I’ve put together a little photo gallery, click on the photos or hover your mouse pointer over them for the captions.
A British writer once referred to Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy as “The Filipino Garibaldi,” and the comparison seems appropriate. The story of his life has yet to be properly written; much of it will include his long battle to assert the Magdalo version of our history.
That version asserts June 12, 1898 as Independence Day. Our choice of June 12, 1898 as Independence Day, instead of say, August 29, 1896 when Bonifacio issued a proclamation calling on the citizenry to rise up in arms (the date of the famous tearing of cedulas being mired in controversy to this day), is interesting to me.
What is it, about Bonifacio’s August 28, 1896 Proclamation, that makes it unfit as the founding document of our nationhood?
This manifesto is for all of you:
It is absolutely necessary for us to stop at the earliest possible time the nameless oppressions being perpetrated on the sons of the country who are now suffering the brutal punishment and tortures in jails, and because of this please let all the brethren know that on Saturday, the 29th of the current month, the revolution shall commence according to our agreement. For this purpose it is necessary for all towns to rise simultaneously and attack Manila at the same time. Anybody who obstructs this sacred ideal of the people will be considered a traitor and an enemy, except if he is ill or is not physically fit, in which case he shall be tried according to the regulations we have put in force.
Mount of Liberty, 28th August 1896.
What eventually transpired, of course, was that the professionals asserted control of the Revolution as Bonifacio’s class background and lack of success as a military leader turned the provincial worthies among his supporters into critics, then rivals.
By 1897, the Katipunan as the vehicle for the Revolution, and as its government, became increasingly unattractive to provincial leaders who may have been unsettled by the subordination of the old hierarchies to what they could’ve increasingly resented as a bunch of urban amateurs. And perhaps, the romantic belief of Bonifacio that Castilian mores ought to be purged, replacing even the concept of nationhood as Filipinas with his idea of the new polity being Katagalugan, was just too strange and smacked of the kind of leveling the provincial worthies felt was too radical.
For this reason, this song, Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan, which was really our first national anthem, is hardly remembered and indeed, had to be reconstructed by the composer long after the events of 1896-1897.
Details can be found in The Bonifacio Papers:
Bonifacio mentions in his letter that he has received a copy of the Himno Nacional that Nakpil had sent. Julio Nakpil later recalled that he composed this piece — also known as the Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan — at the request of Bonifacio when they were encamped with Katipunan troops in the vicinity of Balara in November 1896. He remembered the hymn still being played in Cavite and Laguna in 1898, but as the history textbooks tell Aguinaldo then chose as the national anthem the composition by Julian Felipe originally titled the Marcha Filipina Magdalo. In 1903 Nakpil reworked his Marangal na Dalit as a tribute to Rizal under the title Salve, Patria, but the only surviving copies of the original score were destroyed in 1945 during the battle for Manila. The version of Marangal na Dalit we have today was reconstructed by Nakpil from memory when he was in his eighties. The form chosen by Nakpil, the dalit, was traditionally a sung prayer or supplication, and his hymn, as readers may hear, is very solemn, almost mournful. To lift the spirits, it is good to listen to a different piece by Nakpil that is also highly evocative of those revolutionary times, the lively pasa-doble militar entitled Pasig Pantayanin.
The victory of Aguinaldo was as much an assertion of the historic destiny and hierarchical sureties of the principalia; when he was inaugurated president in Malolos, the cane he carried was a symbol of authority dating back to the days of the cabezas de barangay, of which he’d been one, after all.
Here’s another song, Inang Laya’s version of Alerta, Katipunan! which was originally a Spanish military march. The music was adopted by the Katipuneros and new lyrics added. I’ve often wondered why this isn’t the official march of the Philippine Army.
Anyway, so today is, officially, the 111th anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence, and the culmination of our flag days. June 12 has been Flag Day since 1941. We’ve chosen June 12 because the trappings of independence were displayed on that day: formal proclamation of independence, a flag, an anthem.
Not content with a single day, in 1998 an innovation was put in place, “flag days,” beginning on May 28, the date the flag was first carried aloft in battle.
The flag, as rendered by Eric Agoncillo Ambata in an approximation of the 1898 ratio and features. You can see my June 5, 2005 entry for details on how our flag belongs to a Flag Family that includes Cuba and Puerto Rico.
The Proclamation of Independence in Kawit on June 12, 1898 stated the symbolism of the flag:
And lastly, it was results unanimously that this Nation, already free and independent as of this day, must used the same flag which up to now is being used, whose designed and colored are found described in the attached drawing, the white triangle signifying the distinctive emblem of the famous Society of the “Katipunan” which by means of its blood compact inspired the masses to rise in revolution; the three stars, signifying the three principal Islands of these Archipelago – Luzon, Mindanao, and Panay where the revolutionary movement started; the sun representing the gigantic step made by the son of the country along the path of Progress and Civilization; the eight rays, signifying the eight provinces – Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna, and Batangas – which declares themselves in a state of war as soon as the first revolt was initiated; and the colors of Blue, Red, and White, commemorating the flag of the United States of America, as a manifestation of our profound gratitude towards this Great Nation for its disinterested protection which it lent us and continues lending us.
Considering all the debates concerning the original colors and design of the flag, it’s a pity that the “attached drawing” has never been found (details on the debates, etc. can be found in my Flags of the World article on the Philippine flag).
…I realized also that the proclamation of independence which was being made that day was premature and imprudent because the Americans were concealing their true designs while we were making ours manifest. I foresaw, of course, that because of this want of caution the American commanders and forces would be on guard against the revolutionists, and the United States consuls on the China coast would sabotage the purchase of arms for the revolution. However, unable to prevent the proclamation because I had arrived too late to do so, I kept my peace and set myself to studying in detail the measures most urgently called for in the existing situation.
After the capitulation of Manila, the Philippine Government moved from Bacoor, Cavite, to Malolos, Bulacan, where the newly created Congress held its first session. The first results of this assembly’s deliberations were the ratification of the proclamation of independence prematurely made in Kawit, and the decision to draft a constitution for the establishment of a Philippine Republic.
I haven’t located a copy of the September 29, 1898 ratification of the proclamation of independence, but it would surely make for interesting reading, compared to the Proclamation made at Kawit.
Aguinaldo wrote his own True History of the Philippine Revolution to rebut Mabini. There’s two sections concerning the flag:
In conformity with my orders issued on the 1st of September, all Philippine vessels hoisted the national flag, the Marines of the Filipino flotilla being the first to execute that order. Our little flotilla consisted of some eight Spanish steam launches (which had been captured) and five vessels of greater dimensions, namely, the TaaleÃ±o, Baldyan, Taal, Bulucan, and Purisima Concepcion. These vessels were presented to the Philippine Government by their native owners and were converted by us, at our Arsenal, into gunboats, 8 and 9 centimetre guns, taken from the sunken Spanish warships, being mounted on board.
Ah! what a beautiful, inspiring joyous sight that flag was fluttering in the breeze from the topmasts of our vessels, side by side, as it were, with the ensigns of other and greater nations, among whose mighty warships our little cruisers passed to and fro dipping their colours, the ensign of Liberty and Independence! With what reverence and adoration it was viewed as it suddenly rose in its stately loneliness crowning our victories, and, as it were, smiling approvingly upon the undisciplined Philippine Army in the moment of its triumphs over the regular forces of the Spanish Government! One’s heart swells and throbs again with the emotions of extreme delight; the soul is filled with pride, and the goal of patriotism seems well-nigh reached in the midst of such a magnificent spectacle!
At the end of June I called on Admiral Dewey, who, after complimenting me on the rapid triumphs of the Philippine Revolution, told me he had been asked by the German and French Admirals why he allowed the Filipinos to display on their vessels a flag that was not recognized. Admiral Dewey said his reply to the French and German Admirals was – with his knowledge and consent the Filipinos used that flag, and, apart from this, he was of opinion that in view of the courage and steadfastness of purpose displayed in the war against the Spaniards the Filipinos deserved the right to use their flag.
I thereupon expressed to the Admiral my unbounded gratitude for such unequivocal protection, and on returning to the shore immediately ordered the Philippine flotilla to convey troops to the other provinces of Luzon and to the Southern islands, to wage war against the Spaniards who garrisoned them.
And this one, about Commodore Dewey:
The Dictatorial Government decided that the proclamation of Independence should take place on the 12th June, the ceremony in connection therewith to be held in the town of Kawit. With this object in view I sent a Commission to inform the Admiral of the arrangement and invite him to be present on the occasion of the formal proclamation of Independence, a ceremony which was solemnly and impressively conducted. The Admiral sent his Secretary to excuse him from taking part in the proceedings, stating the day fixed for the ceremony was mail day…
During that month (July) Admiral Dewey accompanied by General Anderson visited Cavite, and after the usual exchange of courtesies he said- “You have had ocular demonstration and confirmation of all I have told you and promised you. How pretty your flag is! It has a triangle, and is something like the Cubans’. Will you give me one as a memento when I go back home?”
I replied that I was fully satisfied with his word of honour and of the needlessness of having our agreement in documentary form. As to the flag he wanted, he could have one whenever he wished.
The Admiral continued: Documents are useless when there is no sense of honour on one side, as was the case in respect of the compact with the Spaniards, who failed to act up to what had been written and signed. Have faith in my word, and I assure you that the United States will recognize the independence of the country. But I recommend you to keep a good deal of what we have said and agreed secret at present. I further request you to have patience if any of our soldiers insult any Filipinos, for being Volunteers they are as yet undisciplined.
I replied that I would bear in mind all his advice regarding cautiousness, and that with respect to the misconduct of the soldiers orders had already been issued enjoining forbearance, and I passed the same remarks to the Admiral about unpleasantness possibly arising through lack of discipline of our own forces.
The flag was banned by the Americans from 1907-1919. From 1919 to 1941, Flag Day was on October 30. See How our flag flew again by Joe Quirino.
The stampita above was part of a series sold to raise funds for the Independence Missions from 1919-1933, particularly after a court case decided public funds could not be appropriated for the purpose of lobbying for independence. It shows how the mythical face on the sun was already passing from popular use, although the 7:8 ratio and non-equilateral triangle of the 1898 design were still current in the 1920s and early 1930s.
At the inauguration of the Commonwealth on November 15, 1935, the giant Philippine flag, made of Japanese silk, was a gift from General Artemio Ricarte, who was still in exile in Japan, as he’d refused to recognize the American conquest. His gift of the Philippine flag was a token of solidarity with his countrymen as they embarked on full autonomy, the penultimate step to independence.
The flag after the 1936 reforms that standardized its component parts and other features. To summarize the main differences, the old ratio of 7:8 was changed to 1:2 and the triangle was made an equilateral one, and the rays of the sun regularized and the mythical face, dropped.
Our flag is unique as it is reversed in times of war; this has happened twice. From 1898-1901 when the First Republic was at war with the United States; and from 1941 to 1945 when we were at war with Japan. The poster above, commissioned by the Commonwealth government-in-exile, is also interesting because it confirms the use of Cuban blue for the flag.
When Aguinaldo participated in the first commemoration of June 12 as flag day, in 1941, he did so as a public act of endorsement and acceptance of the 1936 changes. During the Japanese Occupation, to distinguish the de facto Puppet Republic from the de jure Commonwealth, an effort was made to revive the 1898 design but it did not catch on.