June 12, 1898: An historical milestone
On June 12, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo, the country's first president, unfurled for the first time the official flag of the Republic of the Philippines and proclaimed its independence from Spanish colonial rule. It was the climax of the revolution started by Filipino nationalist Andres Bonifacio and inspired by the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal.
That watershed period in the late 19th century bore witness to several milestones in Asian historiography and political thought. Rizal became the first Asian to proclaim the inalienable rights of man. Almost immediately after Spanish authorities executed him at Bagumbayan, Filipino revolutionaries, roused by his heroism, intensified their resistance against Spain and waged the first successful anticolonial revolution in Asia, giving birth to Asia's first republic.
The Philippine revolution of 1896-1898 and the life and writings of Rizal inspired nationalists in Malaysia and Indonesia and other subjugated peoples in Asia in their own struggle for independence. Rizal, Southeast Asia's homo universalis, and the revolution against Spain brought the positive aspects of European Enlightenment to Southeast Asia and, at the same time, strengthened the assertion of a common Filipino-Indo-Malay identity and consciousness.
As early as the 19th century, the beginnings of a modern subregional consciousness were already taking root. Rizal identified himself with colonized peoples beyond the borders of the archipelago and considered himself part of the "Malay race". Rizal's impact in the region has been such that many Indonesians and Malaysians continue to adopt, until now, his name as their own. Another Filipino nationalist intellectual during Rizal's time, Apolinario Mabini, saw the Philippine revolution as a model for the struggle for freedom of other Malay peoples from colonial powers.
More than a century later, Filipinos around the world commemorate with pride the founding of the Republic and the birth of the Filipino nation, this time in the invigorating air of democracy and a modernizing economy.
Together with the 3,000-strong Filipino expatriate community in Indonesia, we share with our Indonesian kin this celebration of freedom and the triumph of reason, courage and nationalism over tyranny and oppression. It is still this same impetus, it seems, that has delivered the deathblow to more recent forms of tyranny, and has restored democracy, both in the Philippines and in Indonesia, to its rightful place.
The striking similarities and parallelisms between Indonesia's own democratic transition and that of the Philippines offer an Asian example of democratic resurgence in the Asia-Pacific this century. The Philippines and Indonesia are now the two largest democracies in Southeast Asia and the potential for future political and economic cooperation seems limitless as the political values and systems of our two countries assume a more common identity and redefine our role in the region, beyond our respective borders.
Together in partnership, the Philippines and Indonesia now form the most important pillars of Nusantara Southeast Asia, a reality that would have made Rizal and Mabini very proud indeed.
H.E. Mr. Leonides T. Caday
Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia