MANILA -- Inclement weather failed to dampen the spirits of those who attended the 120th Independence Day anniversary celebration beside the duhat (plum) tree at the compound of the Metro Manila College (MMC) in Barangay Kaligayahan, Novaliches, Quezon City on Tuesday.

The commemorative rites, themed “Kalayaan 2018: Pagbabagong Ipinaglaban, Alay sa Masaganang Kinabukasan” (Freedom 2018: Achieving Changes for Tomorrow’s Progress), were featured including the traditional flag-raising, wreath-laying, and historical recollections.

The celebration was under the sponsorship of the Knights of Columbus-Fourth Degree, Ferdinand Magellan Province, District 4, National Capital Region North, in coordination with the officials and students of the MMC.

Sir Knight Mario Malacad, past Faithful Navigator of K of C, Maximilian Ma. Kolbe Assembly ACN 2993, introduced the guest speaker, Sir Knight Marlon Manaol, chief of staff of the K of C Fourth Degree District 4, NCR North Ferdinand Magellan Province, Philippines.

“Ang punong ito ay nagsisimbulo ng mga sakripisyo, ng mga sugat na ginamot ng ating mahal na Tandang Sora sa piling ng ating mga Katipunero (This tree symbolizes sacrifices, wounds nursed by our beloved Tandang Sora (Melchora Aquino),” Manaol said in his speech.

He said that other unsung Katipuneros nursed by Tandang Sora witnessed by that tree also deserved to be recognized as the ones who gave their lives to be freed from foreign rule.

“The unknown heroes of the past should be our inspiration in our daily lives. May the unknown heroes be our aspiration to be daily heroes,” Manaol said.

He said unknown to many people, their group gave assistance to the numerous victims of typhoon "Yolanda" but preferred to be silent on the matter.

Among those who led in the floral offerings were Dr. Evelyne Dominguez, vice president for MMC administration; Natividad Villano, board member of the Gawad Metronian Educational Foundation Inc., and Sir Knight William James Pierce, current Faithful Navigator, St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe Assembly ACN 2993.

Meanwhile, in his message during the event, Severino Samonte, retired executive editor of the government’s Philippine News Agency (PNA) and 1993 Outstanding Citizen of Novaliches in the Field of Journalism, said the historical significance of the old plum tree is to perpetuate the memory of the revolutionary organization put up by Gat Andres Bonifacio and other freedom fighters on July 7, 1892.

The duhat tree, estimated to be more than 150 years old, was renamed “Katipunan Tree”on April 26, 1980 by then National Historical Institute (now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines), the Tree Preservation Foundation of the Philippines Inc. (TPFPI), and the MMC led by Dr. Mamerto Miranda, founder of the college which was originally named Novaliches Academy in 1947.

It was renamed to preserve the memory of the revolutionary society KKK or “Kataastaasang, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan” (Highest and Most Venerable Society of the Sons of the Country). The KKK, with Bonifacio at its helm, led the revolution against Spanish rule in the Philippines on Aug. 23, 1896.

In one of his interviews with Miranda, Samonte fondly recalled the MMC founder telling him that the revolutionary heroine Melchora Aquino, better known as Tandang Sora, used to treat the sick and wounded Katipuneros under the shade of that duhat tree during the early days of the 1896 Revolution.

Bonifacio also frequently visited the site on several occasions.

“The heritage tree also reminds us of the preparedness of our brave forefathers to sacrifice for the countrymen even it could mean losing their lives, which they did,” Samonte added.

Despite its old age, the duhat tree continues to bear fruits, but these are becoming smaller every year and not as succulent or juicy as they were before. Its shade and height also have been reduced as detached old branches and twigs have not been replaced.

The duhat tree is located about two kilometers away from the La Mesa Dam and the old Barrio Pasong Putik in Novaliches, where Tandang Sora was arrested by the Spaniards prior to her exile to Guam in 1896. (PNA)