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Did You Know: Filipinos Used to Celebrate Independence Day on July 4

We look back on this curious time in history—and how Filipinos eventually reclaimed their rightful Independence Day. 

To Filipinos, June 12 is Independence Day, the day that our forefathers fought for the country’s freedom from over 300 years of oppressive Spanish rule in 1898. 

Yet some time back in the day, Filipinos marked Independence Day on the Fourth of July—the same day Americans celebrate their independence. (Read: 5 Patriotic Movies To Watch On Independence Day)

How did this happen? To commemorate Philippine-American Friendship Day this July 4,  we look back on this curious time in history—and how Filipinos eventually reclaimed their original and rightful Independence Day. 

1898: The Treaty of Paris seals the deal.

did-you-know-filipinos-used-to-celebrate-independence-day-on-july-4
The Spanish-American War ended by the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Spain had to give up Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands in return for $20 million. (Photo from TimeToast)

Signed on December 10, 1898, the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War saw Spain relinquishing the Philippines to the United States for a cool $20 million. This prompted Filipinos to fight for their freedom anew in the Philippine-American War of 1899.

According to then US President Theodore Roosevelt, that war ended with the Americans declaring victory over Pinoys on July 4, 1902. “That’s right,” wrote Max Fisher in a 2012 story for The Atlantic, “the US celebrated Independence Day that year by taking away the independence of another country.” (Read: Four My Pope-approved films that will stir your Filipino pride

1946: “Independence” on Independence Day

did-you-know-filipinos-used-to-celebrate-independence-day-on-july-4
The Flag of the United States is lowered while the Flag of the Philippines is being raised during independence ceremonies, July 4, 1946. (Photo from Official Gazette)

Years of mounting pressure led another President Roosevelt—Theodore’s distant cousin Franklin—to co-sign a bill that would give Filipinos the independence they had been fighting for. Ironically, it would happen on the USA’s Independence Day, July 4, 1945. 

That plan was delayed by a year when the Japanese invaded the Philippines on December 8, 1941, and World War II ended in 1945. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines was granted complete independence from the US, via the Treaty of General Relations between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines.

1962: True independence, at last.

did-you-know-filipinos-used-to-celebrate-independence-day-on-july-4
President Diosdado Macapagal in front of the Aguinaldo house replica at the Quirino Grandstand, June 12, 1962. (Photo from Malacañang Palace / Wikipedia)

While Filipinos continued to recognize July 4 as Independence Day, growing nationalistic pride prompted President Diosdado Macapagal to declare June 12 as the official Independence Day of the Philippines in 1962. (Read: Edu Manzano’s Son Holds Solo ‘Anti-Terror Bill’ Protest in New York)

July 4 remained a holiday but would henceforth be referred to as Philippine Republic Day, which President Ferdinand Marcos later renamed to Philippine-American Friendship Day. Meanwhile, it was President Corazon Aquino who removed July 4 from the list of special and regular non-working holidays.

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