The national flag of the Philippines consists of a bicolour blue and red with a white triangle at the hoist side. At the centre of the triangle is a yellow sun with eight rays surrounded by three yellow five-pointed stars. This flag was adopted on June 12th, 1898 and it is celebrated every May 28th, during flag day. The flag is not only a reminder of the victory of the people in the battle of Alapan but also a symbol of a prosperous future.
History of the Flag of the Philippines
Similar to most countries, the Philippines has a history of using a variety of flags. For instance, the first flag recorded in history was the flag of the Tondo dynasty in 1570. This flag consisted of a red triangle extending from the hoist to the endpoint, and a white background. The Tondo Dynasty was the first unified political state in the Philippines. However, in the Southern Philippines, the region was under the sultanate of Maguindanao and the flag for the area was yellow.
In 1521, the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan began the long history of Spanish influence. In 1535, a new flag that featured a white background with the cross of Burgundy was hoisted. From 1730 to 1761, King Felipe V adopted a new flag that consisted of a white background and the royal coat of arms of Spain. When King Felipe abdicated, his grandson, Carlos III, gained the throne and altered the flag by removing the shield and replacing it with an oval.
In 1762, the British invaded Manila. Their arrival sparked revolt in Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Ilocos Sur north of Manila. Some Chinese people aided the rebels. At the time, the British East India Company adopted a new banner as the de-facto flag. This flag was an alternating red and white horizontal flag with union jack at the upper left corner. The flag was in use from 1762 to 1764. However, in 1763, Spain and England signed a treaty that returned the Philippines to Spanish rule.
In 1785, Spain changed their flag to a red-yellow-red striped flag with a coat of arms on the yellow stripe. The coat of arms consisted of a crowned oval-shaped insignia that was split into half red and half white. The red portion consisted of a golden tower and the white piece had a red lion. Later, when Spain became a republic in 1873, the crown on the insignia was removed. A few years later, in 1897, the Philippines gained independence, and the country adopted a revolution flag with a red background with a red-faced white sun. However, this flag was in use for only a year.
When President Emilio Aguinaldo came to power, he ordered for the design of a new flag. The official flag consisted of a blue and red bicolour with a white triangle. At the centre of the triangle was a mythical faced golden sun. Moreover, there were three five-pointed stars at each corner of the triangle. Also, at the centre of the flag was the phrase, “Fuerzas Expedicionarias del Norte de Luzon,” which means “Expeditionary forces of Northern Luzon.” Other words that were embroidered on the flag are Libertad, Justicia, and Ygualidad (Liberty, Justice, and Equality, which were encompassed laurel branches. In 1936, the white triangle on the flag was elongated.
In 1989, the country came under the control of the United States, after the defeat of the Spanish in the Spanish-American war. The Philippine flag was banned and the U.S flag was adopted. This flag consists of 13 equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white and blue rectangle in the canton containing 50 stars. Each star on the American flag represents a state. Initially, the flag had 48 stars, but in 1912, Arizona and New Mexico were included. With this new power in place, the Philippines had to fight for independence from the Spanish as well as from the Americans. In 1919, a modified version of the flag of the Philippines was reinstated. This flag consisted of a darker blue band with no face on the sun.
Later, the official flag of the Philippines was abandoned from 1942 to 1943, following the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. However, in 1943, the Japanese relinquished control back to the native people. The bicolored flag was reinstated with a modified bronze-coloured eight-rayed sun and stars. The official flag was adopted after the re-institution of the second republic from 1946 to 1985. In 1985, there was a debate concerning the colour of the original flag, and the blue stripe of the flag was at the time changed to sky blue. The upsurge of a people’s power revolution led to the adoption of a flag with a dark blue stripe. In 1998, the color of the blue line was changed to royal blue and has remained the same since then.
The flag of the Philippines played a significant part in the fight for independence against the Spaniards. Although the country did not have a national flag at the time, the revolutionary group chose the current flag to represent the country. Initially, the white triangle symbolized liberty. The golden stars and the golden sun represented the three central locations of the Philippines, which included the Luzon islands in the North, Visayan in the South, and the main southern island of Mindanao. The eight rays of the sun represented the eight provinces in which the anti-Spanish revolt had begun. The colour blue expressed the “willingness to sacrifice oneself for freedom,” while red represented courage.
Presently, the precise meaning of the colours is as follows:
- White: Liberty, fraternity, equality
- Blue: Peace, truth, justice
- Red: Patriotism and valour
Other unofficial interpretations of the colours claim that the white triangle represents a longing for change. Moreover, these accounts claim the colours red, white, and blue symbolizes the gratitude of the Philippines to the U.S for their disinterested help in the country’s fight for independence.
At the centre of the white triangle is a golden sun with eight rays, accompanied by three stars. The “three stars and the sun” are a symbol of the Katipuneros revolutionaries who fought for independence. The sun symbolizes unity, freedom, democracy, and sovereignty. Each of its rays represents a province that played a part in the 1896 Philippine Revolution. These provinces include Manila, Pampanga, Bulacan, Morong, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Nueva Ecija. Another interpretation states that the rays represent the first eight states in the country that were declared under martial law during the first Philippine Revolution. Moreover, the three five-pointed stars are a symbol of the three main islands where the revolution started, which are Luzon, Mindanao, and Visayas.
The flag consists of a length to width ratio of 1:2. The width of the flag is equal to the length of the sides of the triangle. Each star is placed in a manner that one of its tips points to the vertex at which it is positioned. The sun appears 14 units from the hoist. The diameter of the central disk is 9 units, with the longer rays having a length of 5 units and the shorter rays at 4 units.
The golden sun does not appear at the center. Instead, it is located slightly to the right. The sun is sectored into 16 portions, each at 22.5 degrees (the extension of the rays and the space between the beams). Each of the stars is drawn on an imaginary circle with the center appearing at 7 units from the triangle’s apices. The diameter of each circle of the star is 5 units.
Interesting Facts about the Flag of the Philippines
- The flag was designed by Emilio Aguinaldo, a military leader, revolutionary, and politician. He came up with the idea for the flag while he was exiled in Hong Kong in 1897.
- The flag was formally unfurled during the proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898, by President Emilio Aguinaldo. This was after the Philippine Revolutionary Army defeated the Spanish forces in the Battle at Alapan, Imus, Cavite.
- There was a proposal to change the flag on June 15, 1995, when President Fidel Ramos suggested the incorporation of a crescent moon on the flag to represent Filipino Muslims. However, this proposal was declined.
- It is prohibited to hoist the flag at Nightclubs.
- The law stipulates that a worn-out flag should be solemnly burned, and if a flag begins to show signs of wear and tear, it should be replaced immediately.
- The official flag can indicate a state of war when flown upside down with the red field is at the top. For instance, on February 4, 1899, during the 1899 to 1913 Philippine-American War, it was officially flown upside down. Additionally, during the Japanese attack on the Philippines in December 1941, the flag was used to indicate a state of hostilities.
This article originally appeared in Edarabia