More than a century ago, on Sept. 3, 1898, what would later become the most distinguished publication in the Philippine Revolution released its first issue under General Antonio Luna’s leadership. Who knew that one of the nation’s most remarkable heroes, who was known to fight with weapons, also fought with a pen?
Upon hearing of President Emilio Aguinaldo’s decree against independent newspapers, which ended the nationalistic paper La Libertad just after its first release on June 20, 1898, Luna efficiently appealed for a presidential authorization that would allow him to publish an independent paper of his own.
Luna decided to name the newspaper La Independencia (The Independence) when an American Provost-General suggested the name La Patria (The Homeland) as inappropriate, considering the Filipinos’ subsiding tension with the Spaniards.
Being an emissary of the nation’s angst against Spanish rule, La Independencia prepared for the worst by hiding its location. Though based in Manila, La Independencia announced to the public that Asilo de Huerfanos, a printing press in Malabon, was its place of publication.
Garnering support from the upper, educated class, La Independencia had sufficient resources to produce a four-page paper, with one page dominated by advertisements. The paper contained a limited number of news stories, but what set it above other publications was its sharp, expressive, well-written editorials, columns, and essays. The paper acquired a vast readership base, even leading Spaniards to assume that the writers and editors of the paper were also Spaniards—traitors of their own kind. The superior quality of the newspaper’s contents enabled it to be considered as the best of its time.
On its first anniversary, La Independencia first published the Spanish lyrics of the Philippine national anthem, entitled then as “Filipinas” and written by Jose Palma, who was part of the paper’s editorial staff.
The paper kept the fire blazing. In the year 1898, Pedro Paterno founded another nationalistic newspaper named La Republica Filipina to achieve national unity and independence under a Philippine Republic.
La Independencia rejected all attempts by the Spaniards at reconciliation. It continued to serve as an advocate of Philippine independence throughout the second phase of the Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards, and during the war against the Americans.
During the Filipino-American war in 1899, even in Gen. Luna’s departure for his military duties, the paper remained strong amid its adversities. Luna was replaced by Rafael Palma, who served as the paper’s acting editor during Luna’s absence.
Malolos, the heart of the Philippine Republic at that time, was soon captured by the Americans, and as La Republica Filipina was forced to shut down, La Independencia became the only publication then to fight for independence, even with some of its editorial staff already being forced to part ways.
Struggling for survival, La Independencia’s headquarters did not have a permanent address. The press moved to San Fernando, Pampanga; Angeles, Tarlac; and finally to Bautista, Pangasinan in an attempt to flee from the Americans’ advance.
La Independencia, in its final months, experienced a difficult period of recession, as the conditions during the war were unwelcoming and resources became more and more scarce. The size of the issues shrunk, and was reduced to two pages. Though newsprint was somehow never at a shortage, publishing the paper was so difficult at the time; the press and materials had to be buried near the paper’s office.
La Independencia eventually lost the struggle, ceasing operations as the remaining three members of its editorial staff fled to Camiling, Taguig. The paper released its last issue on Nov. 11, 1990.
La Independencia remained persistent in expressing its nationalistic and revolutionary views even in its untimely demise. In its very last issue, the “organ of the people of the Philippines,” the most renowned newspaper in the Philippine Revolution dared to publish this statement:
“We are near the mountain, there our look is directed; there our liberty will be secure. But to compromise with the enemy, to shake hands with him while with a gun he is opening for us in the future a new era of slavery and sufferings, no, one thousand times no… In spite of his victories and because of them, the enemy will be abhorred, not feared… Not a moment of peace and tranquility shall we give to his soldiers!”
In today’s information age, the lessons to be learned from La Independencia’s history stands through the test of time. Its purpose as a medium of expression was instrumental in making Philippine independence possible. With its existence as a message to the people that they can defend their country with a series of symbols and spaces, the legacy of La Independencia lives on.