The Philippine Flag
The flag was first unfurled here on May 28, 1898
The Katipunan (Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalangang, Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) was formed when peaceful colonial reforms were deemed hopeless in the face of arrest and persecution of nationalist leaders and Filipino masons. It was organized on July 7, 1892, a day after Dr Jose Rizal was arrested (later banished to Dapitan in Mindanao). Andres Bonifacio, Teodoro Plata and Ladislao Diwa established the first triangle from where other triangles were formed until the organization grew to become a popular movement. The Katipunan advocated total independence from Spain. It spread in Cavite and nearby provinces and later became the core of a voluntary army of the 1896 revolution. When the call to arms was issued and the fighting started, various flags served as the rallying symbols of the different revolutionary units. The last and final symbol was the flag unfurled in the window of General Aguinaldo's house in Kawit where Philippine independence was proclaimed on June 12, 1898. This flag was designed and sewn in Hong Kong and brought by General Aguinaldo when he returned from exile. Through the years, its design underwent minor modifications and by law, became our national flag. Aguinaldo was a firm adherent of Masonry thus, it has been claimed that many of its symbolisms were Masonic in nature and inspired by symbols and décor of Spanish Grand Orient lodges. However, historians have yet to validate the bases of these claims.
The Sun and the Stars
1898 Philippine Flag
The first Philippine flag had a mythical sun symbol often attributed to Masonry and a type of blue called azul oscura, a color subjected to many debates until RA 8491 prescribed the use of royal blue. Of all the symbolisms attributed to Masonry, only the white triangle carries a strong indication of its Masonic ties. This however, is enough to instill pride among Masons.
Revolutionary and personal flags
Various standards appeared during the 1896 phase of the revolution. Although it has been said that the national flag evolved from these flags, historians contend that the designs and elements that bore similarities to the Philippine flag served merely as inspirations and should not be regarded as stages of linear evolution.
Andres Bonifacio's Flag
This flag was first unveiled on August 23, 1896 when the Katipuneros tore their cedulas in defiance of Spanish authority. On August 30, 1896, it was used during the first major battle of the Philippine Revolution in San Juan del Monte.
The Magdiwang faction of the Katipunan, under General Mariano Alvarez of Noveleta, Cavite adopted a red flag with a white sun at the center and an ancient Tagalog script depicting the letter K (ka).
The Magdalo faction of General Emilio Aguinaldo based in Kawit, Cavite used a red banner with a white sun consisting of eight rays. At its center was also the letter K (ka) written in ancient Tagalog script
Bandila ng Matagumpay
The Battalion Flag of General Pio del Pilar of San Pedro de Makati, was first used on July 11, 1895. The flag was called Bandila ng Matagumpay (The Flag of the Victorious). The white triangle at the left side, the sun, and the position of the letters KKK probably served as the models for the national flag designed and made in Hong Kong. The eight rays of the rising sun represented the first eight provinces placed under martial law by the colonial government for rising up in rebellion namely, Cavite, Manila, Batangas, Bulacan, Laguna Pampanga, Morong and Nueva Ecija.
Sun of Liberty Flag
"Sun of Liberty Flag" was the first official flag of the revolutionary government of General Emilio Aguinaldo. Considered as the first Filipino national flag, it featured a white sun of eight rays, symbolizing the search for liberty. The revolutionary leaders adopted this flag at their assembly in Naic, Cavite on March 17, 1897. It was a revised version of Aguinaldo’s Magdalo flag. With the establishment of a revolutionary government, the ancient letter “K” was replaced by the sun at the center of the flag. This flag was used during some of the bloodiest battles of the revolution. It served as a national symbol until the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, a truce agreement between the Spanish colonial government and the revolutionary government was signed by Gov. Gen. Fernando Primo de Rivera and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on December 14-15, 1897.
The First Tricolor Flag
The first Filipino tricolor was General Gregorio del Pilar’s 1897 flag. It had a layout almost resembling the present National Flag. The upper red band stood for the Katipunan color; the lower black was inspired by General Llanera's flag; and the blue triangle signified comradeship with the revolutionary flag of Cuba, another Spanish colony which was at that time also fighting for independence. The flag went to battle for the last time at Tirad Pass, Ilocos Sur, during the Philippine-American war where Gen. Gregorio del Pilar made a last stand against the Americans while trying to cover the retreating armies of Gen.Emilio Aguinaldo on December 2, 1899.
General Llanera's Flag
General Mariano Llanera who fought in the provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija used a black flag with a white K on the left and a white skull-and-bones on the right. Bonifacio called it “Bungo ni Llanera” or Llanera’s skull.
The Making of the Philippine Flag
Before his return to the Philippines, General Emilio Aguinaldo and the revolutionary leaders in exile with him in Hong Kong decided to adopt a flag that would serve as the symbol of the country to unite the people. A design was given to Doña Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo, who was living with her husband Don Felipe Agoncillo at No. 535 Morrison Hill Road, Hong Kong, where the other exiles lived. With the help of her daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, niece of Dr. Jose P. Rizal and wife of General Salvador Natividad, they skillfully sewed what was later to be known as "The Sun and the Stars."
Doña Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo
Doña Marcela Agoncillo was born in Taal, Batangas on June 24, 1860 to Francisco Mariño and Eugenia Coronel. She studied at Sta. Catalina College of the Dominican nuns, in the Walled City of Intramuros. Her husband was Don Felipe Agoncillo who was appointed diplomatic agent of General Aguinaldo to the United States after the declaration of Philippine independence. He was assigned to present the Filipino cause in the Treaty of Paris talks and later in the U.S. Senate's deliberations to ratify the same, but in both instances was not heard.
The Agoncillos had six daughters: Lorenza, Gregoria, Eugenia, Marcela, Adela who died at the age of three, and Maria. Marcela Agoncillo returned to the Philippines during the American occupation in 1906. She died in Taal, Batangas on May 30, 1946.
Interpretation of the Flag
General Emilio Aguinaldo, speaking before the revolutionary congress in Malolos provided an interpretation of the symbolisms in the design of the Philippine flag:
“Behold this banner with three colors, three stars and a sun, all of which have the following meaning: the red signifies the bravery of the Filipinos which is second to none, a color that was first used by the revolutionists of the province of Cavite on the 31st of August 1896, until peace reigned with the truce of Biak-na-Bato. The blue signifies that whoever will attempt enslave the Filipinos will have to eradicate them first before they give way. The white signifies that the Filipinos are capable of self-government like other nations… The three stars with five points signify the islands of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao…And, lastly, the eight rays of the rising sun signify the eight provinces of Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Morong, Laguna, Batangas and Cavite where martial law was declared. These are the provinces which give light to the Archipelago and dissipated the shadows that wrapped her… By the light of the sun, the Aetas, the Igorots, the Mangyans, and the Moslems are now descending from the mountains, and all of them I recognize as my brothers.”
May 28 is Philippine Flag Day
The official Philippine Flag today
The observance of Flag Day (actually Flag Days) is prescribed under Section 26 of Republic Act 8491 of 1998:
"The period from May 28 to June 12 of each year is declared as Flag Days, during which period all offices, agencies and instrumentalities of government, business establishments, institutions of learning and private homes are enjoined to display the flag."
Why May 28?
On May 28, 1898, after the decisive victory of the Filipinos in Alapan, Imus, Cavite, Spanish prisoners were presented to Aguinaldo at his headquarters in Teatro Caviteño in Cavite Puerto (Cavite City). Elated, Aguinaldo brought out the flag and unfurled it for the first time, in front of a large crowd.