Labor Day is a public holiday that is celebrated on May 1 in the Philippines. The day is dedicated to the contribution of the Filipino workers towards the growth of the country’s economy. The holiday pays tribute to their efforts and achievements that help to build and modernize the nation. People across the country celebrate this day by going to the beach with the family, or simply relaxing at home; while a few others march on the streets to fight for the rights of all the laborers.
Philippines Labor Day was first celebrated on May 1, 1903. More than 100,000 employees were organized by the country’s first labor organization, “Union Obrera Democratica de Filipina (U.O.D.F.),” to march from Tondo’s Plaza Moriones to Malacanang. These workers protested and demanded fair wages and better working conditions from the then-American-led government. The event is considered one of the first protests in the streets of Manila.
The U.O.D.F. was formed in February 1902 by Isabelo Delos Reyes” and “Herminigildo Cruz” to defend the rights of the working class while under American occupation. In August 1902, the American-led government arrested Delos Reyes for rebellion, sedition, and “conspiracy to raise the price of labor.” Post his arrest, “Dominador Gomez” succeeded him. Under Dominador Gomez’s rule, the U.O.D.F. led the march alongside 100,000 workers, where he was also arrested on the same grounds as Delos Reyes. Five years later, on April 8, 1908, the Philippine Assembly passed a bill recognizing May 1 as Labor Day. It was declared a national holiday.
The first Labor Day celebration was held on May 1, 1913, when Herminigildo Cruz, the other founder of U.O.D.F., put together the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas. The party demanded fair working conditions for the labor sector, including eight-hour working days, an end to child labor, equal labor standards for women, and employers’ liability to their employees. Labor Day has been synonymous with demonstrations and rallies organized by the labor sector since 1903. To convince the Philippine government to raise the minimum wage, eliminate labor contractualization, and control market fuel prices, several labor groups join in the annual protest rally.
The significance of Labor Day goes beyond just enjoying a day off from work. It is a time to reflect on the success and challenges that workers have faced and continue to face. It is a day to recognize the contribution of women and men of all cultures and backgrounds who have fought for workers’ rights, minimum wages, and safe working conditions. Labor Day serves as a reminder that workers are the backbone of the nation’s economy, and their efforts should be appreciated and respected.