Photo from JaCas Photography /Subaraw Biodiversity Festival.

In September 2011,  five city government employees of Santiago City in Isabela used Philippine flags as improvised headgear, seeking refuge from the scorching sun. They were slapped with administrative and criminal charges for violating flag etiquette as prescribed by Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines that prohibits the use of the flag as clothing or drapery.

This law outlines additional regulations to safeguard the sanctity of our flag. It underscores that the flag should never touch the ground or water, emphasizing its elevated status and symbolic value. Proper procedures for raising and lowering the flag, as well as the prohibition of altering its design, are also stipulated. These guidelines serve as a constant reminder of the need to handle our national flag with respect and dignity.

Beyond the legalities, the Philippine flag carries profound historical and cultural significance.

The story of the Philippine flag’s birth dates back to the height of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule. In 1898, during the period of national awakening, Filipino revolutionary leaders sought to create a flag that would symbolize the aspirations of the Filipino people. The task of crafting the flag fell upon Marcela Agoncillo, her daughter Lorenza, and Doña Delfina Herbosa de Natividad.

Using their skills and creativity, the women meticulously sewed the flag, with the revolutionary ideals of freedom and independence guiding their every stitch. The eight-rayed golden sun, the three stars representing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and the colors blue representing peace, truth, and justice, red symbolizing patriotism and valor, and white symbolizing purity and integrity.

This flag was first unfurled and hoisted in battle on May 28, 1898, in Alapan, Imus, Cavite days before General Emilio Aguinaldo, standing on the balcony of his ancestral home in Kawit, Cavite, proudly waved the Philippine flag, signaling the birth of a sovereign nation on June 12, 1898.

Recognizing its significance, May 28 to June 12 was designated as Philippine Flag Days were Filipinos are encouraged to display the Philippine flag in their homes, schools, offices, and public spaces

Throughout Philippine history, there have been periods when the display of the Philippine flag was prohibited or restricted. One such significant era was during the Philippine-American War, which spanned from 1899 to 1902. During this time, the United States, as the colonial power, imposed strict regulations on the use and exhibition of the Philippine flag.

Under American colonial rule, the Philippine flag symbolizes resistance against American authority and was perceived as a threat to their control. Consequently, the flag was outlawed, and anyone found possessing or displaying it faced severe consequences. This prohibition aimed to suppress any form of opposition or assertion of Philippine independence.

For years, the Philippine flag remained hidden and its display was considered an act of defiance against the occupying power. However, as the Filipino nationalist movement gained momentum and the struggle for independence continued, the resilience of the flag became evident.

On July 4, 1946, the Philippines gained its long-awaited independence from American colonial rule. The Philippine flag was raised high, signifying the triumph of the Filipino people in their struggle for self-governance.

Today, the Philippine flag stands as a testament to the nation’s resilience and enduring spirit. It serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by our ancestors in their pursuit of freedom and independence. The flag represents the collective and triumph of the Filipino people against colonial oppression.

From a symbol of resistance during times of subjugation to a beacon of hope and unity in the quest for self-governance. The flag unifies us as a nation, transcending individual differences and reinforcing our shared identity as it embodies the ideals of peace, justice, and valor that form the foundation of our nation.