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Evolution of the Philippine Flag

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The First KKK (Kataastaasan at Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng Mga Anak ng Bayan–The Highest and Most Honorable Society of the Sons of the Nation) Flag (1892) With the establishment of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio requested his wife, Gregoria de Jesus, and with the help of Benita Rodriguez to create a flag for the society. De Jesus created a simple red flag bearing the society’s acronym, KKK, in white and arranged horizontally at the center of a rectangular piece of red cloth (locally called “kundiman”). The color red represents the blood and courage of the Katipuneros who stood ready to fight for freedom and shed their blood if need be. This was the flag which was developed during the “First Cry of Nationhood” at the district of North Manila in August 1896. This was the first official flag of the society.|

Early Katipunan One-K flag. In some areas, only one while letter K was positioned on a rectangular piece of red cloth.

The Second Katipunan Flag (1892). Some members of the Katipunan used other variations. A red flag with the three white letter Ks arranged in an equilateral triangle, a shape prominent in Philippine revolutionary imagery, at the center of the rectangular field.|

Andres Bonifacio’s Flag (1892). Andres Bonifacio “the father of katipunan”, had a personal flag which represents a white sun with an indefinite number of rays on a field of red. Below the sun are three white Ks arranged horizontally. This flag was first shown on August 23, 1896 during the Cry of Pugadlawin where the Katipuneros gather tore their cedulas (poll tax certificates) in rebelliousness of Spanish authority. The flag was used later during the Battle of San Juan del Monte on August 30, 1896, the first major battle of the Philippine Revolution. This was also used by the war camp of Bonifacio, the “Great Plebeian” (“Dakilang Anak Pawis”).|

Katipunan 1st Degree Flag (1892). A red flag with one white letter K at the center of the field, crossed by a native sword (“tabak”) pointing downwards and a small skull above the letter K. This was accepted to rally the Katipuneros belonging to the lowest rank or grade. Katipunan 2nd Degree Flag(1892). A red flag similar to the 1st degree design, but with two K’s and no skull symbol. This was supposed to rally the middle ranks of the Katipuneros. Katipunan 3rd Degree Flag(1892). A red flag, again, with three K’s and sword sign, for the highest ranks of the society. War Camp of Katipuneros of Malibay, Pasay(1896). This battle flag had the Masonic triangle on the left, with the Malibay Katipunero description over a red field.

The Revolutionary Government (1897 – 1899)

Pio del Pilar’s Rising Sun Flag(1896). A red flag with a white triangle on the left side, became famous through General Pio del Pilar of San Pedro de Makati (the hero of Makati and one of the most trusted generals of Emilio Aguinaldo), who used it up to the Pact of Biak-na-Bato. The triangular strip at the left side led the national flag design. At each of the angles of the triangle was a letter K. The rising sun in the middle had eight rays representing the first eight united provinces that were placed under martial law by the Spanish colonial government for rising up in rebellion namely, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, Manila, Cavite, Laguna and Batangas. The flag was called Bandila ng Matagumpay (The Flag of the Victorious) and was first used on July 11, 1895. The flag was also one of the first to illustrate an eight-rayed sun.

General Mariano Llanera’s battle Skull Flag(1896). General Mariano Llanera who fought in the provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija used a dull-looking black flag, with the single white letter K and the skull and crossbones symbol. The black color of the flag was inspired by the hood worn during the secret initiation rites of the first degree Katipuneros. The flag was for the camp of General Mariano Llanera of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, who earned for himself a reputation as a brave and reckless fighter. “Let us fight to the finish,” was one of his favorite remarks. Owing more to Freemasonry than to traditional Katipunero imagery. This flag looked like the pirates’ banner in the Caribbean. It is said that Andres Bonifacio made fun of this flag, calling it Bungo ni Llanera or Llanera’s skull.

The Aguinaldo-Magdalo Flag (August 30, 1896). When the revolution heated up, the Magdiwang group of the Katipunan, which operated in Cavite under Gen. Santiago Alvarez, adopted a flag consisting of a red flag with the character at the centre of the flag is a K in an ancient Filipino alphabet or alibata script in white placed at the center of a sun with eight pointed rays, again representing the Katipunan and the eight revolutionary provinces in Luzon that pledged its support to fight under Aguinaldo’s banner and to start the Philippine revolution. This was the flag adopted by General Emilio Aguinaldo for his Magdalo group at Kawit, Cavite on August 30, 1896. General Aguinaldo referred to this flag in his proclamation of October 31, 1896: “Filipino people!! The hour has arrived to shed blood for the conquest of our liberty. Assemble and follow the flag of the Revolution – it stands for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” Due to the popularity of General Aguinaldo, it was used by the revolutionary forces until December 30, 1897 when it was hauled down from the flagstaff at Biak-na-Bato, signifying the end of warfare with Spain after the peace agreement. This flag became the first official banner of the revolutionary forces and was blessed in a crowd celebrated.

The Magdalo faction of the Katipunan, which also operated in Cavite under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, used a flag alike to the Magdiwang faction’s. It features a white sun with a red baybayin letter ka. This symbol has recently been revived by a breakaway group of army officers calling themselves the Magdalo Group. These officers rebelled against the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the command of Senator Gregorio Honasan.

The First Republic (1899 – 1901)

Gregorio del Pilar’s Tricolor Flag(1897). The first Filipino tricolor. A flag almost alike to the present National Flag was used by General Gregorio del Pilar, “boy hero of the Battle of Tirad Pass” and “The Young General of the Katipunan.” The upper red stripe stood for the Katipunan color; the lover black was motivated by General Llanera’s flag; and the blue triangle at the left indicates comradeship with the revolutionary flag of Cuba, another colony of Spain which was also in revolt and like the Philippines, it was in a state of revolution for independence from Spain. The flag took its last stand against the Americans in Tirad Pass, Ilocos Sur, defending the retreating armies of Aguinaldo.

“Sun of Liberty Flag” (March 17, 1897). The first official flag of the revolutionary government of General Emilio Aguinaldo. The first Filipino national flag. A red flag with a white sun of eight rays, symbolizing the search for liberty. This was adopted by the revolutionary leaders at their assembly in Naic, Cavite on March 17, 1897. It was a transformed version of the Aguinaldo-Magdalo flag, with a mythological sun at the center. The last revolutionary flag represented the desires for independence of the Filipino nation as a whole, rather than the Katipunan society alone, for the sun (nation) had replaced the KKK as the center of their sign. It was raised and waved during some of the bloodiest days of the revolution, but unfortunately, it did not last long.

The flag served as the national flag and was used for less than a year because the Filipinos signed a truce with Spanish authorities (Pact of Biak-na-Bato) on December 14 to 15, 1897. On December 27, 1897, the first phase of the Philippine Revolution ended with the signing of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato between the struggling Spanish colonial government and the poorly armed and unsalaried volunteer army of Katipuneros. The truce ushered in a period of false peace before another storm was released in the land. The leaders of the Katipunan decided to fight under Aguinaldo’s banner. Aside from being formally educated, Aguinaldo was winning his battles while Bonifacio was struck by a number of losses. For this same reason, Aguinaldo’s flag was said to have become the basis for the design of the new flag of the revolutionary government – the Sun of Liberty. This same revolutionary government was responsible for ordering the execution of Andres Bonifacio. Bonificio was charged with treason for provocative rebellion against the new government. The flag was approved on March 17, 1897 in Naic, Cavite.

“The Sun and the Stars.” The second phase of the Philippine revolution (1898-1902) began the hopes for creating the first Philippine republic. And one of the first tasks of the founders who were exiled abroad is to produce the flag and a new anthem, the symbols of a state. The Philippine national flag was designed by Emilio Aguinaldo during his exile in Hong Kong. The flag was sewn at 535 Morrison Hill, Hong Kong by Mrs. Marcela Mariño Agoncillo – wife of the first Filipino diplomat, Felipe Agoncillo, because of her sewing skills with the help of her daughter Lorenza and Mrs. Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, niece of Dr. Jose P. Rizal and wife of General Salvador Natividad, they skillfully sewed what was later to be known as “The Sun and the Stars.” The flag was completed within five days and handed over to Emilio Aguinaldo before he returned to the Philippines. The flag was unfurled for the first time on the balcony of Emilio Aguinaldo’s home in Cavite on June 12, 1898 in proclamation of independence from Spain. This flag was used June 12, 1898 – April 1, 1901 and had the same red and blue as found on the Cuban flag. The flag was flown with the red stripe on top during the Philippine-American war. The flag’s design spoke of the Filipinos’ sprit and their deep longing for the country. A white triangle on the flag stood for equality; the upper stripe of dark blue for peace, truth and justice, the lower stripe of red for patriotism and courage, the sunburst of eight rays representing the first eight provinces that took up arms against Spain and the three stars symbolizing Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

For the period of the US military government in the Philippines, there was an unwritten ban on the Philippine flag and use of the national colors. Once a civil government was recognized, the unwritten ban was relaxed. However, due to the patriotic nature of Filipinos and their use and display of their flag and the national colors, and several incidents related to their patriotism, the Flag Law was passed. The Flag Law or Act No.1696 (An act to prohibit the display of flags, banners, emblems, or devices used in the Philippine islands for the purpose of rebellion or insurrection against the authorities of the United States and the display of Katipunan flags, banners, emblems, or devices and for other purposes) was passed on September 6, 1907. The US flag was used as the official flag of the Philippines 1898-1946.There were numerous attempts to abolish the Flag Law and finally on October 22, 1919, Act No. 2871 was passed abolishing the Flag Law. On October 24, 1919 Proclamation No. 19 was issued establishing October 30, 1919, as a public holiday to be known as Flag Day. However, the Philippine flag now had the American red and blue, rather than the Cuban red and blue. This flag was adopted as the official flag of the Philippines on March 26, 1920, by Act No. 2928.

On March 25, 1936, President Manuel Quezon issued Executive Order No. 23 which restricted the official description and specifications of the Philippine flag. This flag was used when the Philippines was granted independence in 1946 and until 1981 and then again in 1986 until 1998. The Philippine flag was banned again in 1942 when the Japanese attacked in World War II. The Japanese flag was used until the Japanese-sponsored Second Republic of the Philippines was established in 1943. The flag ban was lifted and the Philippine flag from the 1936 specifications became official once again. The flag was flown in its wartime state by the Commonwealth de jure government 1941-1945 and by the Japanese-sponsored Second Republic de facto government 1944-1945. The Commonwealth was at war against the axis forces while the Second Republic was at war against the associated forces.

In 1981, President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the colors of the Philippine flag be changed back to the original Cuban colors. Allegedly, the flag factories did not have a Cuban blue so a sky blue was used instead. This color design was abolished and the previous colors from 1936 were restored in 1986, after President Marcos fled to Hawaii.|

Due to much debate amongst historians at to which type of blue was correct, the blue was changed to royal blue as a agreement by Republic Act No. 8491 which was passed on February 12, 1998. This is the current version of the Philippine National Flag.

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