A Real Celebration of a New Republic...
Updated: Jan 9, 2021
As I went about my usual habit of browsing all the auction sites for "potential great finds" or particular items that have significance to my collection, I came across an image of a cover of a book. It was not so much the cover page that struck me, but the medal that was embossed on the cover itself. It looked so familiar, and once I copied the image on to my phone, I knew right away that I was staring at a G Valdez 1946 Independence Day medal listed in the Honeycutt book as H-336. It was commemorating the very first Independence Day celebration of our country. (someone did ask me what the medal symbolized and the story of how our republic was born as portrayed in the medal as an older sister handing out the 'flag of independence' to a younger sister -- I guess that's how I would interpret the image of the medal designed by Tolentino and engraved by Valdez)
The medal may have been the first thing that struck me as to what the book was all about, but the title was definitely a dead giveaway -- "A Republic is Born." At first glance, I thought I was going to be reading a history book about the story of our independence on how we got it from the Americans, who were our older sister for more than 50 years during a period that is very significant to a lot of collectors of Philippine exonumia. It was during this American period where the United States-Philippine (USPI) coins were issued all the way up to the Commonwealth period and eventually to the time our independence was granted in 1945. It was also during this time that a common crowd favorite, the Carnival medals were also issued, some of them engraved and struck by American engravers. So, it was definitely a nice period for a number of Philippine collectors and aficionados. But as I turned the pages of the book, I was in for a surprise.
TITLE : A Republic is Born
(The Official Commemorative Volume on Independence Da,
July 4, 1946)
PUBLISHER : The Joint Executive Committee For Inauguration of the
Republic of the Philippines (Manila, Philippines)
PUBLICATION DATE : SEPTEMBER 30, 1948
PRINTER : CARMELO & BAUERMANN, INC. (Manila, Philippines)
NUMBER OF PAGES : 340
PLACE OF PRINTING : Manila, Philippines
EDITION : FIRST
LANGUAGE : ENGLISH
The book starts of like a movie and the cast of characters are slowly introduced one-by-one. As each character is given a whole page for his black and white picture, a short caption describing the character is inscribed on the opposite page. This treatment gives the drama and reflects the importance of the characters who are part of the show. The reader is treated to a visual experience on how the cast of characters all looked like.
Presenting the cast of characters instrumental in achieving Philippine Freedom:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd President of the United States of America was reassuring voice that millions of Filipinos heard who withstood Japanese occupation and persecution for more than 3 years. FDR gave the calming confidence that the Americans will return to liberate the Filipinos and redeem Philippine freedom. Although he had made the promise, he did not live to see this promise realized as he died less than 3 months from the start of his term of cerebral hemorrhage. It was FDR who made that promise of Philippine Independence to the people of the Philippines, it was President Harry S. Truman and the United States Congress who granted that freedom.
Though not present in the grandstand during that momentous event, Manuel L. Quezon will continue to live in the hearts and minds of every Filipino. He did not attend the event as he died in exile in the United States as head of the exiled government of the Philippines. But he will always be remembered as the one leader whose one passionate love was Philippine Independence. Though he did not see independence come, but he, more than any man worked hard to see it realized and I personally believe that the author of the book described him best as he was rightly acclaimed "Father of Philippine Freedom."
The picture of Manuel Acuna Roxas was the first time I've seen how the man who was inaugurated first President of the Republic looks like. He was a soldier-statesman and constitutionalist and was inaugurated as President a few minutes after the the flag of Independence was hoisted for the first time on that morning of July 4, 1946. He died April 15, 1948, two years after he was elected President of the Philippines. He will forever be remembered as the man who gave his all to make the Republic weather the difficult and turbulent infancy years, with his statesmanship and economic foresight, President Roxas laid the groundwork for the far-reaching policy that contributed to the success of the First Philippine Republic.
Elpidio Quirino was sworn into office as the Vice-President of the first Republic of the Philippines on that rainy day in July, 1946. It would be 21 months later where he would be called upon to discharge the heavy responsibilities of the Office of the President. Thus, the author described that on that July 4, 1946 independence day celebration, the Philippines inaugurated into office the two men who were to share the responsibilities of guiding the nation during its first four years. It is important to note that President Quirino, on that day he was sworn in as Vice-President was also the concurrent Secretary of Finance. Later on he would be moved as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs where he would take on the important job of negotiating important treaties of the young Republic.
President Harry S. Truman was the man responsible for carrying out the promise made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the Filipino people. A fifty-year old promise of independence and freedom embodied in the Proclamation of Philippine independence which he signed and which bears his signature. A symbolic move that will be forever remembered by every Filipino who was present in that event. Truman himself was expected to arrive in the event to grace the ceremonies, but failed to do so given certain events back in the US. He was represented at the ceremonies by the then U.S. High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt, who later became the first American Ambassador to the new Republic of the Philippines.
As the authors of the book described the next speaker, he was aptly described as "the man of the show", and easily the most applauded man at the grandstand on that rainy morning on July 4, 1946, General Douglas McArthur was a man very dear to the hearts of every Filipino. It was General McArthur who made that promise to return after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the lowest point of the war for the Filipinos and the American soldiers fighting for our freedom in the Philippines. It is important to note that Gen. McArthur was more than a symbol of freedom and of a promise fulfilled, but he has become an "idol" of every Filipino. We have all regarded him as a Filipino.
Probably regarded as the most colorful and controversial U.S. Representative to the Philippines, Paul Vories McNutt of Indiana stood tall in the grandstand on that rainy Thursday morning. As the last U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines and the first U.S. Ambassador to the young Republic, Representative McNutt had a hand in guiding and shaping Philippine-American relations and policies for more than a generation to come. In fact, McNutt had the honor of reading the Independence proclamation and it was he who handed down the U.S. flag to symbolize American withdrawal of sovereignty over the Philippines.
Senator Millard Tydings was the co-author of the Philippine Independence Act, the spirit behind the celebration. He was one of the principal speakers at the Independence Day ceremonies and his presence spoke eloquently of American goodwill and faith in the young republic. Senator Tydings was also a very popular senator back home, having crafted and authored numerous laws that brought the United States of America out of the brink of recession after the war. He came with a big delegation of U.S. Senators and congressmen.
But there was one man the book described that amongst all the participants and diplomats in the ceremonies, it was the presence this man, ex-President Sergio Osmena at the Independence day celebrations that created the most impact. Aside from it being a celebration of freedom, it was also the installation of the Republic's first president, where Osmena ran and lost against Roxas. But he was more than just the man who lost to Roxas in the 1946 elections, as the first speaker of the Philippine Assembly and staunch advocate of Philippine Independence, he worked side-by-side with the late President Quezon in bringing about this day of freedom. Ex-President Osmena signed as witness to the oath of President Roxas and he was wildly applauded by an admiring throng of his compatriots.
The spotlight of the event was focused on Manila, where the center of the world's attention on that morning of July 4, 1946 was in Luneta park -- scene of the martyrdom of Jose Rizal, our National Hero. It was described that the independence day celebration would start promptly at 8:00am and it drew a record crowd one full hour before the start of the ceremonies. The aura and feeling of independence was in the air, as every attendee in the crowd was looking forward to finally achieving one's independence after more than 300 years under colonial rule, from the Spaniards and now from the Americans. The book focused on that singular event more than 74 years ago and made every reader of the book a spectator of the event. The book carefully gave a blow-by-blow account of the events unfolding, complete with pictures and transcripts of each of the speeches made by each of the speakers, from the representative of US President Harry Truman to the final speech made by the new President of the Republic of the Philippines Manuel A. Roxas.
The author starts off by narrating or describing the beginnings of the celebration, specifically 1 hour before the start where the crowds started filling up the stands. American and Filipinos watching together as the dignitaries started entering the Luneta Park. From the representatives of the United States government, to the crop of elected officials of the newly formed Philippine Republic. It is important to note that the elections were just held, where President Manuel A. Roxas beat Serge Osmena by a very narrow margin. Guests from different countries also started to arrive, including the women in the lives of these very important people.
At the stroke of 8:00am, the program started with the invocation which was important especially from a new republic that has not lost its devotion and dedication to Christianity, ironically brought in by the Spanish. All the speeches of all the speakers were clearly outlined verbatim on the book. Starting with Senator Millard Tydings who was the esteemed Senator of Maryland and who was the co-author of the Independence Act and was known as the "Friend of the Filipino People." He was also a well-known figure in Philippine politics, and was easily one of the best received among the scores of foreign guests. When it was the turn of General Douglas McArthur to speak, a number of people in the rear moved nearer to the loudspeakers to catch every word of their Hero. When he stood up to speak, he was greeted with one of the longest ovations of the morning, but it was the ending of his speech that was the most significant and had a very important message to everyone listening:
"As this infant Republic stands at the threshold of an adventure in the society of other nations upon an identical sovereign plane, its political destiny depends upon the courage and wisdom of its leadership and the unity of its people. Never in the history have more vital and complex issues stirred mankind than today. Never have issues weighed more heavily upon the destiny of the human race. In their resolution, this New Republic will be called upon to take its stand. God grant that it may raise its voice firmly and fearlessly in alignment with those great forces of right which seek to avoid the destructive influence which, despite our past victories still harass the world. I rejoice with you that your great political goal has this day been reached, and shall watch your forward march under the manner of your own sovereignty with deep pride in the achievements of your past and with abiding confidence in those of your future. In behalf of the Great Army which I represent, I stand at salute to the Republic and its people who proudly compose it -- this land, these people that I have known so long and loved so well. (Ironically those last words of Gen. McArthur are even more appropriate these days, words that our leaders and my fellow Filipinos should take to heart even more so now, more than ever)
The next speaker was U.S. High Commissioner Paul Vories McNutt who started speaking a few minutes before 9:00am. The sky was darker as rain was expected anytime. But everyone knew the climax was nearing and not a soul moved. Commissioner McNutt, according to the author of the book represented the President of the United States, Pres. Harry S. Truman, who was unable to make the trip to Manila. But it was this statement of McNutt that got the crowd stirred up and excited: "The aspiration of Jose Rizal and of Manuel L. Quezon and of many other Filipino patriots are hereby realized. They are here with us now, weeping such tears as angels weep, as we capture this priceless, immemorial for our deeds and words. I read now the proclamation of Independence of the Republic of the Philippines." At that point, the US Flag was slowly lowered while the Guard of Honor took every precaution to make sure the wet US Flag did not touch the ground, at the same time, while the Philippine flag started rising as President Roxas was having a difficult time trying to disentangle the Philippine flag from the rope.
At officially 9:15am, the Philippine Flag reached topmast, the book makes mention of how a strong wind blew the flag clearing it off its entanglements on the rope and made it wave proudly. At the same time, the sky cleared, as described by the author, and "the sun came out from behind the clouds to give a glorious welcome to the new-born nation."
Heavy bomber formations from the U.S. 13th Air Force zoomed overhead, plus a 21 gun salute booming from a battery of the Philippine Army and from the cruiser fleet in Manila Bay. The author described how the bombers dropped small flags to the eager crowd.
Finally the swearing in of the newly elected Philippine Officials, starting with Vice-President Elpidio Quirino, who was sworn in, but subsequent events were to render this historic even more significant. Apparently, according to the author, before the book went to press, President Roxas died, leaving the affairs of the young Republic in the hands of President Elpidio Quirino.
Finally, the star of the show, the introduction and swearing in of the President of the new Republic President Manuel A. Roxas, which brought the most cheers, according to the author. As President Roxas took the stand to make his speech, all ears where on him and every Filipino, American, Diplomat and guest didn't want to miss a word he said, and he did not disappoint. His final words still echo to everyone who had attended that historic and proud event.
"Our independence is our pride and our honor. We shall defend our Nation with our lives and our fortunes. As a poet wrote a long time ago;
Let Independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost,
Ever grateful for the prize;
Let its altar reach the skies....
As I continued to peruse and turn the pages of the book, I can't help but feel that I was transported back in time to that specific date in our history. A time where every Filipino stood tall and walked upright proclaiming to the whole world, "I am free." Reading the book brought me to that time and place where this pictorial volume attempted to give the reader a first-hand experience on an event unprecedented in our history. The book featured everything that was involved in that historic event -- from the speeches of the stars of the celebration to the Independence Day parade images and finally to the dinner at Malacanang Palace attended by all the foreign diplomats with the newly sworn in President and Vice-President of the Philippines. Even the invitations that were sent out and the carpasses of the vehicles used were also featured, and most especially all the important documents from the Proclamation of Philippine Independence to the newly installed Constitution of the Philippines. This pictorial volume had almost everything. From those who were there and experienced the event itself, it is intended to evoke a casual remark, "Yes, that's it!" From those who were not fortunate to see history being lived, like myself, the book evoked that thought, "So, that's how it was", and how I wish I was indeed there to witness and experience it. At the end of the celebration, after all the festivities, the shouting and the cheers, the star of the show stood tall and proud after more than 300 years of foreign rule -- the REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES.
I may have overpaid for this book which I got in an auction in Spain. It travelled from Spain to the USA and then finally to the Philippines a little over two months ago, amidst the covid lockdown. But I remember the feeling I had when I first saw that image of the Valdez medal in the cover and I knew it was something I really wanted to have despite not knowing what I was buying. I knew it would be the perfect companion to the two medals I already have, but even more so I felt that it would be a perfect history lesson. Little did I know that it would be an actual "historical walkthrough" of the events that had transpired and how the independence day ceremonies were actually celebrated. So, I made sure I won it at all cost beating out two other bidders in an auction that ended at 4:00am while I was enjoying my birthday weekend in the beach. It was the perfect birthday gift to myself, because at the end of the day, all the effort in bringing this book back home to the Philippines was all worth it. Plus, the experience of reading the book and being transported more than 70 years in the past to actually be part of this celebration of our republic is simply.......priceless.
GALLERY OF PHOTOS FROM THE BOOK (please click the arrow on the right)