Policemen prepare this giant Philippine flag for raising at the public plaza of Santa Barbara, Iloilo to mark the 120th anniversary of Philippine independence in Iloilo province yesterday. The flag measures 30 ft. x 60 ft. It was in this plaza on Nov. 17, 1898 where General Martin Delgado first hoisted the Philippine flag outside Luzon – a pioneering revolutionary act in the Visayas and Mindanao five months after General Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

ILOILO – Where were the Philippine flags?

“We notice on our way here that there were very few flags flying,” said historian Dr. Ambeth Ocampo in the municipality of Santa Barbara.

The former chairman of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines was the keynote speaker in yesterday’s flag-raising ceremony at the historic public plaza of Santa Barbara to mark the 120th anniversary of the country’s independence.

People seemed to have little regard to the Philippine national flag, he lamented.

“We see Philippine flags everyday but we hardly notice. At worse, these are disrespected,” said Ocampo, also a former chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The national flag “rallied people in the many struggles for freedom and independence,” he reminded Ilonggos. “(But w)e must remember that this flag rallies us not so much to go back into the past but rather to forge confidently into the future.”

Ocampo expressed displeasure at the penchant of some Filipino athletes to use the Philippine national flag as towel, especially those competing overseas, and recalled another disrespectful incident two years ago – high school students turned the Philippine flag into a floor mop, made a video of the act and then uploaded it on the web.

Desecrating the Philippine national flag is punishable under the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines with a maximum prison term of one year and a fine ranging from P5,000 to P20,000.

Ocampo also lamented the confusion over the meanings of the Philippine flag’s colors.

The red actually symbolized Filipino courage, he clarified, while blue carried an allegorical meaning that all Filipinos would prefer to die before submitting themselves to invaders.

Ocampo said the white conveyed the idea that like other nations, Filipinos knew how to govern themselves.

“Red, white and blue are the colors identified in the Constitution for the Philippine flag. I have fought a losing battle for an amendment to the Constitution that will state that the sun should be golden or yellow,” he said.

A national flag “can include and exclude” depending on how it is read, according to Ocampo, but “going back to its history reminds us that it was meant to unite an archipelago with many people and languages and cultures.”

The first Philippine national flag was made in Hong Kong in 1898, Ocampo said. It was hand-sewn and embroidered by Marcela Agoncillo following General Emilio Aguinaldo’s design.

Yesterday’s Independence Day celebration flag-raising ceremony in this province was held at the plaza of Santa Barbara because it was there on Nov. 17, 1898 where General Martin Delgado first hoisted the Philippine flag outside Luzon – a pioneering revolutionary act in the Visayas and Mindanao five months after General Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.

The flag raised measures 30 ft. x 60 ft. while the flagpole stands at 120 ft.

Historians tagged the Nov. 17, 1898 event at the Santa Barbara public plaza as “The Cry of Santa Barbara.” It also signaled the birth of the Revolutionary Government of the Visayas.

On Nov. 17, 2015 the NHCP included Santa Barbara plaza “among the select places where a giant flag shall be permanently hoisted.”

Santa Barbara became the headquarters of the local revolutionary forces against Spain and from there, General Delgado launched the campaign to liberate Iloilo.

The flag ceremony yesterday was joined by Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr., Santa Barbara’s Mayor Dennis Superficial; Brigadier General Francisco Delfin, assistant division commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Jamindan, Capiz; and Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, police director of Western Visayas./PN

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