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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, June 13, 2005

Filipinos mark independence

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Despite being thousands of miles from their homeland, Filipinos yesterday celebrated the 107th anniversary of the fight for independence from Spanish rule with a re-enactment, a Mass, songs and food.

Rennie West danced with a 5-year-old friend, Megan Raza, at Kalayaan 2005, celebrating the 107th Independence Day of the Republic of the Philippines. West is the mother of "American Idol" contestant Camile Velasco.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

With the Philippine flag flying in front of the Philippine Consulate on Nu'uanu Avenue, hundreds of Filipinos young and old wearing sequins and lace and other traditional dress watched a re-enactment of independence events created by Raymund Liongson, a Leeward Community College teacher of Filipino studies.

Normally June 12 is celebrated with a flag-raising ceremony in honor of the Philippine independence declared by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, in 1898. But this year the Filipino community in Hawai'i wanted to raise awareness of Philippine history by re-enacting this important turning point in the country's formation, Liongson said.

"We wanted to flash back to the establishment of the Katipunan society, a secret society that fought for an independent nation," he said. "We wanted our people to get a feel for how it was during these times of capture and relive it, and hopefully our young people will understand that freedom isn't free, that there's always a cost."

More than 30 actors, including members of the Filipino Veterans Association and the Knights of Rizal, were dressed in period costumes. They re-enacted the ripping up of certificates of residency by Andres Bonifacio and his men, the revolution that spread from the original eight Tagalog provinces, the arrests and torture of Filipinos, the making of the original Philippine flag by three women exiled in Hong Kong and the reading of the proclamation of independence.

Later, people attended religious services and were treated to lunch and entertainment.

Maria Jo Farina, president of Hawaii Filipino Women's Club, raised her glass to toast the independence of the Philippines at a festival held yesterday at the Philippine consulate in Nu'uanu.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

For Angelino Mercado, the significance of yesterday's ceremony and re-enactment was to remind everyone that their ancestral land is a free nation today because of those three and four generations before them.

"The young generation doesn't know about our independence," said Mercado, vice president of operations of the Philippine American Veterans Hawai'i chapter. "This is the beginning of our country."

In Hawai'i, where nearly 20 percent of the population is of Filipino descent, celebrating the past is just as important as embracing the future, said Leo Rojas Gozar, chairman of the Philippines Celebration Coordinating Committee of Hawai'i.

"We want to include the community," Gozar said. "These veterans of World War II because they have an affinity with the re-enactment. We want to bridge the generations."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-8831.