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Phl’s tricolors symbolizes unity of Filipinos


On May 28 this year, the Philippine flag will once more be displayed conspicuously in homes and other public buildings for 16 days – as it has been in recent years.

Displaying the country’s tricolors has become part of a revered tradition and culture of this multi-ethnic, multi-lingual country of nearly 100 million people from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.

But many ask: How many of the population are familiar with the specifics regarding the flag, despite the annual public display for 16 days, called National Flag days?

The national flag, displayed with the blue field on top in times of peace, and with the red field on top in times of war, is a horizontal bicolor with equal bands of blue and red, and with a white equilateral triangle based at the hoist side.

In the center of the triangle is a golden yellow sun with eight primary rays, each containing three individual rays.

At every corner of the triangle is a five-pointed golden yellow star.

The flag is horizontally divided into two basic colors -- royal blue and scarlet red -- with a white equilateral triangle based at the hoist side.

At the center of the triangle is a golden-yellow sun with eight primary rays, each containing three individual rays, and at each corner of the triangle is a five-pointed golden-yellow star.

The flag's length is twice its width, which translates into an aspect ratio of 1:2. The sides of the white triangle are equal to the width of the flag.

Each star is oriented such that it points towards the tip of the vertex at which it is located.

The Philippine flag, designed in 1897 by Emilio Aguinaldo while he was in exile in Hong Kong, is unique since it can indicate a state of war when the red field is displayed on top, or on the observer's left when the flag is displayed vertically, with the white equilateral triangle at the top end.

According to official sources, the white triangle stands for equality and fraternity; the blue field for peace, truth, and justice; and the red field for patriotism and valor.

The eight primary rays of the sun represent the eight provinces which declared a state of war as soon as the first revolt was initiated in the 1896 Revolution of independence from Spain, and placed under martial law by the colonial government.

The eight provinces were Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Laguna, and Batangas.

The three stars represent the three major geographical divisions of this Southeast Asian archipelago: Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

Some have noted that the symbolism given in the 1898 Proclamation of Philippine Independence differs from the current official explanation.

One school of thought says the white triangle signifies the emblem of the Katipunan, the secret society that opposed Spanish rule which was ushered in by Fernando Magallanes in 1521 until the Spanish armada was beaten by the troops of US Admiral George Dewey in 1898.

Another school of thought says the flag's colors celebrate the flag of the United States as a manifestation of Philippine gratitude for American protection against the Spaniards during the Philippine Revolution.

Still another says that one of the three stars represents the island of Panay, not the entire Visayan islands.

Historians say it has been common since the 1960s to trace the development of the Philippine flag to the various war standards of the individual leaders of the Katipunan, a pseudo-masonic revolutionary movement that opposed Spanish rule in the Philippines and led the Philippine Revolution.

But while some symbols common to the Katipunan flags would be adopted into the iconography of the Revolution, historians say it is inconclusive whether these war standards can be considered precursors to the present Philippine flag.

The first flag was sewn by Marcela Marino de Agoncillo with the help of her daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad (a niece of reformist leader José Rizal).

The flag, while it was displayed in battle on May 28, 1898, was formally unfurled during the proclamation of independence on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite.

The flag was first flown with the red field up on Feb. 4, 1899 to show that a state of war existed. Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans two years later in Palanan, Isabela, and swore allegiance to the United States.

The defeat of the Philippine Republic ushered in American colonial rule which made the display of the Philippine flag an illegal move by the Sedition Act of 1907.

This law was repealed on Oct. 30, 1919. With the legalization of the Philippine flag, the cloth available in most stores was the red and blue of the flag of the United States, so the flag from 1919 onwards adopted the navy blue color.

The Philippine Legislature passed Act. No 2928 on March 26, 1920, which legally adopted the Philippine flag as the official flag of the Philippine Islands.

Up until the eve of World War II, Flag Day was celebrated each year on Oct. 30, commemorating the date the ban on the flag was lifted.

Eventually, Flag Day has been marked every May 28.

By Honor Blanco Cabie

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