The streets are lined with the Philippine flag, the proud symbol of our country’s history, of our nation’s sovereignty and our people’s identity. This somewhat rare surge of nationalism occurs several times a year – like the day we celebrate our nation’s independence. It is on the 12th of June that we remember the day the Filipino was declared free, free from his colonial masters and free to control his destiny. These are the times in which I wrestle with my own thoughts – a battle to acknowledge whether or not our people are truly free.
These are also the times in which I think “freedom” is one of the most overused, abused and overrated words. Everyone wants to be free. Everybody talks about freedom – freedom from, freedom to, freedom for. It is such a buzz word in the human rights movement and probably one of the most sought after words of the youth. It is also the most played with words of the marketing and consumer driven world. How ironic that when you say something is free, you don’t pay for anything and it is equated to not having any monetary worth or of having cheap value. Then you have a clamoring that all people are free or are meant to be free – not having monetary worth but being much more than whatever money can buy.
There is an almost scary obsession with freedom that has leaked into our consciousness. It need not be a bad thing, but the danger of defining freedom in the most selfish of ways is always imminent. The mainstream understanding of freedom has been to do whatever you want. It is linked to having no inhibitions, no barriers, and no forms of external control. To be free has been defined to have all the options lined up for ones use, and the ability to choose whichever you fancy. This screwed up understanding of absolute freedom blurs the reality that we face and the true freedom that we crave and many times miss out on.
I have always believed that the human person is always free, regardless of whatever his or her status in life may be. He or she will always have options available – but probably not all the options that one would wish were available. There are many things that we do not have control over, but we can always choose the way we will act and react to the things that come our way. Real freedom is being able to do what one believes is right, most especially during the times in which the choosing to do the right thing is difficult.
Now more than ever, the Filipino is challenged to exercise the innate freedom that he has – to address the challenges that we face as individuals and as a people. It’s also time that we recognize how intrinsically linked our humanity is to this freedom – that although it goes beyond the price of anything material, it also not without a substantial cost. The sweat on the brow of the hardworking man, the clamor of the students that march for justice, the choice to walk the path less traveled – decisions made to do what is moral and just – seem to prove that freedom is not free. But it is well worth it.
We have always been free. We still are. It is just a matter of believing it and acting upon it.