The Philippines celebrates its Independence Day every June 12th.

I love my country and I love my freedom. But I think there is great need today for my country and its people to rethink what true freedom means to them.

When I entered my singing group The Ryan Cayabyab Singers, this mash-up of two songs, arranged by our boss Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, was the first song I ever performed.

Here is our Independence Day message:

What does it mean to be free?

In isolation, we learned that freedom is not something we seek outside ourselves. It is not something we should have to ask for or something given to us. Freedom is something that we only find from inside. Freedom is our individual spirit, freedom is our individual heart.

We are always faced with choices – between light or dark, between stillness or movement, between moving in turmoil or moving in grace, between being destroyed or being able, between finding joy or holding on to despair, between acts of revenge or acts of forgiveness. We often feel helpless, as if we are not given our choices. As if grief is the one who chooses us. And we quickly, or permanently, forget our freedom. We forget our freedom to be our own creators of hope.

Freedom does not lie in the hands of another. It is not in the seeking for someone to save us, or in constantly looking back in the past behind us, or in fighting merely to survive, or asking for promises of a better future and waiting for the world to act in our favor. Freedom is our present, our gift — how we live, how we hope, how we move and act with grace, how we give to others, how we learn to love with determination and courage despite loneliness and oppression, how we walk with faith despite fears we bear. Freedom can come in many forms and it is how we decide to wear it. It is how we shine our light. It is how we still dance, it is how we still sing.

This is not only for our countrymen, but for every individual around the globe who may feel trapped today in conditions that they have not chosen for themselves. And while both songs have always reminded our nation its ongoing sentiments of adversity and division, maybe changing our conditions can only start with changing how we can see things differently. Yes, we have freedom to fight, to speak up, to join forces, to enter the next battle, to overcome, to win over someone or something; but we also have the freedom to nourish the good that is already there, to build on what is beautiful, to choose our personal words and actions no matter what circumstances dictate, to understand more, to learn and keep relearning compassion, to create the forces of peace and kindness we want so badly to see in our world, to radiate love, to be joyously and unwaveringly free.

We have the complete freedom to choose.

“And I know, if I’ll only be true to this glorious questThat my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest.And the world will be better for this:That one man scorned and covered with scarsStill strove with his last ounce of courage…”

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