Independence is a marvellous idea, a brilliant concept that every person in the world strives for. Last year we discussed the history of our independence and why our Independence Day had changed by our current President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s father. This year we will look at what our ‘Independence’ means. On 12th June we celebrate our Independence from Spanish rule. 111 years ago, General Emilio Aguinaldo stood waving our symbol of freedom, our message to fellow Spanish colonies that it can be done, our flag, the ‘Sun and three Stars’ in Kawit, Cavite.
And how did you celebrate our nation’s 111th year of Independence? Below is how Google Philippines celebrated!
It began with a group whose moniker has a very different meaning today than it did back then. The ‘KKK’ stood for the ‘Katipunan’ which was short for ‘Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan’ or ‘Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation’. The Katipunan were the more radical offshoot of ‘La Liga Filipina’ an organisation born from the propaganda movement in Spain and founded by National hero Dr Jose Rizal. The Katipuneros believed armed resistance was a more powerful way of winning hearts and minds and overthrowing the oppressive Spanish rule.
The first KKK Flag appeared in 1892 and featured 3 white K’s on a rectangular red cloth. The red symbolised the bravery and willingness to shed their blood fighting for their freedom. Other versions showed a single white K or 3 K’s arranged in a an equilateral triangle. This is the first time we see the use of an equilateral triangle. This kind of triangle is often used to signify equality and the absolute truth.
Dr. Jose Rizal is the Philippines’ main National hero and a revolutionary martyr that inspired a country, Andres Bonifacio was known as the Father of the Philippine Revolution and Emilio Aguinaldo was the Philippines first and youngest President and like many of their peers, they were freemasons. It is widely known that symbolism plays a massive part of Freemasonry and several flags were heavily influenced by their beliefs and practices. Degrees and hierarchical levels were deeply significant in the organisation and maintenance of such organisations. It is in this vein that the 1st Degree Flag uses such symbolism of a native sword, a tabak, and a skull as a call to arms for those Katipuneros of the lowest rank or grade. Likewise, the 2nd Degree flag was used to rally the middle ranks. The 3rdDegree completed the KKK moniker and served to rally the highest ranks.
1895 saw the first flag that resembles the modern flag we know today. It was used by National hero and Katipunan leader Pio del Pilar. It featured a white triangle on the flagpole side of a red rectangle. Inside of the triangle a single K sat in each of the 3 corners and in the middle sat a rising sun with 8 rays, symbolizing the first eight provinces that revolted against Spain: Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Tarlac.
Mariano Llanera is another National hero of the Philippines and a revolutionary general who was at first sympathetic to Spain. He then became a mason and joined the Katipunan. His flag is familiar to all who see it, as it resembles the traditional pirate flag, the ‘Jolly Roger’. Not many are aware that the skull and crossbones have traditionally been used in masonic rituals and as battle flags. To the left of the flag was a single letter K. Perhaps the biggest example of Masonic symbolism was the battle flag of the Malibay Katipuneros of Pasay. It featured the infamous all seeing eye in the centre of an equilateral triangle with their faction titles on a red rectangle.
Philippines was not the only Spanish colony fighting a revolution against their rule. Cuba was also in revolt and the tricolor flag of the ‘Boy General’ Gregorio Del Pilar was dedicated to Cuba’s struggle with a blue triangle on the lefthand side, in dedication to the Katipunan with a red stripe at the top and to Llanera’s battle flag with a black stripe at the bottom. It represented a further look into the potential future make up of our current flag.
General Emilio Aguinaldo dedicated his faction to Mary Magdelene and they were known as Magdalo’s. His famous flag was a red rectangle with the ancient Tagalog script for K (which looks like an italic capital i) in white, placed at the centre of a sun with eight pointed rays, again representing the Katipunan and the eight revolutionary provinces in Luzon. On 31st October 1896, General Aguinaldo referred to this flag with the proclomation: “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 hostilities with Spain after the peace pact. It has since been used by revolutionary armed forces in the people’s revolution against Ferdinand Marcos and in the many attempted military coups that have occurred in the Philippines, most recently in 2007.
The final revolutionary flag signified the shift in focus from just the Katipuneros to the Filipino people as a whole. A mythological sun with facial features and 8 rays sits in the middle of a red rectangle. This time the sun represents the nation and gives rise to the modern symbolism in the flag.
The modern flag was designed and created by the Katipunan leaders who were exiled through the truce of Biak-na-Bato. General Aguinaldo used all of the symbolism that had been utilised in previous flags to create what we know and love today. He tasked Marcela Marino de Agoncillo to create the flag because of her sewing skills. Together with two women, her daughter Lorenza and Dr.Jose Rizal’s niece Herbosa de Natividad, they skillfully sewed what we now know as The Sun and the Stars. The white triangle is maintained symbolizing equality, the upper blue stripe symbolizing peace, truth and justice, the lower red stripe for patriotism, bravery and blood. The sun with 8 rays once again representing the first eight provinces that took up arms against Spain and the three stars symbolizing Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The original colours on the flag were that of the Cuban flag! This flag was taken from Hong Kong, aboard an American ship and hoisted up at Kawit on June 12, 1898, in connection with the proclamation of Philippine independence. From that date, it has served as our National Flag.
In 1981 however, President Fedinand Marcos proclaimed that the flag should use the original Cuban colours instead of the dark blue we have all been accustomed too. Unfortunately flag factories did not have that particular colour and so a sky blue colour was used for 5 years, up until Marcos’ exile in Hawaii, when the original 1936 specifications were re-installed. Now as of 1998, the official blue has been royal blue.
It took us 106 years to finalise our flag as a symbol of our freedom and our Independence. Looking back at our turbulent, revolutionary history, much has changed. But we are still living in hope for real change, living in hope for true independence where our citizens can exercise true freedom with no fear from the government and those in power, where our people are not held back by our dynastic culture and the need for elitist aspiration, where our people need no family connections to progress and can do so on true merit. Do you feel free? Do you feel we have seriously progressed as a nation? Dr Jose Rizal once said “Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?” Have a think about that.
Happy 111th Philippine Independence Day!
By Adrian Williams