AS NOTED singer Bayan Barrios sang the National Anthem in the cool morning air on Monday, a giant Philippine flag was raised up the 150-foot tall Independence Flagpole — the highest in the country — in Manila’s Rizal Park.

It was the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) in partnership with the Salute to a Clean Flag Movement’s third Stop and Salute flag-raising ceremony at the Rizal Monument in Manila City, and served as a tribute to the late artist, tour guide, and cultural activist Carlos Celdran. The ceremony also honored OFWS and the national hero Jose P. Rizal.

This year, the Stop and Salute flag-raising ceremony has honored the heroes of Marawi and teachers in line with World Teachers Day in October, and celebrated National Children’s Month in November.

The audience on Dec. 2 — which included representatives from the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Education, Bureau of Fire Protection, The Philippine Navy, The Philippine Army, Philippine Marines / Marine Security Escort Group, Philippine Coast Guard Auxilliary, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, Maritime Industry Authority, Professional Regulation Commission, Manila City Hall, Intramuros Administration, National Library, National Museum, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Nayong Pilipino Foundation, Order of the Knights of Rizal, The Manila Hotel, Rizal Park Hotel, Baranggay 666, Sentro Rizal, Family and Friends of the late Carlos Celdran, Descendants of Jose Rizal and Association Of Philippine Volunteer Fire Brigades, Inc.— then joined together to recite the Panatang Makabayan Panunumpa ng Katapatan sa Watawat ng Pilipinas.

The Salute to a Clean Flag Movement was founded by Monique C. Pronove of Pronove Tai International Property Consultants.

It is a non-political project “with the mission of making the Filipino proud of the Philippine Flag once again and making it [important] to the Filipino of today,” Ms. Pronove said in her speech after the 8 a.m. flag raising. It honors “modern-day Filipinos who make us a prouder country for the excellence the have shown in their field of endeavor.”

The Stop and Salute Monthly Flag Raising Ceremony is held at the Rizal Monument every first Monday of the month. The ceremony is open to the public.

“We want to promote nationalism. Everyone is equal under the flag so everyone is welcome to come,” Department of Tourism National Parks Development Committee executive director Cecille L. Romero told BusinessWorld after the ceremony.

Although the Philippine flag at the Independence Flagpole in Rizal Park is permanently hoisted day and night throughout the year, there are official flag raisings done twice a year — on Independence Day on June 12 and on Rizal Day every Dec. 30. So the monthly activity strengthens the value of the flag and our sense of patriotism, said Ms. Romero.

Sa araw na ito, nais ko kayong imbitahan na pag-isipan ang halaga ng mga bayani sa kasalukuyang panahon (On this day, I invite you to think of the importance of our modern-day heroes),” Ms. Romero said in her speech. “Ang pagmamahal sa bayan ang nasa kaibututuran ng isang bayani. At bukod sa pagmamahal na ito, nakakayanan niyang ibukod ang sariling interes para sa nakararami at sa bayan (Love for country is at the core of every hero. Aside from this love, they can set aside self-interest for the majority and for the country).”

“We, the Salute to a Clean Flag Movement, and the Filipino people pay tribute to the life’s work of the late Carlos Celdran whose overwhelming passion to the Philippines and to the Filipino people had made a remarkable difference in making our history relevant, colorful, and interesting once again to the Filipinos of today,” Ms. Pronove said.

Celdran, who died in Madrid on Oct. 8 this year, was best known for his performance art Walk this Way tours of Intramuros, which he conducted for 17 years; his Livin’ La Vida Imelda one-man show, which was an entertaining but pointed examination of the Marcos years; and for mounting the first edition of the Manila Biennale art festival in the Walled City in 2018. He also was also known for his 2010 “Damaso” one-man protest against the Catholic Church’s meddling with a woman’s right to birth control, for which he was later convicted of “offending religious feelings.”

In her speech accepting the honor granted to her late husband, Tesa J. Celdran quoted from an essay he wrote explaining how he became involved in the preservation of Philippine culture, particularly focusing on Manila’s walled city, Intramuros.

“I had always felt a very strong conviction about the preservation and development of Philippine arts and culture. In [upper] school I lamented the destruction of the grander houses in Malate and Ermita, and volunteering was a way of directly involving myself to help solve this matter,” the then 36-year-old Carlos Celdran wrote. “The… encounters [that followed], which sometimes turned emotional, opened my eyes not only to the volatility of Philippine arts and culture but also the passion that could arise from it.

“…Years later, I became the Intramuros Tour Guy. Visitors through Manila using the city as my stage, performance art, my medium, and Philippine Arts and Culture, both as built heritage and, preservation and development, my message.”

Teresita Herbosa — a descendant of Jose Rizal and great-grand niece of Delfina Herbosa, who, along with Marcela Agoncillo and her daughter Lorenza, sewed the first Philippine flag — noted in her speech that like the national hero and Mr. Celdran, we should stand up for what you believe in. “We should always stand up for what we believe in, no matter if it is against the majority.”

After all the speeches, the Salute to a Clean Flag Movement together with NHCP Acting Executive Director Carminda Arevalo presented a flag to Ms. Celdran.

“Manila made my husband, and he made Manila his mission,” said Ms. Celdran in her speech. “In his younger years, Carlos believed art could transform the world. As we all know, that world always in flux. And as it does, Carlos would add to that formula of art as refinement to include love and gratitude as life.

“Maybe this way we can make his dreams for Manila, this city that he loved, not only live on, come true, but also, to dream a better dream.” — Michelle Anne P. Soliman