It was perhaps an iconic hip-hop song in the ’90s that brought the Philippine flag from its gilded superiority into pop culture consciousness. The national banner can be found not only in government offices and school buildings, but also on jeepneys, cars, bikes, and even on people as tattoos.
As far as flags go, the Philippine flag is relatively simple. There is no complicated coat of arms or symbols here. Only a blue panel, a red panel, a white triangle, and the famous three stars and a sun. Simple though it may appear, its symbolism is rich, and the story of the country is revealed in each element. Here are some interesting facts!
1898: Year the flag was first displayed
Emilio Aguinaldo, military leader and eventually the first president of the Philippines, dreamed up the Three Stars and a Sun design in 1897. The original design is similar to the current flag, though the sun had an anthropomorphic face. It was then sewn in Hong Kong by a team of expat Filipinas led by Marcela Agoncillo.
It was first unfurled with the red side on top on May 28, 1898, following a victory over the Spanish forces at the Battle at Alapan in Imus, Cavite. A couple of weeks later, on June 12, 1898, the Philippine flag was formally raised in Kawit, Cavite, during the Proclamation of Independence. These days, the period between May 28 to June 12 have been designated as flag days, during which time all offices, commercial establishments, public spaces, and private homes are urged to display the Philippine flag.
11: Number of years the Philippine flag was banned
Act No. 1697, also known as the Flag Law of 1907, was passed when the United States took over the country. The law forbade the Philippine flag from being displayed in favor of the U.S. flag. Even the Philippine national anthem was forbidden from being played! This was the case for a little over a decade, but thankfully, no attempts to quell Filipino nationalism succeeded.
The law was repealed eventually, and the Philippine flag was reinstated in 1919 with a few modificiations—from then on out, the rays of the sun were simplified, and the face was removed, so that it looks closer to the Philippine flag of present day.
8: Number of rays of the sun
Each ray represents the provinces of Pampanga, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Manila, Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas. These are the eight provinces that played a significant role in the revolution against Spain in 1896.
4: Number of colors on the flag
Royal blue, scarlet red, golden yellow, and white are the four colors on the Philippine flag. The blue panel stands for peace and justice, and the red panel stands for nationalism and bravery. The white equilateral triangle in the center represents the Katipunan—the secret society that fought against the Spaniards during the occupation. The triangle has also come to stand for camaraderie and equality.
While the majority of the flag’s colors take their cue from the U.S flag, the addition of a sunny golden yellow for the stars and the sun makes the flag distinctly and undeniably Filipino. The flag is normally waved with the blue panel on top. In wartime, the flag is flipped over, so the red panel goes on top to signify revolution.
3: Number of shades of blue used over the years
The shades of blue used in the flag have been changed over the years. From a deep navy blue copied from the U.S flag, it was changed to a pale sky blue in 1985 (Marcos must have been into pastels) though the shade was almost immediately bunked after the EDSA revolution.
Since 1986, the shade of blue reverted to navy, until 1998, the centenary of Philippine Independence, when the shade was changed officially to a brighter royal blue that calls to mind the deeper part of the Philippine sea on a sunny day.
3: Number of stars on the flag
Most people believe that the three stars represent the three main island groups, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. However, the central star actually represents just a part of Visayas, specifically, Panay island.
1: Number of years one could be imprisoned for defacing the Philippine flag
As in everywhere else in the world, certain laws are imposed to regulate how the flag is handled and treated. In the Philippines, these laws are outlined in Republic Act No. 8491, also known as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.
The code contains specific guidelines and rules for when the flag is to be flown and where, and how, what its dimensions should be, where people are allowed to wear and use it, and even how flag-raising ceremonies should be conducted. A violation of any part of the code could result in a fine that ranges from PHP 5,000 to PHP 20,000, and imprisonment of up to one year.