A New Independence

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Family and friends gather at the Tom Tom Cafe in Oxnard, California to celebrate Philippine Independence Day in 1948. Courtesy of California State University Channel Islands via California Digital Library.

The foundation of Philippine independence took root early in the twentieth century. Despite the defeat of Filipino patriots and continued challenges from scattered rebel groups, the Philippines enjoyed a measure of self-rule under the US. In 1912, President Woodrow Wilson replaced the Philippine Commission, largely staffed by presidential appointments, with the democratically elected Philippine Senate. By 1935, the US recognized the formation of the Philippine Commonwealth, headed by President Manuel L. Quezon. Both Manila and Washington, DC imagined the commonwealth as the organization that would help the archipelago transition from American territory to sovereign nation.

All negotiations ended with World War II.

The Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1942 and occupied the islands through 1945. President Franklin Roosevelt's initial reluctance to send troops to the islands was controversial, but the Philippines ultimately played a key role in America's Pacific campaign. With the war’s end came liberation. In 1946, US officials returned to the Philippines and ratified the Treaty of Manila. This granted full independence to the Philippines, as well as guaranteed war reparations and trade concessions. Manuel Roxas was elected the first president. On July 4, 1946, crowds gathered in the streets of Manila to celebrate. The republic was now free from Spain and the US.