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Remembering Philippine independence on Okinawa

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-12-18

This year marks the 100th anniversary of independence for the Philippines. With thousands of Filipinos living here in Okinawa, the occasion is being remembered and celebrated within various circles of the Filipino community.

Last Thursday night, December 10, 1998, AFILJAN (Association of Filipino Japanese Nationals, together with FILCOMRI (Filipino Community in Ryukyu Islands), FIL-AM (Filipino American), and the Okinawa Philippine Association all joined together to present a special show in commemoration of one hundred years of independence and cultural pride at the Ginowan Civic Hall. Under the direction of Dr. David Itokazau MD., who is President of the AFILJAN, the event managed to both entertain and educate all those who attended. A photo exhibition, which documented the independence movement and the life of national hero Jose Rizal took place early in the evening, and was followed by a brief lecture, slide presentation, songs, fashion show, traditional dances, and a mini play about the execution of Rizal. Itokazu was able to gain the cooperation of many different leaders of the Filipino community, including the Honorary Philippine Consul Asako Alarcon, making the centennial event a major success.

"When I saw the inequalities, discrimination, and negative images of the Philippines, it made me feel really bad - especially since many Filipinos do not know the history of their own nation, which causes a lack of pride. The Philippines was the center of learning in Asia one hundred years ago, and also the center of commerce. It was also very culturally rich. This is something that I feel is important for Filipinos and the international community to understand," explained Itokazu.

The event proved to be very enlightening for many people, bringing attention to the Filipinos responsible for the country's move towards freedom from Spain. "I heard many comments from people that they had learned about the history for the first time," mentioned Itokazu.

Philippine Revolution brief history:

The colonization of the Philippines began when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed on the small island of Homonhon on March 17, 1521. Sailing on behalf of Spain, he opened the door for further expeditions, during a time when the Spanish conquistadores were already beginning their exploitation of the Americas. Spanish dominance and control ensued, and Spain ruled the Philippines from the 16th to the end of the 19th century.

In 1882 the son of a prosperous landowner and sugar planter left his home on Luzon to study medicine at the University of Madrid - his name was Jose Rizal. The highly educated Rizal, who would later go on to become a physician, writer, and painter, began a movement that would reach across Europe and Asia. He formed a small group together with other Filipino students and began to discuss issues concerning political and social equality for the Philippines. He formed the "Propaganda Movement", and began writing articles for its newspaper, which was published in Barcelona. Rizal's form of protest against Spain did not support violence, nor did it ever actually advocate independence, but he committed himself to having the Philippines become a fully recognized province of Spain, with equal representation in the government. Above all, he voiced the opinion that Filipinos should also be treated as social equals to Spaniards, and be given the same equal freedoms and opportunities.

Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1892, and became the leader of the nonviolent reform society "La Liga Filipina" in Manila, where he continued his efforts to educate the Filipino people about the injustices of Spanish rule.

In 1896 "Katipunan", a revolutionary society, was formed and lead by Andres Bonifacio. The group took up arms and revolted against Spain. Although Rizal never supported the violent uprising, he was arrested and executed that same year. His death became a symbol for the Philippine Revolution. Trouble between factions within "Katipunan" lead to the execution of Bonaficio by Emilio Aguinaldo, who would later become the first president of the Philippine Republic. Independence was declared at Aguinaldo's home on June 12, 1898.

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