This day marks an important point in our history when our country freed itself from decades of Spanish colonial rule exactly 123 years ago, at that time gaining nominal independence from the Spaniards that transcended into a bloody confrontation with the Americans well until the end of the 2nd World War.

This historical narrative is replete with courage and heroism in the face of great odds, one that saw heroes emerge out of sheer love of country under the most confusing of times and against adversaries of far superior strength and capabilities.

Today we are a free country, a free people with our own proud flag, even as we continue to figure out how to assert this independence in the face of a much subtle world of subjugation, foreign control and influence. Indeed, the modern world has turned the old meaning of independence into a blurry abstract.

For all intents and purposes, we are still a work in progress as an independent republic. Which is not a shame, as history has shown that it happens even to the supposedly greater nations that have had a longer experience of getting it right. Yes, even if we are supposed to be ahead of the curve, being one of the first countries in Asia to be formally declared independent.

Our path of history has shown that unity in struggle is an all important factor in achieving our goal as one truly independent nation. We are still figuring out the heads and tails of how to achieve it.

We are a country with one the longest running insurgency rooted in a passe ideology enveloped by time like a wound that never heals. Even in recent past, we have demonstrated our infancy in how we run supposedly democratic institutions like Congress and how we practice the rule of law, institutions that are supposed to serve as strong foundations of normalcy and progress. We struggle dealing with powers like China and the United States to assert our own terms of independence, complex as the task is in itself.

Yet we forge on, and that is what’s important in celebrating our 123rd year of independence. Beyond the flag waving and motherhood rhetoric, we at least know there are still many things that needs to be done, unity that needs to be forged, wars that need to be fought and victories that need to be achieved — not necessarily against our fellows but against our own weaknesses as a people.