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A season of ironies

June 13, 2008 09:42:00
V.P. Vamenta
Cebu Daily News

Yesterday, June 12th, was the memorable date when, in 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Independence of the Philippines from Spanish rule. On that day, our history books recount, as Inquirer columnist Isagani Cruz reminds us, “the Philippine National Flag prepared by Marcela Agoncillo, assisted by Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Herbosa, was unfurled for the first time to the strains of the Philippine National March (‘Himno Nacional Filipino’) composed by Julian Felipe (with the words of Katipunero Jose Palma’s poem, ‘Filipinas,’ as lyrics). Ambrosio Rianzares then read the Act of the Declaration of Independence to the cheers of the immense and jubilant crowd that had gathered in what is now Kawit, Cavite.... (A) moment that died a-borning” when the American regime took over for the next 48 years until, on July 4, 1946, we finally achieved our independence from them.

Years later, then President Diosdado Macapagal, recognizing the historical significance of June 12th, officially proclaimed it as our own Independence Day. The irony of this is brought out in the title Isagani Cruz gave his recent column, “Forgetting Independence Day.” For this year, under the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal’s daughter, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, yesterday was a “regular working holiday,” as our Independence Day holiday was appended to last weekend for an extended holiday.

And now, for a current historical irony: we further learn (still from last Monday’s Inquirer) that “popular historian Ambeth Ocampo will be made an ‘Officer’ of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France on June 26,” a decoration that is one of the highest bestowed by France on foreigners. It will also be the second foreign decoration for Ocampo, who received the Encomienda (Commander) of the Orden del Merito Civil last December from the Kingdom of Spain. Ocampo, executive director of the National Historical Institute, writes a column for Inquirer.

Ocampo says that he is disappointed that, with two foreign decorations, he has none from his own government. But he, like others in a similar situation, may take consolation in the familiar saying that a prophet is without honor in his own country.

For more ironies: years ago, our Asian neighbors came to our country to learn from the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna, how to raise better, improved rice. Now they have successfully raised that rice commercially, which we now import from them!

And years ago, too, they used to come to our country to learn English because we were known then to be Asia’s foremost English-speaking country. I remember before the war, we had quite a number of Siamese (now Thai) students in the country learning English from us. And even earlier, after about 300 years under Spain, and despite it being offered in college, most of us do not speak it as easily as English. And even our English today...?

Finally, for my column this week, the irony of our public education system, considering that we are now into the new school year. The Philippines seems to be the only holdout with a 10-year basic school cycle, while others are joining the rest of the world this year in having 12 years of primary and high school education. Many of us in my time who are still around profited from the seven years of primary and four years of high school studies in public schools.

Ironically, much of private school education now starts early with preschool (daycare, then kindergarten), then seven years of grade school and four years of high school, with much private tutoring and even special classes. I wanted to devote today’s column to public school education but, ironically, other current developments came to public attention. But I hope to spend more space on effective public school education to help our young people better cope with life and its crises.

This year, thankfully, despite the crises we are going through, including the recurring school crises every year at this time, people are now helping out: parents, teachers and students in Brigada Eskwela; community, religious and private organizations, as well as civic-minded groups adopting or building schools and classrooms, and donating books and even scientific and technical equipment. May God bless them.

Tomorrow, I host LAW Inc.’s “Women’s Kapihan” on dyLA at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then Sunday will be Fathers’ Day.

Meanwhile, these days, a number of prominent people or those we personally knew have passed away. Fans, friends and colleagues mourn the recent passing of Philippine cinema’s Rudy “Daboy” Fernandez. Last month, founder Henry Canoy of Radio Mindanao Network also passed away. I met and knew him through good friend and fellow radioman Reuben Canoy, while they were still planning to put up in Cagayan de Oro Mindanao’s pioneer — and now a nationally vital — network. Do remember him in your prayers, as I also do.

So, until next week, then, as always, may God bless us!

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