Aside from the Masonic influence on the Katipunan, the design of the Philippine flag has roots in the flag family to which it belongs—that of the last group of colonies that sought independence from the Spanish Empire at the close of the 19th century, a group to which the Philippines belongs. The Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office traces the origins of the Philippine flag’s design elements, which have been in use since General Emilio Aguinaldo first conceived them—the stars and stripes; the red, white, and blue; the masonic triangle; and the sun—and have endured since.

Infographic_PCDSPO_SymbolsOfNationalFlag_140605_1614

RELEVANT PASSAGES FROM THE PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE—


Original English translation Filipino translation
Y por último se acordó unanimemente que esta Nacion yá Independiente desde hoy, debe usar la bandera que hasta ahora sigue usando, cuya forma y colores se hallan descritos en el adjunto debujo, con el remate que representa al natural las tres referidas armas significando al triangulo blanco como distintivo de la célebre Sociedad “Katipunan” que por medio de pacto de sangre empuja á las masas a insurreccionarse; representándo las tres estrellas las tres principales Islas de este el archipiélago, Luzon Mindanao y Panay en que estalló este movimiento insurreccional; indicando el sol los agigantados pasos que han dado los hijos de este pais en el camino del progreso y civilización, simbolizando los ocho rayos de aquel las ocho provincias—Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna, y Batangas—declaradas en estado de guerra apenas se inicio la primera  insurrección, y conmemorando los colores azul, rojo, y blanco lo del la bandera de los Estados Unidos de la America del Norte, como manifestacion de nuestro profundo agradecimiento hacia esta Gran Nación por la desinteresada protección que nos presta y seguirá prestando. Y imprimando dicha bandera la presente a los Señores congregados. And finally it was resolved unanimously that this Nation, already independent from today should use the same flag which it has used,  whose shape and colors are described in the attached drawing rendering  realistically the  three aforementioned forces representing the white triangle as the distinctive symbol of the famed Society of the Katipunan, which through the blood  compact impelled the masses to rise in revolt; the three stars representing the three principal islands of this Archipelago — Luzon, Mindanao, and Panay in which the revolutionary movement broke out; the sun indicating the gigantic steps taken by the children of this country on the road to progress and  civilization; the eight rays symbolizing the eight provinces – Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna and Batangas —which declared themselves in a state of war almost at the very start of the uprising; and the colors of blue, red and white commemorating the flag of the United States of North America as a manifestation of our profound gratitude towards  this Great Nation for its disinterested protection which it lends us, and continues to lend us.  And, carrying this flag, I unfurl it before the gentlemen assembled here—[List of names of the delegates]—and we all solemnly swear to acknowledge and defend it to the last drop of our blood. Sa huli, napagkasunduan ng lahat na ang Bayang ito, na malaya na mula sa araw na ito, ay dapat gamitin ang watawat na dati nang ginagamit nito, na may disenyo at kulay na inilalarawan sa inilakip na guhit: Ang tatlong panig na makikita rito ay tiyak na sumasagisag sa puting tatsulok na simbolong nagbibigay-pagkakakilanlan sa bantog na kapisanang “Katipunan,” na sa pamamagitan ng sanduguan ay nagpasiklab sa pag-aalsa ng masa; ang tatlong bituin na kumakatawan sa tatlong pangunahing isla ng Arkipelago – Luzon, Mindanao, at Panay kung saan nagsimula ang mapanghimagsik na kapatiran; ang araw na representasyon ng mga dambuhalang hakbang na isinagawa ng mga anak ng bayan sa landas ng kaunlaran at kabihasnan; ang walong sinag na sumisimbolo sa walong probinsiya–Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna, at Batangas–na nagdeklara ng digmaan, nang unang masindihan ang mitsa ng himagsikan; at ang mga kulay na bughaw, pula, at puti, na lahat ay nagsisilbing paggunita sa watawat ng Estados Unidos sa Hilagang Amerika, bilang pagpapakita ng malalim na pasasalamat sa Dakilang Bansa na nagkaloob at nagkakaloob ng walang pag-iimbot na pagtatanggol. At sa ganang ito, inihaharap ngayon itong watawat sa mga Ginoong nagtitipon.

* * *

The flags of the world can be divided into families; in turn, each family traces its design origin to its influences for nationalist and other ideological movements. The Philippine flag, as it was conceived by General Emilio Aguinaldo, adopted the color palette of the flag of the United States—red, white, and blue—together with other elements derived, in turn, from the flag of the State of Texas, elements that are shared by the Philippine, Cuban, and Puerto Rican flags. All three countries sought independence from the Spanish Empire at the close of the 19th century, and bore a close affinity for the republican revolution that gave birth to the United States of America.

msp02955
A 1943 Commonwealth poster printed in the United States. The poster seems to suggest that Cuban blue is the shade used for the Philippine Flag.

The white star (La Estrella Solitaria) represented a new state to be added to the USA. The red, white, and blue also referred deliberately to the Stars and Stripes. - From The World of Flags by William Crampton, 1990.

The ironic similarity between the “Lone Star” flag of Cuba and the Stars and Stripes of its archenemy, the USA, is far from coincidental. The design can be traced to 1848 and General Narciso López (d.1851), a Venezuelan filibuster who, living in the USA, was anxious to liberate Cuba from the Spanish and claim it for his adopted country—hence the single star, to be added to the others. - From The Illustrated Identifier to Flags of the World, by Eve Devereux, 1994.

The symbolism of the Cuban flag is uncannily similar to that of the Philippine flag: The three blue stripes of La Estrella Solitaria, or the Lone Star, represent the three parts of Cuba that initially broke away from the Spanish Empire; the triangle is a masonic symbol signifying liberty, equality and fraternity, the ideals of the French Revolution; the red color stands for the blood shed by Cuban nationalists. Although the López-led revolt was ultimately unsuccessful, his flag was nonetheless adopted as the nation’s standard when Cuba achieved independence in 1902.

Cuba’s revolution was an inspiration to Filipino revolutionaries in many ways: Jose P. Rizal wanted to go there under the cover of being a surgeon to study how the fighting was going on; the Cuban constitution was studied by Filipino revolutionaries; American interest in the Cuban cause was considered a good omen for the Filipino cause. Indeed, the history of the Cuban revolution echoes in so many ways our own, with an on-again, off-again quality to it, ending with temporary success with the help of the Americans, yet both countries ending up as protectorates of the United States.

Peculiar to the family to which our flag belongs is the problem of a definitive and uncontested shade of blue, which partly stems from ideological differences between movements and advocates. In Puerto Rico, for example, advocates of the retention of Commonwealth status for the island, and those advocating independence from the United States, pushed for different shades of blue for the island’s flag.

Debates like this remain prevalent, given historiographic limitations: in our case, the missing original drawing of the flag unfurled in Kawit; the loss of the actual flag; different oral and written approximations of the shade of blue as well as watercolor illustrations. As for contemporary examples, they represent problems not unique to those faced by the Philippine flag: The materials used by flag manufacturers change over time (in the 19th century, and for our first flag, silk was used; thereafter, canvas was used; presently, nylon is used—all these involve textiles and dyes that do not necessarily lend themselves to standardized colors or even textures); a lack of documentation; and the problem of the flags being originally designed with the flag of the United States in mind.

In the Philippines, there is the question of whether the flag should have blue and red in American or Cuban hues. Although samples of the Philippine flag dating back to the era exist, they invariably use the American shades of blue and red; and, given the family to which the flag belongs, there remain historians who passionately advocate the use of the Cuban colors. In 1985, President Ferdinand E. Marcos tried to change the shades of blue and red used in the flag, but this was never popular and was explicitly rejected after the EDSA Revolution of 1986. With the Centennial of the Proclamation of Independence in 1998, however, the colors of the flag were revised on the advice of historians who’d long advocated a change. But instead of specifically Cuban colors, royal blue was used.

The flag, as part of the Cuban and Puerto Rican heritage, the use of a Masonic triangle—a design element that can be traced to the maritime flags used in Spanish colonial ports at the time. Both Manila and Iloilo, the islands’ main ports in the 1850s, had maritime flags used for navigation in Philippine waters. The maritime flag for the port of Havana, Cuba, has stripes.

Both the Manila and Iloilo maritime flags were also swallowtail flags—flags that feature a v-shaped cut similar to the tail feathers of the eponymous bird—and had blue and red stripes, respectively. This shape can be inferred to have easily provided a template for flags used on land: both in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and later, by Katipunan commanders in their military campaigns. For example, one of the most iconic revolutionary flags was the personal standard of Gen. Gregorio del Pilar, one of the youngest commanding officers in the revolutionary forces and later the Philippine Army, who used a red and black swallowtail form with a blue triangle filling in the v-shaped portion. It was under this standard that the “boy general” would be felled in a valiant attempt to delay the Americans and buy time for President Aguinaldo’s retreat. Earlier, Gen. Pio del Pilar (no relation to Gregorio), a close ally of Supremo Andres Bonifacio, used a solid red swallowtail form and added a white triangle with three K’s at each point, symbolizing the Katipunan. At the center of the triangle was the first time an eight-rayed sun was portrayed in a revolutionary standard, representing the first eight provinces in Luzon that rose up in arms against Spain.

Another borrowing from the flag family is the mythical sun, in use by Latin American republics Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay. Although seemingly independent of the Cuban example, the anthropomorphic sun is similar to that of an 1823 Masonic society called the “Suns and Rays of Bolívar”—a secret association that, although was not led by Simón Bolívar, strongly supported the Latin American liberator’s ideals and political maneuverings.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.06.12 PM
Seal of the Katipunan (left) Argentinian Coin (right)

The iconography of the Latin American revolts against Spain would have been familiar to Filipinos. Coinage from ex-colonies of Spain regularly reached the Philippines, requiring the coins to be defaced by the authorities in Manila. However, even these attempts to obscure the symbols of governments that had been former Spanish colonies couldn’t fully obscure their symbols, ranging from suns of liberty, to liberty caps, and mottoes inspired by the French Revolution.

Masonic influences came to the Philippines by way of the ilustrados—or “enlightened class”—of the Philippines, who either had the means to study in Europe or were sent to Spain under an educational program sponsored by the Spanish Government in the mid 19th century. There they had learned about liberalism and political movements that challenged traditional institutions of religion, monarchy, and aristocracy. One of the organizations that heavily influenced the ilustrados was Freemasonry—a fraternal society with its own rituals, symbols, and emblems, and which, furthermore, welcomed Filipinos into its ranks. Many of the ilustrados became Freemasons, and upon returning home from their European sojourns had brought back the same zeal for reform that had swept the Old World and shaken its feudal fiefdoms.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 3.04.05 PM
Seal of Biak na Bato government (top). Federal Republic of Central America coin circa 1824 (bottom).

This new class of reform-minded intellectuals soon thereafter founded lodges in the Philippines too, and from their ranks rose more militant movements such as the Katipunan. Notably, Andres Bonifacio and General Emilio Aguinaldo, the primary leaders of the Katipunan, were themselves Freemasons, and the flags brandished by their commanders showed considerable masonic influences throughout the revolution.

The circular, and cosmopolitan, nature of our Revolution, then, is aptly and ably demonstrated by our flag: a triangle, representing the Katipunan and, in turn, an iconization of the ideals, trends, and events that inspired it—from the Eye of Providence in the Great Seal of the United States that inspired the Masonic Triangle and which, in turn, came to be enshrined in the motto of Revolutionary France—Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité—and prominently enshrined in the flags of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines; the stripes and colors derived from the American flag, the banner of the first republican revolution against European monarchy; the sun and stars of the revolutionary banners of the former colonies of Spain: all these combined to create a national flag that has endured and has been enshrined in our nationhood.

 

_____

The Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office would like to thank Dr. Benito Legarda Jr. for his invaluable contribution to this project.

  • UPmarketArt

    Interesting the stars represent “Luzon, PANAY, and Mindanao” not “Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao”

  • Bonachon Led Lights

    Pilipino…ay naglalarawan ng katatagan,ipinag laban ang bansa upang makamtan ang ating kalayaan…

    Maraming salamat sa ating mga ninuno at sa ating mga magigiting na ”BAYANI”.

  • Reynaldo

    Luzon Panay and Mindanao….so it means that the whole provinces comprises Visayas except for 4 provinces composed of Panay is not part of the Philippines????……it means that we Cebuanos and also Negrenses, Boholanos Leyteños, Samareños and people of Siquijor are not Filipino Citizens anymore????…so i conclude that Visayas was not recognized as part of the Philippines so pwede pala kami mag-create our own flag, the Flag of the Republic of the Visayas because we are not included on that Emilio Aguinaldo’s Philippine Flag

    • http://imjinah.blogspot.com/ imjinah

      There really was a planned Federal Republic of Visayas out of the Cantonal Republic of Bohol, Negros Republic and other revolutionary towns across Panay and Cebu. Then came the Katipuneros and officials of the Malolos Republic who want a political merger with the Visayans. However, the Visayans later on hated Aguinaldo because of deceiving them with a promise that the Philippines from Malolos until the Visayas would be formed as a federation, but never materialized and until now is a unitary state where all powers and economic decisions come from Manila.

      • Michael Victor Panuncillon

        The former Negros Republic only lasted for a year and some of us in both provinces are moving to be United once again. Isulong ang federalismo sa buong bansa

        • http://imjinah.blogspot.com/ imjinah

          Unity you mean merging Negros Occidental and Oriental? While that sounds possible, the economic, social and bureaucratic repercussions would outweigh the benefits. Occidental has always been largely Hiligaynon and Oriental being Cebuano. Aside from a huge population being managed by a shrunken government of fewer administrators, language issues would also arise in media, public services and education. I believe two Negros provinces (or states) would suffice unless the people would really want to combine into one unit.

      • bibabawan

        This claim is not supported by historical facts. Only Negros was lukewarm to Malolos government and was more receptive to the Americans. The rest of the Visayas – Cebu, Iloilo, Samar, Leyte, Bohol, Masbate – all joined the Malolos government and fought alongside Aguinaldo during the Philippine-American war.

        • http://imjinah.blogspot.com/ imjinah

          This was an old comment and I admit that there was a misunderstanding on my side.

          It was not the entire Visayas that planned to merge into one political unit contra Malolos. However, you can also see this official map from Malacañang that Panay, Negros, Samar and Leyte had a separate government before accepting Malolos governance in 1898 (http://www.gov.ph/images/uploads/map11-800×1024.jpg)

          According to Velmonte (2009), there was also a distrust among the HIligaynons of Iloilo (not just of Negros) towards the Tagalogs when Aguinaldo sent “reinforcements” to counter the Americans. He also pointed out that Malolos attempted to ” limit the spread of the power base of the Visayan government. The Visayan federal government was strongest in Iloilo and Negros. Capiz and Antique adhered to it because of proximity and because of the continuing indecision of Luzon” (p. 84).

          Gen. Maxilom of Cebu, however, was worried of the Iloilo government and dubbed it annexationist, resisting to bow down to the other Visayans across the pond. In addition, Samar and Leyte were also outside the supposed-federation’s sphere of influence. In fact, Samar and Cebu were quickly loyal to the Katipuneros in Luzon.

    • Popoy

      Yes I agree, kaya pala iba talaga ung visayas parang hindi part ng Pilipinas.

    • Wapogwapo

      This article would like to explain the origins of our flag and not to create division. Though the stars originally meant Luzon Panay and Mindanao it has now evolved to be Luzon Visayas and Mindanao. Read further on the Katipunan History, the Filipino-American War and the Federal Republic of Visayas.

    • bibabawan

      The Ilonggos were the first to join the Malolos government. Following the success in Iloilo the revolutionaries of Bacolod led by Aniceto Lacson and Juan Araneta wrested control of the city in November 1898 and establish the “gobierno cantonal de la isla Negros” and invited General Miller of the United States army to provide protection. Iloilo was also visited by General Miller but the Ilonggos refused to allow the disembarcation of his troops without the written authorization from Aguinaldo. When war broke out in Feb 4, 1899, General Miller bombarded the city and drove away the defending Ilonggos. No fighting against the Americans ever occurred in Negros.

  • CuriousTarlaqueño

    Napansin ko lang po, wala yung Tarlac sa 8 provinces sa illustration, original and English translation, pero nasa Filipino translation naman.

    • dimas ilaw

      bataan po talaga kasi yun….. d p kasali ang tarlac

  • Avena

    Sayang.

  • Axl

    The language of colors the red, blue and the white, tells the origin.

  • eufems

    “Luzon, PANAY, and Mindanao” not “Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao”

    Fortunately, we Filipinos can change the symbolism of our symbols as we see appropriate. Indeed the Luzon-centric Republica Filipina has its mistakes, but here we are, the Filipinos of today, to correct it. Compare that to Bonifacio’s vision of ‘Katagalugan’ which included the whole archipelago. (His use of ‘Katagalugan’ meant the whole people of the Philippines, for most of the peoples of our country live near bodies of water). #bonifaciounangpangulo

  • Raymund Caguioa Saura

    habang binabasa ko ang laman ng page na ito may mga bagay akong napansin na di ko alam kung napansin ito ng ibang mambabasa… kelan pa naging parisukat ang tatsulok… sana di nalang nila isinalin sa wikang filipino ang orihinal na teksto ng kung paano nabuo ang bandila ng pilipinas… kelan din napasama ang tarlak sa walong probinsya na nakipag laban sa mga kastila na kung saan ang mga probinsya ay ang mga sumusuno… -maynila -cavite – bulacan -pampanga -nueva ecija -bataan -laguna at batangas… kung paano nawala ang bataan at napalitan ng -tarlac… sana naman bago ito isa publiko sa pahinang ito at pinag aaralan muna binabasa ang lahat ng mga detalye…nakakalungkot lang….

    • Harries Chase

      i agrre with you raymund…sana accurate lahat bago ipublic… papano paniniwalaan kung sa mismong paliwanag mali mali…kahit tagalog…wrong grammar??? ano yun?

    • JB

      parisukat – “parehong sukat”, maging tatlo o apat or maging lima ang sulok, pwede pa din maging parisukat

  • Dimasalang

    The original should prevail. The proclamation of independence was originally written in Spanish.

  • opinon only

    the sun symbol is taken from the majapahit. the sun symbol is found all over southeast asia. that shows the vast influence of the majapahit empire. filipinos always look to the spanish era but our history goes much farther and deeper. filipinos should start reclaiming their history and not look to foreigners for inspiration.

  • bibabawan

    Was not the Bonifacio flag influenced by the flag of Japan? Bonifacio sought the help of Japan through the Commander of the Japanese cruiser “Kongo” that visited Manila in May, 1896. Bonifacio, together with members of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan went to salute the commander in the Bazar Japones, situated in the plaza Moraga, and handed him a manuscript setting forth their desire for the aid and assistance of Japan towards the gaining of independence for the Philippines.

  • bibabawan

    The Cuban flag was a great inspiration to Aguinaldo because his acceptance of the offer of Spenser Pratt, the American Consul in Singapore, to renew the revolution along side with the Americans is anchored on the assurance that the United States had no intention of taking the Philippines as a US colony and will insure the independence of the Filipinos as soon as the Spaniards are driven out, in same manner that Cuba became independent through the intervention of the United States. But history proved otherwise and Aguinaldo had to publish his book, “True Version of the Philippine Revolution”, to disprove the claim that no promise of independence was ever made by the Americans.