Area residents of Filipino descent mark victory with ally U.S. over Spain
Americans have to wait another month, but for Grand Valley residents of Filipino descent, Sunday was Independence Day.
That’s the day in 1898 when Filipino and American forces booted Spain from the South Pacific islands after nearly 300 years of rule.
But even though the Philippines was considered a U.S. territory for nearly 50 years after that, Filipinos still celebrate June 12 as it’s Independence Day, said Grand Junction resident Terrie Hampton, a native of the Philippines island of Cebu.
Though every Filipino knows that June 12 really doesn’t mark true independence for the more than 1,700 islands that make up the country, it’s the day its people chose to mark, Hampton said.
During the Spanish-American war, Filipino rebels who had been fighting the Spanish for decades joined forces with the United States. The rebels’ exiled leader, Emilio Aquinaldo, had proclaimed the islands independent on that day as a way of rallying others.
“So that’s why we chose that date,” Hampton said. “Then we finally got independence from America.”
Congress declared the Philippines a commonwealth in 1935, which put it on a path toward true independence. That was delayed, however, when the Japanese invaded the Philippines at the start of World War II.
It wasn’t until after the war when full independence was granted, on July 4, 1946.
Hampton moved to the valley from the West Coast with her family in 2009, and opened the Filipino Asian Store at 2490 F Road. It didn’t take long for her to realize just how many other Filipinos were here, too. That’s when she decided it was time local Filipinos celebrated the historical event, too.
Last year, she organized the area’s first celebration of Philippines Independence Day at Lincoln Park, but rain kept most people away.
This year, the weather was nicer, and more than 200 people gathered in Long Family Memorial Park to celebrate. Hampton hopes to attract others from around the Western Slope in future events.
“In California, there are so many Filipinos, but I didn’t see a lot of people from my island,” she said. “When I got here I said, ‘Oh my god, there’s so many. They’re all over.’ I see them in Montrose and Telluride, even as far away as Aspen.”