By Rommel Lopez

A huge Philippine flag is about to be raised at Rizal Park at the beginning of the 121st Independence Day rites, themed: “Kalayaan 2019: Tapang ng Bayan, Malasakit sa Mamamayan” A wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Monument followed. | PNA PHOTO BY JOEY O. RAZON

Leaders of the country called on Filipinos to ensure that the sacrifices of their forefathers and heroes in ensuring the country’s independence would not be in vain.

President Rodrigo Duterte called the country’s Independence Day the “most significant event in our country’s history.”

“Not only did we put an end to more than three centuries of subservience but we also resolved to determine the course of our own destiny as a nation,” he said.

He said the freedom Filipinos achieved was at the cost of the “sweat and blood of our patriots, heroes and martyrs.”

He enjoined Filipinos to ensure that “their dream of a truly independent Philippines – whose people live freely in a secure, stable and prosperous society – will be achieved within our lifetimes.”

Vice President Leni Robredo said Independence Day is the day on which the nation commemorates those who have sacrificed to fulfill their dream of a free Philippines.

“Kinikilala natin ngayon ang mga sakripisyong ginawa ng magigiting na bayani ng ating kasaysayan, na nagbigay-daan para sa mga kalayaang tinatamasa at iniingatan natin ngayon,” she said in her message posted on her official Facebook page

The widow of former interior secretary and Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo said Filipinos take on the responsibility of building a society that is free, just and humane.

“At hanggang sa araw na ito, nakaatang ang responsibilidad na ito sa bawat isa sa atin. Ito ang pinaglaban ng mga nauna sa atin, at ito na rin ang tungkuling iniiwan sa atin upang gampanan: ang masigurong nabubuhay tayo sa isang Pilipinas kung saan umaangat ang bawat isang mamamayan,” she said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called on Filipinos “to safeguard the freedom that our ancestors fought for; the very freedom we have sworn to protect.”

In a message to reporters on Tuesday, Lorenzana also called on all Filipinos to support the government’s anti-insurgency efforts to eradicate the “flaw of a foreign ideology that has inflicted division in our Motherland for decades.”

“We will show the world what true Filipinos are: a disciplined, patriotic race, with an ever-burning sense of duty, ready to defend our nation against threats and foes,” he said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan in his message said Filipinos continue to be faced with challenges that erode people’s hopes and threaten their freedom. “For how can we be independent when our people are hungry for food, jobs, and justice?” he asked.

“It is upon us to nurture the struggles of our heroes who lit the fire toward an independent nation. We should plant, plant, plant – food, trees, and seeds of love of country for the survival of our people, our future, and our planet.”