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Monday, 12 June 2023
Doltone House Western Sydney, Bossley Park
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC

I join in the acknowledgement of the Dharug, Traditional Owners of the land on which we gather and pay my respects to their Elders past, present, and emerging.

Parliamentary Secretary representing the Premier, Your Excellency, Shadow Minister representing the Leader of the Opposition, Consul-General, Councillor, distinguished guests, and friends all,

Thank you for the invitation to the celebration of your National Day and for the opportunity to say a few words. 

National Days around the world encapsulate as a common theme a country’s history, its challenges, aspirations, and identity. Nothing could be more true of the Philippines.

In terms of its history, Renato Constantino wrote, with wry humour, that “the Filipino people have had the misfortune of being ‘liberated’ four times during their entire history”.[1] 

Out of that history has been forged a national identity. In rejecting foreign rule, Filipinos have met the challenges but also the affirmation that self-determination brings, the aspiration for the betterment of its people.

And can I say, before dipping briefly into your history, I always think of the Philippines as a country of people who smile.

I was fascinated to learn that the 12th of June only became your National Day in 1962, when your then-President, His Excellency Diosdado Macapagal, moved Philippine Independence Day from the 4th of July, the anniversary of the signing of the 1946 Treaty by which the United States relinquished sovereignty of the Philippines. [2] 

In changing the date, your President explained that “it is proper that what we should celebrate is not the day when other nations gave recognition to our independence, but the day when we declared our desire to exercise our inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence”.[3]

That day was the 12th of June 1898, on which, 125 years ago today, the Act of Proclamation of Independence of the Filipino People rejected the Spanish Crown and more than 300 years of colonial rule. Neither Spain nor the US understood the strength or the will of the people who stood behind this declaration. The Spanish ceded your country to the Americans as part of the terms of their victory in the Spanish-American war a few months later[4].  Nor did the Japanese, who occupied your islands during the Second World War understand.[5]

The 1946 treaty followed the liberation of the Philippines by Allied Forces – which included 4,000 Australians, 92 of whom lost their lives. More than 3000 Australians received the Philippines Liberation Medal. Your people had finally achieved the Independence they had sought for so long.

Tonight, we celebrate you, the people of the Philippines. You are among the more than 400,000 Filipinos who call Australia home – 50,000 in New South Wales. Our diplomatic ties are as old as the signing into being of the Republic of the Philippines. You are the 5th largest migrant group in our country. You contribute to the community enriching our lives in ways that are immeasurable. 

I think that your DNA must contain a musical note. 

The very first woman inducted into the Australian Songwriters Association Hall of Fame was none other than Kate Ceberano, Australian of Filipino descent. Others include Jhoanna Aguila, winner of the Voice in 2014, and Montaigne, Australia’s entrant in Eurovision 2021. There are so many renowned Filipino names in the music industry here in Sydney. As Kate Ceberano said, “Our culture breeds beautiful and successful artists. That is a fact”.[6]

And, just to maintain the cultural balance, if you can call it that, rugby league player Payne Haas is of Swiss, Filipino and Samoan descent. Admittedly, he plays for the Broncos but when the State of Origin is on, he is all Blue (with a capital B).   

And of course, there are so many more. 

I congratulate all Filipinos on this special day, on the nation you have forged, and the love for family and the happiness you bring to community.  

Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan!

[1] The quote continues: “First came the Spaniards who ‘liberated’ them from the ‘enslavement of the devil,’ next came the Americans who ‘liberated’ them from Spanish oppression, then the Japanese who ‘liberated’ them from American imperialism, then the Americans again who ‘liberated’ them from the Japanese”: Renato Constantino, A History of the Philippines: From the Spanish Colonisation to the Second World War, NYU Press, 2008, p. 10.

[2]Treaty of General Relations, Manila, 4 July 1946.

[3] Diosdado Macapagal, President of the Philippines, Address on Independence Day, 12 June 1962.

[4]Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain, December 10, 1898, often called the Treaty of Paris.

[5] The Imperial Japanese army overran all of the Philippines during the first half of 1942. The liberation – including US, Mexican, Australian, and Filipino troops – began at the end of 1944 and culminated in Japan’s surrender in August 1945.

[6] Kate Ceberano, quoted in Australian Filipina, June 2012

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