Message: Opening of “Bakit Malolos?” Exhibit

September 18, 2023

Opening of “Bakit Malolos?” Exhibit
18 September 2023

Isang mapagpalayang hapon sa ating lahat!

A hundred twenty-five years ago, men from around the Philippines gathered in the church of Barasoain, Malolos, Bulacan to write the laws that would govern the nascent Filipino nation. It is a physical manifestation of our people’s desire for freedom–a desire long fought for by countless Filipinos throughout the country in small uprisings and big revolts, in the campaign for secularization and the Propaganda movement, and in the nationwide revolution initiated by the Katipunan.

At last, we Filipinos could govern ourselves in a form we mutually agreed–a constitutional democracy where the rights of each person are upheld and protected. The inauguration of the Malolos Congress, also known formally in documents at the time as the Kapisanan Tagapagbangon, Congreso Revolucionario, and Asamblea Nacional, is significant for the following reasons: First, it shows that large parts of the Philippines had truly been liberated from Spanish colonial rule.

A large and peaceful political gathering like the inauguration of the Congress would have been unthinkable two years prior when even a mention of the possibility of independence meant torture, death, or exile. Yet the representatives arrived largely unimpeded. Most were elected by the people from various parts of the nation. Some, however, were appointed to represent places they might not be native of–places which show how far the government of Aguinaldo hoped to bring the light of liberty–there were delegates appointed for as far north as Cagayan, as far west as Palawan, as far South as Jolo and Siasi, and as far east as Palau.

In the exhibit we are inaugurating, we will see the photographs of the houses used for the Department of Foreign Affairs (Exterior), Development (Fomento), Guerra (War), and Interior, as well as the Gobierno Militar de la Plaza, Comisaria de Guerra, and the Printing Office. The revolutionary government was also able to open a university and a military academy. Third, it shows how willing Filipinos are to contribute to nation-building.

The rich people of Malolos made their large and grand houses in Malolos–the ones we’ve mentioned earlier– available to host the ministries and offices of the nascent nation. The delegates willingly left their hometowns, and quite possibly their families, for the daunting task of nation- building. The everyday Filipino made extraordinary sacrifices to fight the colonizers both on the front lines and in the hospitals set up to treat the sick and wounded.

Ang bahaging ito ng kasaysayan ay isang bahagi ng aking pagka-Pilipino na lubos kong ipinagmamalaki dahil ang aking lolo sa tuhod, lolo ng aking ina, si Ariston Gella, ang pinakaunang parmasyutiko ng Probinsya ng Antique, ay isa sa mga inatasang maging bahagi ng Kongreso ng Malolos sa pagbalangkas ng pinakaunang Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas. Ito ay isang karangalan na habambuhay kong panghahawakan, dahil ito ay isang bahagi ng kasaysayan na naging mahalaga ang papel sa pag-usbong ng isang malaya at matatag na lipunan.

We open this exhibit not just to commemorate the past but to be reminded of its lessons. The Constitution and the government that it berthed were not perfect. In fact, it was interrupted by the occupation of another nation–a nation that, ironically, fought for its own independence. Although the Republic inaugurated in Malolos eventually collapsed, we showed the invaders what we have already shown in Malolos: that we are capable of self- government. We now ask ourselves: can we live up to the example of the first Republic? Can we build upon their ideals? Can we make the freedoms that our ancestors won 125 years ago real for every Filipino? We must prove our capability to govern not to some foreign power but to our own. We must be able to confidently answer this question: is our Republic worth keeping, worth supporting, worth defending?

May this exhibit on Malolos remind us to do all we can to convince every Filipino to say yes. Mabuhay po ang ating Republika at mabuhay po tayong lahat at isang Luntiang Pilipinas ating lahat!