PH used to mark Nat’l Thanksgiving Day on Sept. 21

By Severino Samonte

September 19, 2018, 2:38 pm

MANILA -- Not many of the millennials today may be aware that the Philippines used to celebrate National Thanksgiving Day every Sept. 21 from 1973 to 1985.

The date of such celebration differed very much from that of the United States, which has been marking the same event every fourth Thursday of November, to give thanks to God for the blessings to the nation.

According to the Presidential Museum and Library in Malacañang, the Philippines, while it was an American colony in 1901 to 1935, celebrated Thanksgiving as a special public holiday on the same day as the Americans.

When the Philippine Commonwealth Government was established on Nov. 15, 1935, President Manuel L. Quezon continued to decree the tradition of American Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday in the Philippines.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, both the Americans in the country and Filipinos celebrated Thanksgiving Day secretly.

After the Japanese withdrawal from the country in 1945, the tradition continued until the early years of the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-1986).

However, upon the declaration of martial law through Proclamation 1081 in 1972, Marcos issued Proclamation 1181 in 1973, moving the annual celebration to Sept. 21 to coincide with the establishment of his so-called “Bagong Lipunan” or New Society.

The New Society was an envisioned nationwide socio-political initiative that was supposed to be similar with the “Great Leap Forward” of Mao Zedong in China, the “New Order Administration” of President Suharto in Indonesia, and the “Juche” of Kim Il-sung of North Korea.

The Marcos-decreed celebration of National Thanksgiving Day every Sept. 21 ceased after the Feb. 22-25, 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, which forced the Marcos family to flee to Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the first celebration of National Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines on Sept. 1, 1973 was welcomed very much by Filipinos from all walks of life nationwide.

This could be gleaned from reports filed by correspondents and stringers of the then seven-month-old Philippine News Agency (PNA) based in the provincial capitals of Cagayan, Baguio City, Laoag City and Dagupan City in the north to Davao and Zamboanga in the south.

PNA was born on March 1, 1973 to replace the former Philippine News Service, the country’s first privately-owned news agency that ceased operations as a result of the imposition of a nationwide state of martial law by then President Marcos. (PNA)