Happy Independence Day to the Philippines

Last updated on February 16th, 2024 at 05:46 pm

Remitly has helped thousands of Filipinos send money to loved ones around the world. (Our very first customers, Earl and Bert, come from the Philippines!) We’re proud to have an office in Manila, and we wish our Filipino customers, friends, and employees a Happy Philippines Independence Day!

In honor of the holiday, let’s trace the history of Philippine independence and take a look at how people across the Philippine islands celebrate it.

When is Philippine Independence Day?

June 12 is Philippine Independence Day, or as locals call it, “Araw ng Kasarinlan” (“Day of Freedom”). This annual national holiday honors when the Philippines declared independence from Spain in 1898.

Independence Day is a public holiday, so many Filipinos have the day off from work and are free to celebrate with their neighbors, friends, and family.

Brief history of Philippine Independence Day

Over the years, there have been different Independence Days in the Philippines due to the unique history of the country’s struggle to become an independent republic. Let’s trace the story back to see how Filipinos achieved independence.

Stage for independence

Before the 1896 Philippine Revolution, the Philippines was largely a Spanish colony for centuries. The Spanish established their first settlement in the city that would one day become Manila in 1571 and began to rule over native Filipinos.

Except for a short period from 1762 to 1764 when the British temporarily controlled Manila, Spain’s power in the Philippines remained unchecked until the late 19th century. It was then that Filipino revolutionaries began to speak out about Spain’s brutal suppression.

The writer Jose Rizal pushed for colonial rule reform through books he published and a movement he founded called Liga Filipina. At the same time, the revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, often called the Katipunan, founded his own organization that called for the complete overthrow of Spain in the Philippines.

In August 1896, Bonifacio led a group of Filipinos in a violent revolution. Rizal was incorrectly labeled as a supporter of the cause and executed in December 1896.

First independence and the Spanish-American War

Jose Rizal’s death rallied more people to the cause of Philippine independence. By 1898, there was growing support for an independent Philippine government, and the Spanish-American War broke out.

The American forces led by Commodore George Dewey took on the Spanish and began liberating towns south of Manila. On April 30, 1898, the Americans defeated the Spanish Pacific fleet in Manila Bay.

At this point, Filipino revolutionaries seized the opportunity. Led by General Emilio Aguinaldo, their forces surrounded Manila and took control.

Then, on June 12, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo raised the Philippine flag for the first time and proclaimed Philippine independence.

After General Aguinaldo raised the flag, the San Francisco de Malabon marching band played the Philippines national anthem, “Lupang Hinirang,” for the first time.

When the Spanish-American War ended, the Spanish government gave control of the Philippines to the U.S., but many Filipinos resisted. For a time, the country had an independent provincial government led by Emilio Aguinaldo, but that ended in 1902 when the Americans captured the Philippine national hero.

True independence after World War II

The Philippines remained under American control throughout the first decades of the 20th century. In 1935, the Philippines briefly became a self-governing commonwealth under the leadership of elected President Manuel Quezon. Then, in 1937, a war between Japan and China renewed armed conflict in Southeast Asia.

By 1941, the Philippines had become a theater in the Second World War, with Japan fighting the Americans on the Philippine islands. Ultimately, the invaders were victorious, and the Phillippines became subject to Japanese occupation for three years.

On July 4, 1945, General MacArthur declared the military campaign in Luzon a victory, yet fighting between allied American and Filipino forces continued in the mountain regions up until Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945.

With the war ending, the Philippines returned to American rule, and a debate ensued about the nation’s fate. Some people wanted the Philippines to become a U.S. state like Hawaii, hoping to maintain a presence in Southeast Asia for strategic purposes due to the brewing Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Ultimately, it was decided that the Philippines should control their destiny. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines gained independence by signing the Treaty of Manila and a proclamation issued by American President Harry Truman.

The result was the official formation of the Republic of the Philippines. However, the Americans maintained close ties with the newly formed republic through deals like the Bell Trade Act and the military bases agreement. Manuel Roxas became the first elected president of the new republic.

Filipinos originally celebrated Independence Day on July 4, the same day as American Independence Day. In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal issued a presidential proclamation that changed the date to June 12 to commemorate the end of Spanish rule and celebrate the country’s sovereignty.

How do people celebrate Philippine Independence Day?

There are many ways that people around the world celebrate Philippine independence. Here are some popular holiday traditions in the Philippines:


Just as Americans shoot off fireworks on July 4, Filipinos bring color and light to their celebrations on June 12. There’s usually a large display over Manila Bay, and smaller fireworks shows take place across the country.

Flag-raising ceremonies

Patriotic celebrations in honor of the Philippines Independence Day take place around the world on June 12. Some Philippine embassies and consulates hold flag-raising ceremonies to honor independence as early as May.

Every year on June 12, the city of Kawit, Cavite, raises a flag at Aguinaldo Shrine, General Aguinaldo’s burial place. Local officials read the 120-page Proclamation of Independence, and Filipinos fly flags outside businesses and homes.

National heroes Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo, and Delfina Herbosa designed the first national flag of the Philippines, but it’s been revised many times since. The modern flag features:

  • A horizontal red stripe symbolizes patriotism and valor
  • A horizontal blue stripe represents peace
  • A white equilateral triangle symbolizes liberty, fraternity, and equality
  • A gold sun with eight rays stands for the first eight provinces that rebelled against Spanish rule
  • Three stars symbolize the three major island groups of the nation

Dinner with the family

Many Filipino families gather around dinner tables and have large feasts to celebrate the holiday. Popular foods include national and regional dishes like:

  • Adobo: The unofficial national dish of the Philippines that typically features a mix of pork and chicken cooked in a sauce made from vinegar, garlic, bay or laurel leaves, and soy sauce
  • Beef tapa: A beef jerky often enjoyed with garlic fried rice and fried egg
  • Lechon: A whole pig slowly roasted over charcoal
  • Sisig: Chopped pig’s head with liver and spices
  • Kare-Kare: A peanut and oxtail stew
  • Bopis: A regional dish from Batangas that consists of pork or beef lungs sauteed in onions, chilies, and tomatoes


Manila hosts the largest Independence Day celebrations with parades and food festivals in the week leading up to June 12. In 2018, a major civil-military parade celebrating 120 years of independence attracted thousands of visitors.

Smaller parades that honor the end of the Philippines as a Spanish colony also occur across the country.

Wreath-laying celebration at Luneta Park

The wreath-laying ceremony at Luneta Park in Manila is another solemn tradition that marks the annual Independence Day celebration. The event is meant to honor the lives of Filipinos lost during the struggle for independence.

The Filipino president usually presides over the event. You can watch a video of President Ferdinand Marcos conducting the 2023 ceremony on YouTube.

Dressing in national costumes

Philippines Independence Day is the world’s biggest celebration of Filipino culture. In many Filipino communities, people attend local commemorative events, make Philippine flags at home, and dress up in costumes inspired by their region or tribe. Some people sing Filipino folk songs.

Celebrating Philippine Independence Day internationally

As previously mentioned, people don’t just celebrate the day when Anguinlados proclaimed Philippine independence in the Philippines. Independence Day celebrations take place among expat communities all around the world, and many Filipino-owned businesses close their doors early to enjoy the holiday.

The Philippine Independence Day Parade takes place in New York City. The parade usually lines Madison Avenue and raises funds for nonprofit organizations in the Philippines and the U.S.

In Los Angeles, the Philippine Consulate General often throws a parade and organizes a day of live entertainment to mark the holiday. Filipino Americans living in San Francisco look forward to the annual Kalayaan SF Picnic and Concert.

Hawaii is also home to a large Filipino population. Community organizers often rent space in a hotel or resort in Honolulu and hold a gala to celebrate the holiday.

Across the U.S. and abroad, many Filipino expats send money home to their loved ones to honor the day as well.

Celebrate the independence of the Philippines wherever you are

Whether you’re in the Philippines or abroad, June 12 is a day to celebrate. Check your local area to see if there are large celebrations taking place. If not, throw your own party, inviting friends and neighbors to share in the fun.

Happy Independence Day!