waved the Philippine flag in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898, as a symbol of our freedom from the Spaniards. The difference is that on June 12, we still didn’t have a formal government and no constitution. June 12 is the declaration of freedom; Jan. 23 is the declaration of the Philippines as a country, the fruit of all the effort of our ancestors.

    You’re proposing for this day to become a holiday.

    As of now, there is a bill filed in Congress, which is already approved by the Lower House to declare Jan. 23 as a Republic Day Special Non-Working Holiday. We are still waiting for the Philippine Senate and President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval. We are advocating and hoping that the President will see this day as a way for Filipinos to love their country even more if they recognize the things that happened in our history. This celebration is not for Malolos only but for our brothers in Mindanao, the fellow Filipinos in Visayas, and for each and every Filipino people. At first, nobody listened to us about this day. This is the best time to be a Filipino, this is the momentum that we’ve been waiting for a very long time, to give justice to the victory of the First Philippine Republic.

    Why do you hope for this recognition from President Duterte?

    He is the first President I saw who kissed the Philippine flag. We have here a nationalistic leader who embraces and loves being a Filipino. I hope he sees this that this could be a great legacy or gift for the Philippines, to return to its roots and recognize the day of the First Philippine Republic.

    Why do you think that only a few Filipinos are aware of this day, and what are you doing to change this?

    This celebration is our way of advocating and re-echoing our glorious history. I’m only 39 years old and I grew up here in Malolos, Bulacan. Back then, I remember that there would be a day where they would make us fall in line and would give us ensaymada. Someone would raise the flag and then they would send us home. When I got a little older, I asked people why we were doing that and even those who lived in Malolos couldn’t give me answers. There’s big gap in transferring this part of our history from the 1800s up to now. That was also my question: What happened? When we first did this Fiesta Republika to fill in that gap, they thought it was a fiesta of the town of Malolos. We called it Fiesta Republika because this is the feast of the Philippine history. We have fiestas for slippers, flowers, letson, and longganisa—why not make a festival in honor of this significant and important part of our history, that defines us as Filipinos. This is Fiesta Republika, our effort to reach out to everybody, not just the people of Malolos, from all walks of life, whether you’re a sports enthusiast, musician, businessman, a student, or someone just walking on the street, we will sit with you and tell you the story of this day. We hope to spread the message of this day which is democracy, freedom, and sovereignty.

    What are your future plans for this celebration?

    We need the help of the National Historical Commission, the Department of Tourism, and the leaders of the country. Our wishes for the future is the next time we celebrate Fiesta Republika, it is not the mayor of Malolos or the governor of Bulacan that’s speaking in front of you but the President of the country. This celebration is for the whole Philipppines. I’m not representing all the Filipino people. I’m just here to represent my locality. This should be a national event. This should be under the initiative of the leaders of the country.

    What are the activities you do when you celebrate Fiesta Republika?

    It runs from Jan. 18 until Jan. 23. Our activities are more cultural where students represent their own barangays and replicate the heroism of their ancestors in a theatrical dance or “Dulansangan,” dula sa lansangan (street play).  We have Awit Makabayan singing contest and the Search for Binibini and Ginoong Republika. We also invite local bands to play here. On February, we have sports activities like the Republika Basketball tournament with some Philippine Basketball Association players, a bike festival wherein we have over 15,000 attendees from all over the Philippines, drag racing, motor shows, dragon boat raising, and a lot more. These activities are our way of communicating to the young people and telling them about this celebration.

    What else are the significant events in history that took place here in Malolos?

    We have plenty. Dr. Jose Rizal wrote to the young women of Malolos who fought for the right to education. On Sept. 15, 1898 is the drafting and convening of the first ever Malolos Congress. Jan. 21 to 22 was the approval of the first constitution in Asia which is the Malolos constitution. We have a very rich history, from our heritage houses to Barasoain church.

    What’s it like growing up here in Malolos?

    Malolos is just a simple quiet town. People here speak Tagalog very well. I grew up seeing two old men, who are brothers, making mano to each other. When we were growing up we show respect to the elderly and mano even to people we passed by on the street. We don’t like wasting food, we value the hardship of the farmers who worked for it. You can walk around town and see that it’s a very quiet, laidback town that you’d like to live in.

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