MANILA – Did you know that Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo, considered as the first president of the Philippines after the end of the Spanish rule, also wanted a monument for himself like that of Dr. Jose P. Rizal at the old Luneta, now better known as Rizal Park in Manila?
Such a wish was personally conveyed to President Diosdado P. Macapagal by the then 92-year-old revolutionary general during the first-ever celebration of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1962 instead of the former July 4 as granted by the United States in 1946.
In his nationwide address on that occasion at the Luneta, Macapagal, as quoted by the monthly Philippine Geographic magazine of November 1993 (Vol. 1, No. 2), explained why and how he changed the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12, the day in 1898 when the Filipino people first declared their freedom from foreign rule.
In the process, it was believed that "he not only corrected a historical error but also did justice to the known heroes and many faceless Filipinos who fought and died or suffered in the Revolution of 1896."
As a result of Macapagal's proclamation, the Philippines celebrated the centennial of its Independence from Spain on June 12, 1998, or during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos (June 30, 1992-June 30, 1998).
Macapagal, who was then barely five months in his Malacañang office following his election in the November 1961 polls, narrated:
"In the discharge of my responsibility as President of the Republic, I moved the observance of our Independence Day because a nation is born into freedom on the day when such a people molded into a nation by a process of cultural evolution and a sense of oneness born of common struggle and suffering, announces to the world that it asserts its natural right to liberty and is ready to defend it with blood, life and honor."
Macapagal noted that the change was justified by the first successful June 12, 1962 celebration.
He said Aguinaldo was the guest of honor and at least 1 million people attended whereas in previous celebrations on July 4, only from 200,000 to 300,000 people came.
Macapagal also said bespeaking the nobility of the American people, then President John F. Kennedy was among the first to extend the congratulations of the US to the Filipino people in celebrating their day of freedom on June 12.
"In a message to me, President Kennedy said it is with pleasure that I join the people of the United States in extending our best wishes and warmest congratulations to Your Excellency and the people of the Republic of the Philippines on the occasion of the Philippine Independence Day."
According to Macapaqal, it was while he and Aguinaldo were seated at the Luneta grandstand during the ceremonies when the general thanked him again for the rectification of an erroneous historical practice and then asked:
"When will there be an Aguinaldo monument at the Luneta like that of Rizal?"
Macapagal said he could not answer the question, adding that the next generation might have the answer.
According to the New Webster Dictionary, "a generation is the average time in which children are ready to replace their parents, or about 30 years."
Aguinaldo died on Feb. 6,1964 at the age of 95. On the other hand, President Macapagal passed away on April 21, 1997 at 86 years old.
Since both leaders were already dead more than 50 years and 20 years, respectively, it is now doubtful if there would ever be a monument for General Aguinaldo at the Rizal Park.
Proof of this is that no one from the past or present generations of Filipinos has proposed to put up such a monument alongside that of Dr. Rizal in the area.
Meanwhile, the revolutionary general has been honored with the lengthy Aguinaldo Highway in his Cavite home province. This highway begins from Bacoor City near Las Piñas City in Metropolitan Manila and extends all the way to Tagaytay City near Batangas, passing through the big cities of Imus and Dasmarinas and the town of Silang.
There are also at least two municipalities named in his honor. These are General Emilio Aguinaldo town, formerly Bailen, in Cavite, and the town of Aguinaldo in Ifugao province, Cordillera Administrative Region in Northern Luzon. (PNA)