The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) considers our country’s flag as a “most cherished symbol.” It is the “nation’s emblem for freedom; symbolizes patriotism, love of country, and sense of nationhood; it embodies the aspirations and sentiments of the Filipino people in their unceasing quest for independence. It stands as an instrument of unity that binds the Filipino people.”
As such, the Philippine flag is celebrated and venerated today, May 28, 2022, with a National Flag Day meant to drum up patriotism among all of us. Government agencies, public offices, schools, museums, even the spaces of private companies and homes of ordinary citizens are all encouraged to fly, hang, or post the Philippine flag for everyone to see.
The National Flag Day, officially commemorated via Presidential Proclamation 374 signed in 1965 (and with Executive Order 79 issued in 1994 extending the celebration from May 28 to June 12), signals that it is 15 days away from our 124th Independence Day on June 12, 2022.
According to historical accounts, the National Flag Day commemorates the first use of the Philippine flag after the victory in the Battle of Alapan in 1898. Our current national flag was created by Emilio Aguinaldo in 1897. It is a horizontal bicolor of royal blue over scarlet red. There is a white equilateral triangle at the hoist with a golden sun with eight rays in the center and a five-pointed gold star at each vertex.
“The flag was first raised after the Battle of Alapan that occurred on May 28, 1898. The battle was fought between the Filipino revolutionaries led by Aguinaldo and Spanish troops. The Spanish were defeated, and the revolutionaries recaptured the province of Cavite. After the battle, Aguinaldo entered Cavite City and unfurled the would-be national flag for the first time,” according to the NHCP.
Even though we want to raise the flag and hang it for all to see, there are rules that need to be observed. The NHCP is the implementing agency of the Flag and Heraldic Law of the Philippines, and the law has specific regulations, guidelines, and control in the proper use of the flag and other national symbols such as the national anthem.
For example, the flag, if flown from a flagpole, shall have its blue field on top in times of peace and red field on top in times of war. If in a hanging position, the blue field shall be to the right (left of the observer) in times of peace, and the red field to the right (left of the observer) in times of war. Until now, there are people and institutions that confuse this order and it is high time for all of us to be aware of the right “positioning” of our flag.
There are other instructions, most interesting of which orders that the flag “shall not be raised when the weather is inclement, but if already raised, the flag shall not be lowered.” The flag “shall never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, flood, water, or other objects.”
Interesting to note too is that a flag must be hoisted to the top briskly, but shall be lowered ceremoniously; and after being lowered, the flag shall be handled and folded solemnly as part of the ceremony.
If there are “do’s” to follow, there are also “don’ts” to remember. For example, it is prohibited by law to “mutilate, deface, trample, or cast contempt, or commit any act or omission casting dishonor or ridicule upon the flag over its surface.” It is also strictly prohibited to use the flag as drapery, tablecloth, covering for ceilings or walls, as hood for a car, for trademark or for industrial, commercial, or agricultural labels and designs, among others.
All these provisions in the Flag and Heraldic Law are necessary as a flag is not a mere cloth but a symbol bigger than all of us, as emanating from it is the bravery of our forebears, which allowed us to savor freedom and independence today. A flag will transcend generations — that as long as the Philippine flag waves, we continue to live in a sovereign nation free from foreign subjugation; and as long as the flag rises with the tune of Lupang Hinirang, we can all be proud to shout it out loud that we are, first and foremost, Filipino.