A PROFESSOR and historian reiterated the relevance of the Philippine flag, which is treated as irrelevant in the present times.
Prof. Ambeth R. Ocampo served as the guest speaker during the 120th Independence Day celebration in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo.
Sta. Barbara is the place where the Philippine flag was first raised in the Visayas.
“Going back into its history reminds us that it was meant to unite an archipelago with many peoples and languages and cultures into one nation. Isang bansa, isang diwa,” Ocampo said.
Ocampo said that the flag, which Filipinos inherited from Kawit, Cavite on the afternoon of June 12, 1898, has become common and is hardly noticed, especially in the 21st century.
“We notice today on our way here that there were very few flags that were flying. When I was a boy week before June 12, you would see flags flying everywhere but that seems to be something of the past. We see flags every day. But we hardly notice,” he said.
Worse, the flag is disrespected, he said.
The professor lamented that the Philippine flag design is used or seen in common items like towels by Filipino athletes competing overseas, in viral videos, and even as a mop for dirty floors.
Ocampo said government buildings have been hoisting worn-out flags which should already be “burned and reverently buried.”
“The late congressman Salvador H. Escudero used to lament that the usual violators of the flag law happen to be government buildings all the way down to the barangay level,” he added.
Ocampo also retold to Ilonggos the history of the first Philippine flag, which was made in Hong Kong in 1898, hand sewn and embroidered in silk by Marcella Agoncillo.
The colors and symbols were patterned after the design by Emilio Aguinaldo, the first Philippine president.
Aguinaldo took the flag back to the Philippines when he returned from exile in Hong Kong and it was unfurled first on the Battle of Alapan on May 28, 1898, which is now being commemorated as the National Flag Day.
The original flag is now lost but the contemporary one in cotton is now preserved in a private museum in Baguio.
In his speech in Malolos the next year, Aguinaldo described the flag as having three colors (blue, red, and white); three stars; and a sun.
The sun has eight rays which stand for the provinces that revolted against the Spanish rule. These are Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Tarlac.
The red symbolizes Filipino courage. Blue is an allegory that all Filipinos will prefer to die before submitting themselves to invaders.
White conveys the idea that like other nations, Filipinos know how to govern themselves and that they do not recede from observation of foreign powers.
“We must go back to Aguinaldo who said that the sun and its rays stirred up Filipinos and spread the light over their world, piercing the cloud that enshrouded it. It is now the light which brightens every spot in the Philippine islands,” Ocampo said.
“Our flag is a reminder that it was one thing to declare independence on June 12, 1898, and another to know what to do with that independence. We should remember that the flag rallied people in the many struggles for freedom and independence. We must remember that this flag rallies us not so much to go back into the past but rather to forge confidently into the future,” he added.
Ocampo served as chairperson of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) from 2005 to 2007 and chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) from 2002 to 2011.
He also served as president of the Philippine Historical Association.
He is currently the chair of the Department of History of the Ateneo de Manila University.
He has published 30 books and regularly writes a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.