The Philippines was a U.S. territory from 1898 to 1946. In 1934, the Philippines became a Commonwealth as it moved toward its eventual independence, which would come shortly after the American victory in World War II. The Philippines elected its first President, Manuel L. Quezon, who took office in November 15, 1935, and he served in that capacity until his death in 1944. I came across a collection of Thanksgiving proclamations issued in the Philippines during its Commonwealth period – they were issued annually from 1935-1945, save for 1942 and 43, when the Philippines was occupied by Imperial Japan. All of the Commonwealth proclamations took on the same form, with the President of the Philippines apprising the people of the Commonwealth of the Thanksgiving proclamation of the U.S. President and proclaiming that the occasion should also be observed in the Philippines. The Philippines Thanksgiving proclamations included the full text of the U.S. President’s proclamation with an additional proclamation and notes from the President of the Philippines.
Below, I will examine the Philippines Thanksgiving proclamations beginning in 1935, with an emphasis on the proclamations issued between 1935 and 1945 (inclusive). In so doing, I will excerpt interesting sections from the proclamations. After covering the Commonwealth proclamations in detail, I will examine post-independence Thanksgiving proclamations in two sets – first those concerning the November Thanksgiving tradition inherited from the United States (1950-65), and second the more novel, and peculiar, September “National Thanksgiving Day” established by Ferdinand Marcos (1973-84), which, as we will learn, apparently caused the end of the official recognition of Thanksgiving as it had been previously celebrated in the Philippines.
- The history of Thanksgiving in the Philippines
- Thanksgiving Proclamations in the Commonwealth Era, before World War II (1935-41)
- Thanksgiving Proclamations in the Commonwealth Era (1944-45)
- Thanksgiving Proclamations in the early Republic (1950-1965)
- The Marcos Era Proclamations (1973-84)
The focus of this article is on Presidential proclamations of Thanksgiving in the Philippines. I will be discussing the original proclamations, all retrieved from government resources. This article is not, like my detailed article on early Mother’s Day observances, about how Thanksgiving was or is actually observed in the Philippines. The focus here is narrow: Presidential proclamations. If any readers are interested in offering information on other Philippines-related Thanksgiving issues, you may comment via email and Hypothes.is.
Additionally – for the 1935-44 proclamations, do note that the original texts, which I link to, include Franklin Roosevelt’s corresponding U.S. Presidential proclamations of Thanksgiving. Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving proclamations were generally simple and non-specific, with the exception of specific World War II references beginning in 1940, so I generally only reference them insofar as they are relevant to the corresponding Philippines proclamations by Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña.
A 2014 article published by the Philippines Presidential Museum and Library goes over the history of Thanksgiving in the Philippines. Unsurprisingly, Thanksgiving was brought to the Philippines during its American colonial period:
During the American period (1901–1935), the Philippines, being an American colony and part of the territory of the United States, celebrated the holiday annually, also in November. American Governors-General would issue proclamations declaring Thanksgiving a holiday celebrated by Filipinos nationwide.
In 1935, the Philippines became a Commonwealth and chose Manuel L. Quezon as its President. As I noted in the introduction, Quezon continued the tradition of recognizing thanksgiving (he used the lower-case version), albeit as a “day of national thanksgiving” rather than as a holiday. We will examine his proclamations below.
Quezon’s last Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued in 1941. He issued none in 1942 and 43, during which time he was running a government in exile while the Philippines was under Japanese occupation. The Philippines Library article notes that on May 6, 1943, Japanese occupation forces held a ceremony “in thanksgiving to the great Japanese Empire,” but we do not count this one in the Philippines Thanksgiving record books.
The Thanksgiving Proclamation was revived by Quezon’s successor, Sergio Osmeña, in 1944, after U.S. forces had liberated the Philippines. After another Proclamation in 1945, the tradition went on hiatus until 1950, which marked the first Thanksgiving Proclamation in the independent Republic of the Philippines. Beginning in 1950, the proclamations no longer referenced the U.S. Thanksgiving proclamations, although until 1965, the Philippines celebrated Thanksgiving on the same day. The 1950-65 proclamations designated Thanksgiving as a public holiday.
There were no proclamations after 1965 until 1973. Beginning in 1973, then-President Ferdinand E.Marcos moved Thanksgiving to September 21 after declaring Martial Law. According to the article, this would eventually ruin Thanksgiving in the Philippines:
Thus, Thanksgiving became associated with Martial Law. After the 1986 EDSA Revolution and the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, the Thanksgiving Day tradition in the Philippines ceased.
Ferdinand Marcos’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., assumed the Presidency of the Philippines on June 30, 2022, but to the best of my knowledge, there is no sign that Thanksgiving is returning in the Philippines as a national holiday. However, although Thanksgiving has not been a national holiday in the Philippines for several decades, it is still observed by some ex-patriots and others who have kept the tradition alive in their homes.
Manuel L. Quezon assumed the presidency of the Commonwealth of the Philippines on November 15, 1935, succeeding Frank Murphy, who had served as Governor General (Murphy would go on to serve as Governor of Michigan, U.S. Attorney General, and as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court). Just three days before Quezon took office, then-U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation 2146, designating November 28, 1935, as Thanksgiving Day in the United States. All of Quezon’s Thanksgiving proclamations would designate a “national day of thanksgiving.” It would remain such throughout the Commonwealth period.
On November 26, 1935, just two days before Thanksgiving day, Quezon issued Presidential Proclamation No. 9, s. 1935, wherein he followed Roosevelt in designating November 28 as a national day of thanksgiving in the Philippines and established a template for subsequent Thanksgiving proclamations in in the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
Quezon’s 1935 Proclamation began by informing the people of the Philippines – which we should again note that, as a commonwealth, was still part of the United States – that President Roosevelt had set aside November 28 as a day of Thanksgiving.
Whereas, the President of the United States, in accordance with custom, has set aside Thursday, November twenty-eighth, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, as a day of national thanksgiving; and
Whereas, it is most appropriate that on this, the first year of the Commonwealth, the day be observed in the Philippines as in the United States and that the Filipino people be apprised of the proclamation by the President of the United States of America.
Note that Quezon did not capitalize “Thanksgiving.” Roosevelt did capitalize Thanksgiving in 1935, but did not do so in every proclamation. In theory capital Thanksgiving refers to the national holiday whereas lower-case thanksgiving refers to an occasion for giving thanks. To use a Philippine example, you can see this July 2022 story about a joint thanksgiving event between Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio, who were then the presumptive winners of the Philippine presidential and vice presidential elections respectively. Here, thanksgiving is lower case because the term was being used outside the context of the Federal holiday in the United States. Quezon would keep the lower-case rendering in future proclamations. As we will find, only one Thanksgiving Proclamation in the Philippines, in 1944, capitalized the occasion.
There is another interesting and subtle note. In the 1935 Proclamation, Quezon described Thanksgiving (or thanksgiving) “as a day of national thanksgiving” (emphasis added). Here, he followed Roosevelt’s language. The thanksgiving prefix was not constant across all of the proclamations, and I will discuss that point in subsequent sections.
After notifying the people of the Philippines of Roosevelt’s Proclamation, Quezon then followed Roosevelt as proclaiming November 28, 1935, as a day of national thanksgiving:
Now, therefore, I, Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Philippines, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November twenty-eight nineteen hundred and thirty-five as a day of thanksgiving in the Philippines and do enjoin upon the inhabitants thereof to repair to their respective houses of worship and offer thanks to Almighty God for the blessings which He has bestowed upon this country; for the establishment of the Commonwealth base upon the free will and suffrage of the Filipino people and for the generosity of the American Government and people in granting to us this final concession preparatory to the achievement of the status of a free and independent nation; to make humble acknowledgment of our devout gratitude to Him for the bountiful blessings that have been vouchsafed to us during the past year and for the spirit of peace and goodwill that reigns supreme among all elements of our people; and I do also furnish, for the respectful and careful consideration of the people of the Philippines, the following proclamation of President Roosevelt:
(Note: “Commonwealth base upon the free will” is the phrasing from the Proclamation.)
Quezon then reprinted Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in its entirety “for the respectful and careful consideration of the people of the Philippines.” Quezon would include the full text of Roosevelt’s proclamations in his subsequent proclamations.
For this article, I will highlight a unique passage from each of the 9 proclamations that were issued between 1935-1945. By unique, I mean passages which referred to specific events. Fittingly for the first Proclamation, Quezon asked the people of the Philippines to offer thanks to God for the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth. Moreover, he asked the Philippine people to express their gratitude to the government of the United States for agreeing to offer the Philippines a path to full independence.
Quezon issued his second Thanksgiving Proclamation, Proclamation No. 114, s. 1936, on November 23, 1936. Thanksgiving fell on November 26 in 1936. The second Proclamation followed the same structure as the first. I now skip ahead to quote the portion wherein Quezon followed Roosevelt in designating a day of national thanksgiving (again lower case) in the Philippines:
Now, therefore, I, Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Philippines, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November twenty-sixth, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, as a day of thanksgiving in the Philippines and do enjoin the inhabitants thereof to repair to their respective houses of worship and offer thanks to Almighty God for the blessings which He has bestowed upon this country; for the successful completion of the first year of the Commonwealth which has brought about as at no other period in our history the full consciousness of national solidarity, without which it were vain to build the foundation work of government on a sane and enduring basis; for the boon of peace and order thruout the land; for the greater realization of our duty to concern ourselves with the needs and sufferings of our less fortunate brothers; for our bountiful crops and produce; and for the general well-being and contentment so evident everywhere. For these blessings and for many more I call upon all our people to dedicate their noblest thoughts in prayer and grateful thanksgiving to Him without whose grace our greatest accomplish for the respectful and careful consideration of the people of the Philippines, the following Proclamation of President Roosevelt:1
(Note: The Proclamation used thruout instead of throughout.)
Here, we have a subtle difference from 1935 in what was being proclaimed. In 1935, Quezon proclaimed a day of national thanksgiving. In 1936, he proclaimed a day of thanksgiving (albeit the title of the Proclamation is “national thanksgiving”). Roosevelt used the same national Thanksgiving language in 1936 that he had used in 1935. While it is possible that Quezon left off national deliberately, I do not think it was done with specific intent based on my reading of all seven of his Thanksgiving proclamations.
The 1936 Proclamation encouraged the people of the Philippines to thank God for a successful first year of the Philippine Commonwealth. In so doing, he asked the people of the Philippines to be grateful for their national solidarity, which he predicted would allow them to build the foundation for their independent future.
Quezon’s 1937 Thanksgiving Proclamation, Proclamation No. 225, s. 1937, was issued on November 16, 1936, proclaiming November 25 as a day of national thanksgiving. It had a sightly different structure than the 1935 and 36 Proclamations. The first two proclamations led with Quezon apprising the people of the Philippines of Roosevelt’s Proclamation, proclaiming the same day as a day of national thanksgiving (1935) or thanksgiving (1936), and then posting Roosevelt’s entire Proclamation. In the 1937 edition, Quezon began the Proclamation by re-printing Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:
I, Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Philippines, do hereby publish the following proclamation issued by the President of the United States, setting aside, in accordance with custom, the twenty-fifth day of November, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, as a day of national thanksgiving:
The national thanksgiving proclamation language here described Roosevelt’s Proclamation, wherein the U.S. President used the phrase national Thanksgiving. After re-printing Roosevelt’s Proclamation, Quezon then followed Roosevelt in proclaiming a day of thanksgiving in the Philippines:
I deem it proper that the day be also observed in the Philippines as in the United States and I do hereby enjoin the inhabitants of the Philippines to offer thanks to Almighty God on that day for the blessings which He has bestowed upon this country, and for the successful completion of the second year of the Commonwealth.
This language is also different. Quezon did not describe himself as proclaiming a day of thanksgiving or Thanksgiving. Instead, he deemed it proper that the people of the Commonwealth of the Philippines should observe Thanksgiving just like the people of the United States. Also unlike the 1935 and 36 proclamations, the 1937 Proclamation did not reference any current events in the Philippines other than noting that the Philippines had completed its second year as a Commonwealth.
Quezon issued his fourth Thanksgiving Proclamation, Proclamation No. 342, s. 1938, on November 22, 1938, proclaiming November 24 as thanksgiving. The structure of the 1938 Proclamation followed the 1937 model, wherein Quezon began by presenting Roosevelt’s Proclamation in its entirety before issuing his own.
For the information and careful consideration of the people of the Philippines, I hereby publish the following proclamation of the President of the United States setting aside in accordance with custom, Thursday, November twenty-fourth, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, as a day of general thanksgiving:
This is the first time we see the “day of general thanksgiving” language in presenting Roosevelt’s Proclamation. However, Roosevelt used the general Thanksgiving phrasing, so this was again Quezon’s describing Roosevelt’s own Proclamation.
After re-printing Roosevelt’s, Quezon made his own Proclamation:
In line with the proclamation above quoted, I do hereby proclaim Thursday, the twenty-fourth day of November, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, as a day of thanksgiving in the Philippines. The Filipino people are fortunate in having completed successfully one more year under the Commonwealth without the country having suffered from any disaster or calamity of widespread proportion and with peace, order, and well-being prevalent everywhere. I, therefore call upon all the inhabitants of the Philippines to turn their thoughts and actions on this day towards Almighty God offer a prayer of thanks to Him for the bountiful blessings that have been vouchsafed to us during the past year. May God in His infinite goodness continue to shower His infinite goodness continue to shower Hus blessings not only on our people but also on the poor and unfortunate people in other lands.
The 1938 Proclamation returns to the phrasing of the 1935 and 1936 proclamations, wherein Quezon expressly proclaims “a day of thanksgiving.” However, much like he did in 1936, Quezon does not follow Roosevelt’s language, leaving off general and simply declaring a day of thanksgiving. In terms of length and detail however, the 1938 Proclamation is closer to 1935 and 1936 than to 1937. He again noted that the Philippines had completed another year as a Commonwealth, but added a note about its not having been subjected to “any disaster or calamity of widespread proportion.”
Quezon’s issued his fifth Thanksgiving Proclamation, Proclamation No. 480, s. 1939, on November 6, 1939, following Roosevelt in declaring November 23, 1939 as thanksgiving. The 1939 edition followed the 1937-38 template, wherein Quezon led by re-printing Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Proclamation before issuing his own.
(Before continuing, I note that there was some controversy in 1939 because Roosevelt opted to change the date of Thanksgiving. But that fun story is beyond the scope of our study of Phillippine Commonwealth Thanksgiving proclamations. In any event, Congress codified the date of Thanksgiving in 1941.)
After re-printing Roosevelt’s Proclamation, Quezon made his own – following the 1937 structure instead of 1938:
I deem it proper that the day be also observed in the Philippines as in the United States and accordingly enjoin the inhabitants of the Philippines to offer thanks to Almighty God on that day for the bountiful blessings which He has bestowed upon our country and our people—the successful completion of another year of the Commonwealth, the abundance of crops, the absence of any disaster or calamity of great magnitude, the reign of peace and order and contentment throughout the land.
Like in 1937, Quezon stated only that it was proper that the people of the Philippines should observe Thanksgiving at the same time and in the same manner as those in the United States, without using the term thanksgiving. Other than noting that the Philippines had completed another year as a Commonwealth, this Proclamation followed 1937 and 1938 in not referencing specific events.
Quezon’s sixth Thanksgiving Proclamation, Proclamation No. 641, s. 1940, was issued on November 18, 1940, three days before another early Thanksgiving, which occurred on November 21. It kept the structure of the previous three proclamations, although there were a few minor differences.
Quezon used somewhat different language in introducing Roosevelt’s Proclamation:
For the information of the people of the Philippines, there is published hereunder an excerpt from a proclamation of the President of the United States setting aside Thursday, November the twenty-first, nineteen hundred and forty, as a day of general thanksgiving:
There is one interesting note here. Roosevelt himself, only declared a “day of thanksgiving” (notably lower-case). Quezon added general in his introduction, although I doubt that there was any significance in his doing so. Quezon then, after re-printing Roosevelt’s Proclamation, offered his own:
It is proper that the day be also observed in the Philippines as in the United States so that we can offer to Almighty God our gratitude for the great favors and blessings He has bestowed upon us. We have been spared the ravages of wars that are raging in other parts of the world; we have just completed another fruitful year of the Commonwealth; we have not experienced any internal trouble or social unrest of any magnitude; and we have been able to cope successfully with the health problems that confront us. Therefore, I, Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Philippines, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November the twenty-first, nineteen hundred and forty, as a day of thanksgiving in the Philippines and do enjoin our people to offer their prayers to Almighty God so that we may be able to continue peacefully in our work during this arduous time of nation-building, to deserve His blessings and grace, and to be worthy of His guidance and protection in the days to come.
We noted that in previous editions, Quezon either stated that it was proper that the Philippines should observe thanksgiving at the same time as people in the United States or he proclaimed thanksgiving on the same day that Roosevelt had. In 1940, he did both. First, Quezon stated that the Philippines should observe a day of thanksgiving and then he proclaimed November 21 as that day. Like Roosevelt, he proclaimed a day of thanksgiving.
In 1940, we saw the return of references to specific events. First, referencing World War II, Quezon noted that the Philippines had been spared harm from the War (this would sadly, and tragically, soon end). Secondly, he implored the people of the Philippines to offer prayers to God that they would “be able to continue peacefully in our work during this arduous time of nation-building.”
Quezon issued his seventh and final Thanksgiving Proclamation, Proclamation No. 776, s. 1941, on November 12, 1941. Quezon spent Thanksgiving 1942 and 1943 in the United States running a government in exile due to the brutal Japanese occupation of the Philippines, and he died on August 1, 1944, leaving the next Thanksgiving proclamation to his successor. Thanksgiving was set for November 20.
Quezon’s final Proclamation in 1941 followed the form of his previous four, but it was shorter and used somewhat different phrasing. He introduced Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Proclamation with a single sentence:
Whereas, the President of the United States did, on November 8, 1941, issue the following proclamation:
Quezon also utilized unique language in following the Roosevelt’s proclaiming Thanksgiving:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, MANUEL L. QUEZON, President of the Philippines do hereby give publicity to said proclamation and enjoins observance of its provisions upon all citizens of the Philippines and other persons residing or being therein.
Here, he “[gave] publicity” to Roosevelt’s Proclamation and enjoined those in the Philippines to observe it with no additional comment. In contrast, Roosevelt’s Proclamation was more detailed than his previous proclamations, making several specific references to the growing wars in Europe and Asia. War fears were growing in both the United States and the Philippines, and as we know, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor within one month of Quezon’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines commenced shortly thereafter.
Philippine President Sergio Osmeña issued two Thanksgiving proclamations, one in 1944 and another in 1945. He left office in May 1946, the last year of the Commonwealth. While Osmeña’s proclamations differed in several ways from Quezon’s, he too designated Thanksgiving as a “national day of thanksgiving.”
Manuel Quezon died in exile on August 1, 1944, and he was succeeded as President of the Philippines by Sergio Osmeña. After a three-year war-time hiatus, Osmeña revived the Thanksgiving proclamation tradition. The timing is notable. Osmeña had returned to the Philippines on October 20, 1944, along with General Douglas MacArthur and the United States military forces. Osmeña had been restored to the Philippines, and MacArthur would return civil authority to the Philippine Government in February 1945. Rge brutal fighting and massive loss of life would continue unabated until the Japanese surrender in August 1945. It was against this backdrop that Osmeña issued Proclamation No. 4, s. 1944 on November 8, 1944.
Osmeña’s 1944 Proclamation followed the form of most of Quezon’s proclamations, leading with introducing Franklin Roosevelt’s 12th (and final) Thanksgiving Proclamation:
For the information of the people of the Philippines, I hereby publish the following proclamation of the President of the United States setting aside, in accordance with custom, Thursday, November twenty-third, nineteen hundred and forty-four, as a day of general thanksgiving:
After quoting Roosevelt’s Proclamation, Osmeña offered his own – and as one would expect, it referenced current events:
In line with the proclamation above quoted, I do hereby proclaim Thursday, the twenty-third of November, nineteen hundred and forty-four, as a day of Thanksgiving in the Philippines and enjoin the inhabitants of the nation to offer thanks to Almighty God on that day for the strength and fortitude with which He blessed the Filipino people during their darkest days and for the arrival of the forces of liberation on Philippine soil to free the country. And I call on the people of the Philippines to observe the day by renewing their pledge to continue their unrelenting fight against the forces of evil until victory is won so that His spirit of justice, righteousness and charity may again reign supreme for all men.
Osmeña affirmatively declared a “day of Thanksgiving,” stating that he was doing so in line with Roosevelt’s Proclamation. In a minor semantic note, it is worth noting that Osmeña, unlike Quezon, capitalized Thanksgiving – although Roosevelt did so as well in 1944 after not doing so in several of the earlier Proclamations.
Osmeña’s Proclamation, like Roosevelt’s, expressly referenced the War. He enjoined the people of the Philippines to thank God for having given them the strength to persevere through the Japanese occupation, which they were still fighting against. He also expressed gratitude to the “liberation forces,” which primarily consisting of the U.S. Armed Forces, for their on-going efforts to liberate the Philippines. Referencing the fact that the War was still far from over, Osmeña called upon the people of the Philippines to renew their pledge to continue fighting for full and final victory against the occupying Japanese forces.
Another notable point of the Proclamation is the location. I did not note the location of Quezon’s proclamations because they were uneventful. Osmeña’s, however, highlighted the circumstances of the Philippines in November 1944:
Done at the seat of Government in the Field, this eighth day of November, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and forty-four, and of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the ninth.
(Also of interest: Osmeña’s letter to MacArthur on October 20, 1945, expressing gratitude to the U.S. Armed Forces for the final liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation.)
Sergio Osmeña issued the final Thanksgiving Proclamation of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Proclamation No. 22, s. 1945 on November 18, 1945, this time from Honolulu, Hawaii. The 1945 Proclamation is unique in that it did not reference, much less include, the Proclamation of the U.S. President, who was in this case Harry S. Truman. However, Osmeña’s Proclamation set Thanksgiving for the same day as Truman’s: November 22, 1945.
Instead of quoting Truman, Osmeña led with:
WHEREAS, the people of the Philippines traditionally observe a day of national thanksgiving; and
WHEREAS, our gratitude to Divine Providence in this, the year of our liberation from direct oppression, is fervent and deep;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, SERGIO OSMEÑA, President of the Philippines, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November twenty-second, nineteen hundred and forty-five, as a day of thanksgiving in the Philippines.
Notably, Osmeña described a “national day of thanksgiving” (returning to lower-case, albeit Truman also used the lower-case in 1945) as a tradition in the Philippines – perhaps setting it up to be observed after the final independence of the Philippines. However, as I noted, Osmeña would not be President by November 1946.
Osmeña’s Proclamation again listed specific events, looking back at the War which had concluded in August and looking forward to the difficult reconstruction which lay ahead:
Having passed through three bitter years of fire and blood and preserved an abiding faith in God and our destiny as a nation, remaining loyal to our ideals and institutions, we have emerged, spiritually, if not materially, the stronger for the test.
We have deepened our understanding and our sense of unity and social responsibility, and may meet with fortitude the tasks which confront us.
Not only do we once again live in freedom and at peace, but we have been privileged to make important advances preparatory to the work of reconstruction.
The Philippines became an independent Republic in 1946, and Filipinos ceased being noncitizen nationals of the United States (see my article on noncitizen nationality). The tradition of Thanksgiving proclamations, if not a day of thanksgiving itself, would remain dormant until 1950.
Philippine Presidents revived the tradition of issuing Thanksgiving proclamations in 1950, and did so on sixteen consecutive occasions through 1965. Unsurprisingly in light of the fact that the Republic of the Philippines, unlike its predecessor Commonwealth, was fully independent, the 1950-1965 proclamations made no reference to the American President’s Thanksgiving proclamations (this period covered Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson). However, Thanksgiving would be, from 1950-65, recognized as a “national public holiday” instead of a “national day of thanksgiving,” suggesting that it had a somewhat higher status in the early Philippine Republic than it had during the Commonwealth period.
Although the Philippines had four different Presidents from 1950-65, all sixteen proclamations followed the same, short format, proclaiming a “special public holiday for national thanksgiving” and not referencing any specific events. It would be nearly impossible to tell them apart without the date and the name of the President. Because they are generally similar, I will quote from one example from each of the presidents and link to the rest.
Elpido Quirino issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation of the Republic of the Philippines, Proclamation No. 221, s. 1950. Because it established a template for all of the proclamations through 1965, I will discuss it in some detail.
The Proclamation, issued on November 18, 1950, set aside November 23, 1950, “as a special public holiday for national thanksgiving.” All of the proclamations through 1965 would use this same title – changing only the year. The Proclamation began:
WHEREAS, Divine Providence has bestowed upon us untold blessings for which we are infinitely grateful; and
WHEREAS, it is fitting that for such bounty a day be set aside on which to dedicate our noblest thoughts in prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God;
Quirino then issued the proclamation proper:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, ELPIDIO QUIRINO, President of the Philippines, do hereby declare Thursday, November 23, 1950, as a special public holiday for national thanksgiving. I call upon all the people to turn their thoughts and actions on that day towards Almighty God and offer a prayer of thanks to Him for all the Blessings He has showered upon us.
Quino’s subsequent proclamations, which you will find linked below, were nearly identical to the 1950 Proclamation (note that dates reflect the date of the issuance of the Proclamation. The text of the Proclamation paragraph did not change, but there were some minor, insignificant word shifts in the WHEREAS sections.
- Proclamation No. 290, s. 1951, Nov. 8, 1951
- Proclamation No. 335, s. 1952, Nov. 18, 1952
- Proclamation No. 421, s. 1953, Nov. 12, 1953
As I noted in the introduction, it would be difficult to tell the proclamations apart absent their dates.
Ramon Magsayay issued three Thanksgiving Proclamations which were identical in form and nearly identical in content to those issued by Quirino (there were some minor alterations to the “WHEREAS” section). I will quote from the first, Proclamation No. 96, s. 1954, which was issued on November 23, 1954, as an example:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ramon Magsaysay, President of the Philippines, do hereby declare Thursday, November 25, 1954, as a special public holiday far national thanksgiving. I call upon all the people to turn their thoughts and actions on that day towards Almighty God and offer Him a prayer of thanks for all the blessings He has showered upon us.
Magsaysay’s next two proclamations are linked below:
The trend would continue…
Carlos P. Garcia issued five Thanksgiving proclamations.
Other than very slightly altering the wording, his proclamations kept the form of his predecessors and they were identical to one another. I offer Proclamation No. 457, s. 1957, issued on November 19, 1957, as an example:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Carlos P. Garcia, President of the Philippines, do hereby declare Thursday, November 28, 1957, as a special public holiday for national thanksgiving. I call upon all the people to turn their thoughts on that day to the Lord and offer Him a prayer; of thanks for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us.
Links to Garcia’s identical proclamations below:
- Proclamation No. 545, s. 1958, Nov. 24, 1958
- Proclamation No. 629, s. 1959, Nov. 17, 1959
- Proclamation No. 720, s. 1960, Nov. 17, 1959
- Proclamation No. 893, s. 1961, Nov. 20, 1960
Garcia’s small changes would persist…
Diosdado Macapagal issued four Thanksgiving proclamations, making no change to the wording of the proclamation section employed by Garcia. See Proclamation No. 62, s. 1962, issued on November 19, 1962, as our example:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Diosdado Macapagal, President of the Philippines, do hereby declare Thursday, November 22, 1962, as a special public holiday for national thanksgiving. I call upon all the people to turn their thoughts on that day to the Lord and offer Him a prayer of thanks for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us.
His later, identical proclamations, are linked below:
- Proclamation No. 181, s. 1963, Nov. 22, 1963
- Proclamation No. 324, s. 1964, Oct. 31, 1964
- Proclamation No. 502, s. 1965, Nov. 23, 1965
There is one interesting note. The Philippines proclamations had been all issued in November, going back to the Commonwealth era. Moreover, some were issued as close as two days prior to Thanksgiving. However, Macapagal issued his 1964 Proclamation on Halloween, October 31, 1964 – by far the earliest of the pre-1965 set.
The Marcos Era Proclamations (1973-84)
Ferdinand Marcos became President of the Philippines in 1965, and so he would remain until 1986. He does not appear to have issued any Thanksgiving proclamations during his first eight years as President (according to a Philippine government resource), but he revived the tradition after declaring Martial Law in 1972 and assuming the powers that came with it. While this article is not about the Marcos dictatorship, it will be significant that Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972.
In 1973, Marcos revived the Thanksgiving Proclamation tradition with the issuance of Proclamation No. 1180, s. 1973 on August 30, 1973. You may wonder why Marcos needed to proclaim Thanksgiving in August. The reason, as one may by now suspect, is that Marcos’s Thanksgiving differed in many respects from the occasion that the Philippines had inherited from the United States:
WHEREAS, the Association of Barrio Captains has urged the proclamation of September 21st as the National Thanksgiving Day in a formal resolution presented to the President of the Philippines and the First Lady, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos;
This National Thanksgiving Day, I must note, is fully capitalized. Marcos resolved to declare September 21 National Thanksgiving Day. Lest there was any doubt about the need for a new National Thanksgiving Day, Marcos made its purpose clear:
WHEREAS, similar petition to declare September 21st as National Thanksgiving Day for the Philippines has been received from other community leaders as well as private citizens;
Marcos then asserted that it was the consensus of the people with respect to his Martial Law declaration that:
- The timely imposition of martial law saved the country from the clutches of national disintegration sought to be brought about by lawless elements and other persons engaged in a criminal conspiracy to overthrow the duly constituted government;
- Under the regime of martial law the country has registered tremendous improvements and advancements in all aspects of national life — in peace and order, economic development and public service through the elimination of undesirable public officials and the all-out drive against graft and corruption;
- Achievements made under martial law far exceeded expectations particularly in reforming a sick society fast falling into degeneration and disunity;
- Martial law struck a note of harmony and unity among our people in working for the common good — the development, growth, progress and prosperity of the country;
Thus, he proclaimed his new National Thanksgiving Day:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare September 21 of every year as National Thanksgiving Day and I hereby call upon all our people to reflect on the blessings of goodwill and prosperity achieved under the umbrella of martial law, and to resolve to work together all the more for the continued growth, prosperity and happiness of our country and people.
For the first time since the 1945 Thanksgiving Proclamation, the Proclamation recommends specific current events and issues to be thankful for. However, Marcos’s was certainly unique in several respects. Firstly, he declared that National Thanksgiving Day would occur in perpetuity on September 21. Moreover, he called upon Filipinos “to reflect on the blessings of goodwill and prosperity achieved under the umbrella of martial law…”
The 1973 Proclamation, discussed above, was a broad directive establishing September 21 generally as National Thanksgiving Day. On September 18, 1973, Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1185, s. 1973, which returned to the language of Republican Thanksgiving proclamations in “declaring Friday, September 21, 1973, as a special public holiday.” However, other than the title, it was quite different than the Thanksgiving proclamations we examined from 1950-65, in that is specifically discussed the Martial Law declaration:
WHEREAS, martial law, declared under authority of the Constitution so as to restore peace and order to the nation, has furthermore provided the opportunity as well as the means and aroused among the people the will to build a new society which would reflect their deepest aspirations;
WHEREAS, in the brief span of one year the people have made great strides towards the attainment of that society and gained a momentum towards specific goals in the economic and social fields;
WHEREAS, this unprecedented progress and the historic opportunity to discover and employ the competence of our people to achieve it are regarded by the great majority of our people as a proper object of solemn remembrance, and celebration;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare Friday, September 21, 1973, as a special public holiday.
The Philippine government site links to eight subsequent National Thanksgiving Day proclamations from 1974-84, meaning Marcos did not issue the Proclamation every year (not that it would have been necessary, however, since the original Proclamation provided that every September 21 would be National Thanksgiving Day). I am not going to discuss every one of the Marcos proclamations in detail, but I will note some changes over time.
Proclamation No. 1319, s. 1974, issued on September 20, 1974, was the last National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation to expressly reference “martial law.” There is no link to a 1975 Proclamation, so the next one we have is Proclamation No. 1584, s. 1976, issued on September 14, 1976. Marcos subtly shifted the purpose of National Thanksgiving Day in the 1976 proclamation:
WHEREAS, on Tuesday, September 21, 1976, we once again celebrate our National Thanksgiving Day in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the New Society which ushered in an era of peace and prosperity in this country;
Gone was Martial Law, in was the New Society. The New Society framing would persist through the next three proclamations:
- Proclamation No. 1669, s. 1977, Sep. 19, 1977
- Proclamation No. 1785, s. 1978, Sep. 8, 1978
- Proclamation No. 2009, s. 1980, Sep. 16, 1980
Marcos’s proclamations were not identical like the 1950-65 set, but despite their unique passages, these three were substantially similar in content. There are two interesting date-related notes, however.
- The 1978 Proclamation declared “Thursday and Friday, September 21, and 22, 1978, as special public holidays.” The Proclamation itself does not explain why September 22 was designated as a holiday. The best theory that I have is that it was done in order that people did not have to return to work on Friday after having Thursday off (this is just a guess, however).
- The 1980 Proclamation read as follows: “Declaring Monday, September 22, 1980, as a special public holiday in commemoration of the eighth anniversary of a new society which falls on a Sunday, September 21, 1980.” If you set a holiday to fall on a specific day, it will necessarily fall on a Sunday on some occasions. Thus, Marcos’s reasons for moving National Thanksgiving Day to Monday in 1980 makes sense.
Marcos’s final three Thanksgiving Proclamations kept the occasion in September, but softened it in several respects.
- Proclamation No. 2231, s. 1982, Sep. 11, 1982
- Proclamation No. 2312, s. 1983, Sep. 19, 1983
- Proclamation No. 2380, s. 1984, Sep. 19, 1984
Marcos revised the rules regarding special holidays and working holidays in Letter of Instruction No. 1087, s. 1980, issued on November 26, 1980, which slightly altered how National Thanks Giving Days (as it was named here) affected the work and school weeks, but that is beyond our scope. What is within our scope is that the 1982-84 proclamations dropped the “National” from Thanksgiving Day.
Why Marcos dropped “National” is unclear, but the proclamations do still expressly reference September 21, 1972. However, instead of discussing Martial Law or a new society, the proclamations define Thanksgiving Day as being for gratitude for the achievements of the Philippines beginning on September 21, 1972. These proclamations were mainly concerned with establishing guidelines for days off from work and school. That is, the significance of the final Thanksgiving Proclamations concerned technical issues involving days off rather than proclaiming National Thanksgiving Day.
The final National Thanksgiving Day occurred in 1985. Marcos was deposed in 1986.
Thanksgiving as Americans understand it was, in reality, last officially observed in the Philippines in 1965. While the Proclamations of Republican Philippines were short, they, in their brevity, understood Thanksgiving in the same manner as the early proclamations of U.S. Presidents. I almost opted to exclude the Marcos National Thanksgiving Day proclamations because Marcos’ National Thanksgiving Day was clearly a distinct celebration from the Thanksgiving that the Philippines inherited from the United States, but I included it both because the history is interesting and also because, according to numerous resources, it soured the idea of an official Thanksgiving to such a degree that the November holiday was not revived after Marcos was deposed.
While I am hardly an expert on the matter, it does appear that some people in the Philippines still observe the November Thanksgiving, although it has not been an official holiday in nearly six decades. Furthermore, some businesses in the Philippines are, according to at least one source, trying to bring the November occasion back in some form.