Simple, short rites to mark 122nd Philippine Independence Day

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The Independence Day festivities will take a different turn this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hound the Philippines. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 11)— The Independence Day festivities will take a different turn this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hound the Philippines.

To commemorate the country’s 122nd freedom day celebration on Friday, officials will push through with events— but with limited manpower and subject to health protocols.

President Rodrigo Duterte will be skipping the traditional commemoration rites at the Luneta Park in Manila, according to Malacañang, as the chief executive remains in Davao City.

Duterte has designated Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to lead the Luneta ceremony, which will be limited to only 10 guests, in line with the Inter-Agency Task Force’s directive.

Dahil sampu lang ang pinayagan ng IATF, ang problema po talaga kapag nandyan ang Presidente, dadami po ang tao na nais lumapit sa kanya,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque explained in a virtual media briefing on Thursday.

[Translation: Because the IATF only allowed 10 people, the problem is, if the President is there, a lot of people would want to come near him.]

The President is still expected to deliver a virtual address after the ceremony, Roque added.

Other government agencies were also tasked to hold celebrations with limited guests.

Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander PLGen Guillermo Eleazar told CNN Philippines that authorities are also encouraged to celebrate the occasion virtually to prevent the spread of the virus.

The June 12 rites at the historic Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite will also be held differently this year as local officials expect a short and simple program.

Kawit Mayor Angelo Aguinaldo said the ceremony will run for about an hour, with only 10 people allowed inside the shrine, where the Philippine flag was first unfurled as a symbol of national sovereignty.

Physical distancing measures will also be strictly followed, he added.

In 2019, Vice President Leni Robredo led the flag raising and wreath laying ceremony at Rizal Park while Duterte visited government troops in Lanao del Sur. The year before, Duterte was heckled during his Independence Day speech at the Aguinaldo Shrine.

‘Relish our freedom’

As most of the country will commemorate Independence Day virtually, Filipinos are encouraged to savor the concept of freedom— which has taken a whole new meaning while the world is on quarantine.

Sana sa Independence Day, mas pahalagahan natin yung mga sakripisyo ng ating mga ninuno," Aguinaldo told CNN Philippines. "Na-experience natin during the quarantine na ito nakulong tayo sa bahay, ngayon mas pahalagahan natin ang kalayaan (na nakamit),”

[Translation: I hope during Independence Day, we’ll highlight the sacrifices of our ancestors. We experienced during the quarantine how it felt like to be held hostage. So I hope we can savor our independence.]