Yes, I am free.
I am a Christian living in a Christian country. While this means little to some, this means that I have always been able to practice and express my faith without fear of discrimination. I have never gone to Church fearing that my place of worship will be attacked on a daily basis. I have never tried to hide my faith fearing I will be called a heathen or ignorant or primitive. I have never been denied a job or an opportunity simply because I believe in what I believe in.
I have always been well-to-do. This means that, while my family has experienced financial difficulties many times, I have never, ever had to go hungry in my life. I have, for the most part, always had easy access to electricity, water, education, health care, and so many other things. And I have never had to do things I don’t want to do for food or money.
I am straight. Many overlook this tiny detail because it is the norm. But this means that I am free to engage in relationships and get married without the watching eye of “moral” society. I don’t have to worry about being called “abnormal” or “malandi” simply because I act the way I am expected to act. I have never had to hide any relationship in my life. And I have never been bullied or beaten simply because of my gender.
I am educated. That means that I can find work relatively easily (and I know enough to earn myself a small income even without employment). It also means that I am more likely to be respected. I don’t have to be derogatorily called “uneducated” or “ignorant” while my voice is being ignored.
But because I am all these does not make me better than anyone else. It does not make me proud. It simply makes me priviledged. And this priviledge makes me responsible for understanding why problems like discrimination, poverty and underdevelopment still exist. It makes me responsible for making sure that my own voice, loud and clear because I am priviledged, does not overpower the voices of those who are not.
Most of all, it makes me responsible for the fact that people like me have historically stepped over and silenced people who are not like me to gain this priviledge. It makes me responsible for the fact that people like me continue to do so today. It means I am responsible (in part, at least) for the blood, sweat, and tears of millions and millions. It also means that I am responsible (also in part) for doing something to set this all right.
This is why I do not celebrate Independence Day. This is why I cannot wave a Philippine Flag proudly today. Don’t get me wrong: I am proud of my country. But because my freedom came at the cost of others’, I find it hard to be happy today.