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Aside from reminiscences of the nation’s journey toward freedom, Philippine Independence Day often brings to mind one of the important emblems that has served as a reminder of our national identity and the history and heritage that have nurtured such identity — our National Flag.

While our National Flag Day is observed on May 28, as declared by Presidential Proclamation No. 374 on March 6, 1965, the celebration of the said day extends until June 12, as ordered by Executive Order No. 179 on May 23, 1994.

Executive Order No. 179, which was signed by Former President Fidel V. Ramos, recognized that the period spanning the commemoration of the National Flag Day and Independence Day is an “opportune time for all Filipinos to collectively reflect on the significance of the National Flag.”

Furthermore, as Proclamation No. 374 signed by Former President Diosdado Macapagal stressed, the National Flag “is the consecrated repository of our ideals and traditions and the historic symbol of our nation as a sovereign people,” and so the National Flag Day seeks to address the “need of instilling and perpetuating in the minds and hearts of the citizenry greater honor, respect and reverence for our flag.”

The National Flag Day recognizes the significant day when the Philippine flag was first unfurled and “received its baptism of fire and victory,” as Presidential Proclamation No. 374 puts it, in the Battle of Alapan in Imus, Cavite, on May 28, 1898.

The Battle of Alapan resulted in Filipino revolutionaries winning a major battle against Spanish forces, capturing close to 300 troops. After the victory, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo first unfurled and hoisted the Philippine Flag at Teatro Caviteño at the present-day Cavite.

The flag he waved there was sewn in Hong Kong by Marcela Agoncillo, the so-called “Mother of the Philippine Flag,” and her daughter, with the help of Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, the niece of José Rizal.

Bookending the National Flag Days is June 12, 1898, when the Philippine flag was waved following the formal proclamation of independence at the ancestral home of Mr. Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite.

The Proclamation of Philippine Independence stated the flag’s original symbolism: “the three aforementioned forces representing the white triangle as the distinctive symbol of the famed Society of the Katipunan, which through the blood compact impelled the masses to rise in revolt; the three stars representing the three principal islands of this Archipelago — Luzon, Mindanao, and Panay (Visayas) in which the revolutionary movement broke out; the sun indicating the gigantic steps taken by the children of this country on the road to progress and civilization; the eight rays symbolizing the eight provinces of the Philippines; and the colors of blue, red and white commemorating the flag of the United States of North America as a manifestation of our profound gratitude towards this Great Nation for its disinterested protection which it lends us, and continues to lend us.”

At present, the white equilateral triangle symbolizes liberty, equality, and fraternity. The horizontal blue stripe stands for peace, truth, and justice; while the horizontal red stripe symbolizes patriotism and valor.

The golden sun at the center of the white triangle symbolizes unity, freedom, people’s democracy, and sovereignty. The eight rays, meanwhile, have been found to symbolize the first eight provinces of the Philippines which was declared under Martial Law during the Philippine Revolution; namely Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Manila, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Tarlac.

Throughout the National Flag Days, all Filipinos are encouraged to display the Philippine flag in all offices, agencies and instruments of government, business establishments, schools, and private homes.

A statement by then Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on the National Flag Days back in 2011 even gave a fresh reminder of the significance of honoring our flag.

“May our flag be a symbol that unites us as a people moving toward progress. It is time we recognize this, and build a nation that every Filipino deserves,” the statement read. — Adrian Paul B. Conoza