By Chris Antonette P. Pugay

      Former President Diosdado D. Macapagal issued Proclamation No. 28 endorsing to the Congress the urgency of enacting a measure to fix June 12 as Philippine Independence Day. Two years later, Republic Act No. 4166 proclaiming June 12 as Independence Day and July 4 as Philippine Republic Day was signed and approved by President Macapagal. This surprised many who were accustomed to July 4 as the celebration of the Philippine Independence, however, President Macapagal’s proclamation drew overwhelming support from the public, civic organizations, professional associations, and even political parties. While the former president received praises for this act, the Filipinos should also recognize the person who actually fathered the idea of June 12 as Philippine Independence Day – Gabriel F. Fabella.

      Gabriel F. Fabella was a known lawyer, educator, and an assemblyman during his lifetime. He was born to Maximo Fabella and Rafaela Fabrero on 18 March 1898 in Jones (formerly Banton), Romblon. He finished his secondary course in the Manila High School (presently known as Araullo High School) in 1916. Eventually he pursued his undergraduate and graduate degrees in education at the University of the Philippines. He obtained his law degree from the National Law College.

     Fabella taught in various schools like Capiz Intermediate School, Romblon High School, Tayabas High School, and even in the College of Liberal Arts in the University of the Philippines. For quite a while he worked as the editor of Bagong Iwag and translated some of Shakespeare’s plays in Filipino. He had been very active in the academe and eventually involved himself with politics by joining the Nacionalista-Democratico Party. He served as member of the First National Assembly from 1935 to 1938 while fostering his historical advocacy by being active in the Philippine Historical Association.

Bill filed in 1959

       Fabella toyed with the idea of changing the date of Philippine independence from July 4 to June 12 as early as 1959. Eventually, he tried to seek the help of his constituents from UP in order for his vision to come true. Also in the same year, the Philippine Historical Association submitted a resolution sponsored by Fabella which was the basis of Congressman Ramon Mitra’s bill seeking to adopt June 12 as the independence day of the Philippines.

       Apart from the resolution, Fabella made sure he did his part by carrying his advocacy in his public speeches and over the radio. He explained to the public the significance of celebrating June 12 as the country’s independence day.  This was the content of his speeches in Mindoro, Cavite and Legaspi City. He also wrote an article “June 12 or July 4?” that was published in the Sunday Times Magazine on June 1960 and this stirred positive responses and support from the people.

His arguments and reasons embodied in the PHA resolution in advocating June 12 to be the independence day were the following:

  • First, United States celebrates independence day every July 4, the day Americans declared their independence not 3 September 1783 when Great Britain recognized their liberty;
  • Second, if the Philippines celebrates its independence day every July 4, our celebration would be dwarfed by the US celebration;
  • Third, June 12 was the most logical date since Filipinos were not actually particular about fixing of dates, what we actually cared for is independence itself;
  • Fourth, if the Philippines celebrates common independence day with USA, other nations might believe that the Philippines is still a part of United States.

       As Filipinos celebrate every twelfth of June as independence day, they should also remember that an unpretentious person like Fabella undertook extraordinary task of changing the date from July 4 to June 12.