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The National Flag and other historic flags of the Philippines

By Renato Perdon
Sydney, Australia
May 28, 2016


The first Filipino flag was design by General Emilio Aguinaldo himself and sewn in Hong Kong by Marcela Mariño Agoncillo, wife of Felipe Agoncillo, a leading diplomat in the Aguinaldo Government. The Agoncillo family left for Hong Kong in 1896 to escape Spanish persecution. In making the flag, Marcela was assisted by her seven-year old daughter Lorenza, and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, niece of Jose Rizal. It took them five days to complete the important task.

The present national flag of the Philippines was not a result of an accident of history. It reflects the traditions and ideals of the people. As an emblem, it covered the two phases of the Philippine campaign for freedom, namely from Balintawak to Biyak-na-Bato (1896 to 1897) and from Kawit to the Commonwealth government (1898-1936).

The first flag used in the first phase was the Katipunan War Standard consisting of a red rectangular design with three white Ks, the Katipunan symbol written and arranged in the form of a triangle at its centre. This was followed by General Mariano Llanera’s so-called ‘skull flag’ which was used by his men in Nueva Ecija at the beginning of the 1896 Revolujtion. The Llanera Flag was a black rectangular cloth inscribed with a big letter k on the right and the human skull and crossbones on the left, all in white. Then another banner was represented by other Katipunan Flag, with the three Ks, in white arranged horizontally at the middle of a red rectangular design.

The General Gregorio del Pilar flag, also a red rectangular flag, had a white triangle at the left and on each corner of the equilateral triangle was inscribed the three Ks. At the centre of this triangle wasd a design of a half-sun rising with eight rays. All the symbols found inside the white triangle were in read. Then another banner which is the Bonifacio War Standard, a red rectangular flag with three white Ks arranged horizontally and a sun with an irregular number of rays, also in white.

To be seen used by the members of the secret society was the so-called reformed Katipuinan War Standard, a red rectangular piece of cloth with a variant designs of the sun, also with eight rays; inside was the letter K written in the old Tagalog script, for kalayaan or freedom. This flag was again revised during the 1897 Naic Convention with the mythological sun of Liberty as its main feature.

The flag known as the General Gregorio del Pilar Flag, is unique in the sense that it could be interpreted as the forerunner of the present Filipino flag. This banner had a red horizontal below, with a blue equal-sided triangle on its left. The Aguinaldo flag, made by Marcela Agoncillo in Hong Kong and unfurled officially during the proclamation of the independence of the Filipinos on 12 June 1898, had some features of the present flag. The one difference was the mythological sun which is not depicted in the present flag.

The current description and specifications of the Filipino flag followed a presidential directive issued in 1936 by then President Manuel L. Quezon. The same description and specifications have been adopted by subsequent Philippine constitutions between 1946 and 1987.

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