By Carminda R. Arevalo

      The flag is the country’s most cherished symbol. It is the nation’s emblem for freedom.  It symbolizes patriotism, love of country and sense of nationhood and embodies the aspirations and sentiments of the Filipino people in their unceasing quest for independence.  It stands as instrument of unity that binds the Filipino people.

       Prior to the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, the Filipinos had no national flag of their own. The only known flag to them was the Spanish flag.  But when the Filipinos rose in revolt against Spain, each revolutionary group had its own banner. General Mariano Llanera’s troop, for instance, used the “skull flag” in Nueva Ecija.  Bonifacio himself had a personal standard.

       Our early flags were those of the Katipunan.  The first was made of red piece of cloth with letters “K.K.K.” arranged in a row in the center of the rectangular field. This flag was unfurled during the “First Cry of the Revolution” in August 1896.  An early version of the Katipunan flag had three K’s arranged in an equilateral triangle. A flag with only one “K” later replaced this. The letter “K” was later changed to an ancient Tagalog “K” within the figure of a sun with eight rays.

      During the Naic Assembly on March 17, 1897, another change was made in the flag.  The ancient Tagalog “K” was replaced by a mythical sun, which remained in use until the signing of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato on December 10, 1897.  All these flags had a red background to signify the revolutionary character of the Katipunan.

     It was during the preparation of the second phase of the Philippine Revolution (1898-1902) that the idea of coming up with a new flag was conceived by General Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the Revolutionary Government. Aguinaldo and other revolutionary leaders, then exiled in Hong Kong, painstakingly designed the flag. It was handsewn by Marcela Mariño Agoncillo wife of Don Felipe Agoncillo at 535 Morrison Hill Road with the help of her daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa Natividad, niece of Dr. Jose Rizal and wife of Gen. Salvador Natividad.

        Made of silk, the flag had a white equilateral triangle at the left containing a sunburst of eight rays at the center, a five-pointed star at each angle of the triangle, an upper stripe of blue and a lower stripe of red. The sun stands for liberty; the sunburst of eight rays for the first eight provinces to take up arms against Spain; and the three stars for the three island groups fo the Philippines – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The white triangle signifies Filipino hope for equality; the upper blue stripe stands for peace, truth and justice; while the lower red stripe stands for patriotism and valor.

        General Aguinaldo brought the flag with him when he returned to the Philippines from Hong Kong on May 19, 1898.  He unfurled it in public for the first time to celebrate the victory of the Filipino forces against the Spaniards during the Battle of Alapan on May 28, 1898.

      It was, however, in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898, that the official hoisting of the flag took place during the proclamation of Philippine Independence by General Aguinaldo.  During the unfurling, the music band of the San Francisco de Malabon played for the first time the Marcha Nacional Filipina, composed by Julian Felipe, a Filipino music teacher and composer from Cavite.  Later, the poem “Filipinas” by a young poet soldier Jose Palma became the lyrics of the anthem.

         The same flag was flown with dignity during the inauguration of Malolos Congress on September 15, 1898.

        The Philippine flag stood as witness to the glorious events of our history.  It encountered the most significant events in the Filipinos’ struggle for freedom.  And since it symbolizes our ideals and sentiments as a nation, it deserves to be treated with solemnity and dignity.

         The display of the Philippine Flag from May 28 to June 12 of each year honors the sacrifices of our heroes for our hard-earned freedom.  This also a fitting respect and affection for our national flag – the symbol of our sovereignty and solidarity.