MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte led the commemoration of the 124th Independence Day at the Rizal Park in Manila on Sunday for the last time as the country's chief executive.
Duterte led the raising of the Philippine flag in the said ceremony, and offered a wreath and salute in front of the monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
Joining Duterte in the rites were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairperson Rene Escalante, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Andres Centino, as well as other Cabinet secretaries and officials.
Flybys were also done by the Philippine Air Force, showcasing some of its modern aircraft on what it had called a form of asserting the nation's sovereignty.
During the flyby, Lorenzana, who just arrived from Singapore where he attended the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue on Saturday, fainted.
"His hectic schedule during the last few weeks and the extreme temperatures in Luneta earlier today may have resulted in his fatigue," Arsenio Andolong, spokesperson of the Department of National Defense, said of Lorenzana in a statement.
"Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana is currently in stable condition and has been advised to rest after fainting," he added.
In a message, Duterte told Filipinos to "continue believing that there is still wisdom to be gained from our present choices, decisions, and actions" while learning from the past.
"While our path to true freedom has been long and tedious, our forefathers have walked the mile and made us pioneers of republican democracy in Asia," he said.
"Let our constant discernment in the continuing process of nation-building therefore make us realize that our liberties are there to make us wiser and not to prove we are always right or better," Duterte added.
He also urged Filipinos to "engage in healthy yet meaningful discourse without sowing hatred and division."
"In the spirit of patriotism and love of the motherland exemplified by those who came before us, let us come together in unity for the glory and triumph of the Filipino nation," Duterte said.
The 77-year-old leader is set to exit from office on June 30, the same day his successor Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. will be sworn into the presidency.
In a separate message, outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo said that Filipinos have so much to do to continue what was started during the declaration of independence in 1898.
"Be open and loving; help those in need. Affirm what is right and true, and assert the truths of our history," she said.
"Find inspiration in one another, and from those who came before. Stand firm on a story that can never be changed, stolen, erased— a story that binds us according to a collective past, and allows us the strength to march towards a collective future," she added.
She described the country's history as a "thread that can never be broken" between Filipinos of the past and the present.
"Even now, it holds together Filipinos who dream of a better life, regardless of stature, wherever in the world they may be. It reminds us: Victory is not achieved overnight. It is comprised of many chapters of exhaustion and fear, of courage and greatness, of perseverance and combat," Robredo said.
"Any freedom that our ancestors might have achieved is but one step in the long path towards national fruition— a journey that we continue to tread until today."
CELEBRATION AT PINAGLABANAN SHRINE
The local government of San Juan City also joined in the celebration of Independence Day.
San Juan City houses the Pinaglabanan Shrine, one of the key sites in the commemoration of Independence Day, along with the Rizal Park, Aguinaldo Shrine, and Bonifacio Monument.
Mayor Francis Zamora led the flag raising ceremony there with officers from the Philippine National Police.
In 1896, San Juan City—then known as San Juan del Monte town—became the venue of the first major battle of the Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards, the Battle of Pinaglabanan.
Sunday's event commemorates the Philippines' independence from Spanish rule, although it subsequently became a US colony for several decades or until 1946.
—with reports from Larize Lee and Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News