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Last modified: 2000-10-14 by rob raeside
Keywords: philippines | war | peace | star (yellow) | sun |
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[Flag of Philippines] by Zeljko Heimer, 27 January 1997 and António Martins, 4 June 2000
Flag adopted 14 October 1943, coat of arms adopted 4 July 1946.

See also:

Explanation of the flag

The symbols on the white triangle of the Philippine flag are an eight rayed sun and three stars in gold. The sun represents the dawning of a new era of self determination that was desired in 1897 (when the flag was first designed) after the Spanish-American war and the US promise of independence, which was granted in 1946. The 8 rays on the sun stand for the 8 provinces that rose in revolt against Spanish rule in the late 19th century. The 3 stars stand for the 3 principal geographic areas of the country, Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

To complete the symbolism of the flag, the red stripe represents courage and bravery and the blue stripe is for noble ideals. The white triangle stands for the Katipunan, a revolutionary organization that led the revolt against Spain and the color white represents peace and purity. This flag is unique in that in peacetime, the blue stripe is uppermost but during wartime, the red stripe is on top.

Ref: Smith 1976

Dave Martucci, 7 January 1998

The flag was first designed by General Aguinaldo in 1897 during his exile in Hong Kong. It was adopted on 19 May 1898 (Kindersley, 1997). Aguinaldo's army defeated the Spaniards at the Battle of Alapan on 28 May 1898. The flag saw it's first action that day. 28 May is recognized as Flag Day in the Philippines. On 12 June 1898 the Philippines declared independence from Spain and so began the First Philippine Republic. Based on Melchor (1998) and Kindersley (1997). On 14 Oct 1943 the flag was re-established Smith (1975). This was the date the Second Philippine Republic began (a puppet government under the Japanese). Just like the U.S., the Japanese had outlawed the flag during the earlier period of their occupation.
Gene 'Duke' Duque, 25 September 1999

General Provisions, Section I, Article XVI:

The flag of the Philippines shall be red, white and blue, with a sun and three stars as consecrated and honored by the people and recognized by law.

The idea of coming up with a new flag was reached during the preparation of the second phase of the Philippine Revolution. It was personally conceived by General Emilio Aguinaldo, then President of the Revolutionary Government and sewn at 535 Morrison Hill, Hong Kong by Mrs. Marcela Marino Agoncillo - wife of the first Filipino Diplomat, Felipe Agoncillo, with the help of her daughter Lorenza and Mrs. Delfina Herbosa Natividad, niece of Dr. Jose P. Rizal and wife of Gen. Salvador Natividad.

The flag was made within five days and handed over by Mrs. Agoncillo to Gen. Aguinaldo before the latter boarded the American dispatch boat, McCulloch on May 17, 1898 on his way to the Philippines.

The revolutionists originally planned the hostility against the Spanish forces on May 30, 1898 but a bloody encounter ensued between the Filipino Forces and Spanish marines on May 28 at Bo. Alapan, Imus, Cavite where the Philippine flag received its baptism of fire and blood. Gen. Aguinaldo hoisted the flag as a sign of victory against Spain.

On June 12, 1898, the Philippine Flag brought from Hong Kong was unfurled for the first time at the historic window of the Aguinaldo Mansion in Kawit, Cavite as the country's Independence was being proclaimed before the Filipino people.

During the American regime, the display of the Philippine Flag in any place was prohibited and it provided severe punishment for violators. The prohibition was lifted eleven years later and reverence to the Philippine flag was allowed by virtue of an Executive Order which declared October 30, 1919 as "Philippine Flag Day." Though authorized and venerated during this historic occasion, the flag, however, had minor discrepancies.

On March 25, 1936, then President Manuel L. Quezon issued E.O. No. 23 prescribing the technical description and specification of the Filipino Flag. It was followed by other directives assigning the National Historical Institute as the authority in Philippine Vexillaries and Heraldry.

The white triangle with equal sides of the flag is symbolic of equality among men.

The sun represents the gigantic strides that have been made by the Sons of this land on the road to progress and civilization.

The eight rays of the sun in the triangle represent the first eight united provinces that revolted for our independence.

The three stars in the triangle stand for the three major geographical divisions of the country - Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The red field symbolizes the willingness of the Filipino people to shed blood in defense of their country.

The blue field stands for common unity and the noble aspirations of the Filipino people.

The white field stands for purity.

Located by Dov Gutterman at

The Philippine flag has remained basically unchanged since it was designed shortly after the Spanish-American War of 1898. I just checked Smith (1975) and the date of 12 June 1898 is given as the date it was first hoisted. It may have been used prior to the war by Philippine insurgents, but I don't have any data on that.
Nick Artimovich, 16 April 1997

According to "The Republic of the Philippines," The Flag Bulletin, Number 132 (1989), the Philippine flag was proclaimed as that of the Republic in 1898 and was flown even after US annexation. The US outlawed the flag in 1907 but were forced to recognize it in 1920. It was flown alongside the US Flag until the Japanese occupation in 1941. The Japanese were forced to revive the flag in 1943. It became the Philippine National Flag in 1946.

The Philippine newspaper Sun-Star (published in Cebu City) reported that the idea of adjusting the number of rays on the sun in the flag of the Philippines was rejected by the country's Centennial Commission. I will quote the complete story below:

The Sun Star
9 March 1998

Centennial Commission junks Zambales' representation in flag

SUBIC Bay Freeport - Efforts to include Zambales among the eight provinces represented in the sun's rays of the Philippine flag have come to naught. The Philippine Centennial Commission has declared the basis used was the 1896 decree placing eight of the country's provinces under martial law. PCC Chairperson Salvador Laurel, who attended the Philippine Centennial Movement's congress of National Capital Region and Luzon chapters at the George Dewey Convention Center here, told Sun.Star News Service a team of historians rewriting the country's history recognizes the fact that Zambales is one of the provinces which staged a revolt against Spain almost the same time as the eight provinces represented in the flag. Laurel said, however, the basis used for selecting the provinces was the decree issued by Gov. General Ramon Blanco placing the provinces of Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Nueva Ecija under martial law on Aug. 30, 1896 after the Battle of "San Juan del Monte." For nearly 10 years now, Zambales officials have strongly pushed the inclusion of their province represented in the sun's rays of the flag. The Provincial Board even had submitted a resolution on this but the National Historical Institute rejected this. Augusto de Viana, head researcher and officer-in-charge of the research and publication division of the National Historical Institute, clarified that the basis of the claim by Zambales officials was a decree issued by Gov. Gen. Camilo Polavieja on Dec. 24, 1896. The decree suspended elections and declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Bulacan, Batangas, Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Zambales.
Sun.Star News Service

That was the story. I might just follow up with details from some more scattered news reports of flags in the Philippines. This year is the 100th anniversary of independence from Spanish colonial rule (12 June). Many events will take place, naturally many of them involving flags. Concern over the proper use and correct colours of the flag were also reported in various newspaper articles.

A Hong Kong newspaper reported earlier this year that Philippine officials are trying to have a plaque installed in the street in Hong Kong where the first Philippine flag was sewn. The Hong Kong Standard said that "The first Philippine flag, hoisted during the proclamation of independence, was sewn on Morrison Street by three Filipino women - Marcela Agoncillo, her daughter Lorenzana and Delfina Natividad, a niece of Dr Rizal." (Dr. Jose Rizal is a Philippine national hero). This took place in the spring of 1889. The South China Morning Post said that the original flag is kept at the Smithsonian Institution in the USA.

Concerning colours, the chairman of the National Centennial Commission said in a newspaper article that "the blue color of the flag has been restored to its original hue as prescribed by the National Historical Institute and as mandated under Executive Order No. 137, issued by President Macapagal in 1966." Apparently this restoration was made necessary by too many old and faded flags.

Another newspaper article reported that the President signed into law on 13 February this year "Republic Act 8491, the Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat of Arms and other Heraldic Items and Devices of the Philippines." Again, the motivation seems to have been concern that the national symbols were used inappropriately.
Jan Oskar Engene, 9 March 1998

War versus peace state

[War Flag of Philippines] by Zeljko Heimer, 27 January 1997 and António Martins, 4 June 2000

The flag has the unique ability to display a state of war of the country. It does this according to the orientation of the blue and red panels: if the blue panel is above the red, the Philippines is at peace, in the red above blue indicates a state of war. In the vertical position, blue on the right means peace and opposite means otherwise.

Marco Pineda, 26 July 1995

Smith75 says (pg.273) "Whenever the Philippines is at war the red stripe is flown at the top of the flag, the reverse of its normal position." As a reference, the following is cited "The Philippine National Flag" by Pedro A. Gagelonia (Manila, Dept. of Education, 1963)

The Flag Bulletin, Number 132 (1989) had an article entitled "Republic of the Philippines" in a section entitled "Recent Flags." Footnote 5 states "The Philippines is unique in having its national flag officially flown upside down when the country is at war. Executive Order No. 321 of 12 June 1950, section 1, paragraph 4, states that 'the Flag, if flown from a flagpole, should have its blue field on top in time of peace and the red field on top at time of war ....' The tradition, however, is much older: the first Philippine presdient, Emilio Aguinaldo, claimed that in the 1898-1899 War of Independence 'our National Flag had been hoisted with a red stripe up' (quoted on p. 52 of 'Our Country's Flag and Anthem' by Emanuel A. Baja [Manila:1930])."

In the same article it is stated "In late August 1987 disaffected military men attempted a coup against the Aquino government under the leadership of Colonel Gregorio 'Gringo' Honasan. At the bases which they briefly controlled the national flag was flown upside down, in its wartime position.* Likewise, the Philippine national flag as worn on the front of their shirts by many soldiers was displayed with the red stripe on the top. The coup was suppressed.

"* 'Rebel Troops Attempt to Topple Aquino,' 'The Natal Mercury,' 28 August 1987."
Dave Martucci, 18 April 1997

The Yellow of the Sun and Stars

Is the shade of yellow defined in Philippines flag? I guess that the choice of colours on my GIF is rather good and in accordance with what I saw in several sources, though most of them show a black outline of the yellow elements. These linings seems necessary for drawings, but are they prescribed, and do the real Philippines flags have them?
Zeljko Heimer, 4 March 2000

[Flag of Philippines] by Zeljko Heimer, 27 January 1997, slightly modified by António Martins, 11 March 2000

I had the same thought and I then produced this image, which uses the black outline referred to above (although I'm not also sure about its existence, but...).

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