Orig­i­nal or not, it’s still flag of our fathers

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Am­beth R. Ocampo Colum­nist

(Edi­tor’s Note: The au­thor chairs Ate­neo de Manila Univer­sity’s Depart­ment of His­tory.) ONCE A YEAR, the Emilio Aguinaldo Man­sion in Kawit, Cavite, be­comes the fo­cal point of the nation’s mem­ory. In this house, Philip­pine in­de­pen­dence from Spain was de­clared on June 12, 1898.

That his­toric event left us with two sym­bols of the Philip­pines—the na­tional flag and the na­tional an­them. Ju­lian Felipe’s man­u­script mu­sic did not sur­vive, but he was able towrite out an­other “orig­i­nal” for the Na­tional Li­brary be­fore the last world war.

A battle-scarred and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing flag is dis­played in a mu­seum in Baguio City owned by the Emilio Aguinaldo Foun­da­tion. The foun­da­tion as­serts: that this flag is the most his­toric among the flags and em­blems owned by Aguinaldo; that it is the old­est sur­viv­ing flag of Philip­pine in­de­pen­dence; and that it is the first, the orig­i­nal, flag sewn by Marcela Ag­oncillo in Hong Kong, the same flag that was waved in Kawit on June 12, 1898.

INQUIRER North­ern Lu­zon has re­peat­edly run sto­ries about this flag in the past, rais­ing gov­ern­ment ne­glect of an im­por­tant relic of na­tion­hood.

The im­per­ti­nent ques­tion, how­ever, has not been asked: Is this re­ally the flag of our found­ing fathers?

Text­book his­tory states that Marcela Ag­oncillo made the first Philip­pine flag fol­low­ing

the or­ders and sketch of Aguinaldo in May 1898.

The flag was made in the Ag­oncillo home on 535 Mor­ri­son Hill, Hong Kong, us­ing “finest satin” bought from a store on Pow­ell Street. Ag­oncillo was as­sisted by her el­dest daugh­ter, Lorenza, and Del­fina Her­bosa de Na­tivi­dad, a niece of Jose Rizal.

For five days, they toiled, miss­ing their cus­tom­ary me­rienda to en­sure that the sun and stars were hand-sewn cor­rectly on the white equi­lat­eral tri­an­gle.

The flag was de­liv­ered to Aguinaldo be­fore he sailed for the Philip­pines on May 19, 1898, on the US trans­port McCul­loch.

It was first used in the Battle of Ala­pan in May 1898 and later played an im­por­tant role dur­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence in Kawit on June 12, 1898, and the open­ing of the Malo­los Congress in Bara­soain in 1899. Then it dis­ap­peared. Aguinaldo re­lated in 1919 that the flag was lost some­where on the Cara­ballo moun­tains in Nueva Viz­caya. In 1925, he said the flag was lost in Tayug, Pan­gasi­nan.

In­spec­tion re­port

The Baguio flag was Aguinaldo’s per­sonal fa­vorite among many old flags he kept in his Kawit home, and this af­fec­tion has been in­ter­preted as an au­then­ti­ca­tion of the flag as the orig­i­nal one made by Ag­oncillo in 1898.

Since Aguinaldo in his long life made no cat­e­gor­i­cal state­ment re­gard­ing the flag’s his­tory and au­then­tic­ity, per­haps we can turn to sci­en­tific ex­am­i­na­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary 1998 at the re­quest of Emilio Aguinaldo Sun­tay III, a team from the Na­tional His­tor­i­cal In­sti­tute trav­eled to Baguio to ex­am­ine the flag.

Part of the team’s re­port reads: “The ex­am­i­na­tion was un­der­taken in a room dimly lighted by a low-in­ten­sity in­can­des­cent bulb, a con­di­tion set by the Sun­tay fam­ily.

“The flag mea­sures 184 cen­time­ters in length and 97 cm in width. It is a two-faced flag with the usual blue, red and white fields. Both­white fields con­tain the sun and three stars which are ac­cen­tu­ated by metal threads.

“On one [side of the flag] is the flo­ral wreath em­broi­dery. On its blue and red fields are painted in­scrip­tions: Lib­er­tad, Jus­ti­cia and Ygual­i­dad re­spec­tively. The other face has ‘Fuerzas Ex­pe­di­cionar­ias’ on the blue field and ‘del Norte de Lu­zon’ on the red field.

“The flag is as­sumed to have un­der­gone ear­lier restora­tion, for it is now en­closed by two lay­ers of ny­lon net. It is dif­fi­cult to as­cer­tain the ac­tual phys­i­cal state of the flag be­cause of poor light­ing and the ef­fect of the ny­lon net. How­ever, it is prob­a­bly the net en­clo­sure that keeps the items to­gether.”

“There was an at­tempt to pho­to­graph the flag, but the fam­ily de­clined. Nev­er­the­less, un­der lim­ited con­di­tions, [the team] was per­mit­ted to pho­to­graph parts of it.”

Cot­ton threads

De­spite all the well-mean­ing re­stric­tions set by the Sun­tay fam­ily that pre­vented a thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion of the flag and an as­sess­ment of its de­te­ri­o­ra­tion, a sig­nif­i­cant part of the re­port con­cerned the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of threads of red, white and blue col­lected from the flag.

The threads were made of cot­ton, which goes against Ag­oncillo’s state­ment that she used the finest satin.

Other sources say the orig­i­nal flag was made of silk, not cot­ton.

The Baguio flag was Aguinaldo’s fa­vorite: the one he held aloft when Philip­pine In­de­pen­dence Day was moved from July 4 to June 12 by Pres­i­dent Dios­dado Ma­ca­pa­gal in 1962, the one brought to his bed­side when he was ill, the one that was proudly dis­played in a relic cabi­net in the liv­ing room of his home in Kawit.

With­out solid his­tor­i­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion, per­haps a more care­ful ex­am­i­na­tion of the flag will prove be­yond rea­son­able doubt that in­deed this is the flag of our fathers.

Un­til then, it re­mains an au­then­tic flag of the pe­riod, but not the orig­i­nal one.

But if the Baguio flag is in­deed the orig­i­nal, it should then be re­turned to Kawit where it right­fully be­longs, where it will be ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic and where it will re­mind and in­spire us to be the nation we should be.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.