When and where was Philippine flag first unfurled?
A friend who listened to President Aquino’s speech at the 114th Philippine Independence Day celebration at Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan yesterday called me up confused about a historical event he cited.
The President started his speech recalling last year’s Independence Day celebration in Kawit, Cavite:
“Noon pong nakaraang taon, nagtipon tayo sa Kawit, Cavite, sa balkonahe ni Heneral Emilio Aguinaldo kung saan unang iwinagayway ang ating bandila. Doon, unang kumumpas ang martsang Lupang Hinirang, sabay sa pintig ng puso ng mga rebolusyunaryong Pilipinong, sa wakas, ay kalag na sa tanikala ng mga dayuhan. Doon, unang pinasinayaan ang karapatang makapamuhay nang malaya at nagsasarili ang bansang Pilipinas.”
The English translation: “A year ago, we gathered in Kawit, Cavite, on General Emilio Aguinaldo’s balcony, where our flag was first unfurled and waved. It was there where our national anthem, the Lupang Hinirang, was first played—its rhythm matching the pulsating hearts of Philippine revolutionaries, who were finally freed from the shackles of foreign rule. There, the Philippines claimed its right to be a free and independent nation.”
My friend said, “Aren’t we celebrating National Flag Day on May 28 because it was on May 28,1898, not June 12, 1898, when the Philippine flag was first unfurled?”
She also said she remembered her history that the Philippine flag was first unfurled in Cavite City, not in Kawit.
I tried to help her by doing online research and what I found made me also confused.
There was an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last May 28 on National Flag Day by Cielo R. Reyno, senior history researcher at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
A portion of that article said: “The nation is celebrating National Flag Day today (Monday), May 28.
“On this day in 1898, some of the 2,000 rifles and 200,000 rounds of ammunition that arrived at the Cavite port two days earlier were delivered to a little known revolutionary enclave, a barrio named Alapan, now part of Imus, Cavite.
“The Spaniards learned about the delivery and sent an infantry force of about 270 soldiers to the barrio to confiscate the weapons.
“But the local revolutionists put up a fight, engaging the Spaniards from 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon.
“The gun battle ended in victory for the Filipinos, who took their Spanish prisoners to the revolutionary headquarters in Cavite that same day.
“As they approached the headquarters to the shouts and cheers of the locals, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the Philippine Revolution, waved the Philippine flag that he had brought back with him from exile in Hong Kong.
“It was a moment of glory for the revolutionists and for the Filipino people. It was the eve of the birth of a new nation.”
I found another article by Arnaldo Dumindin on Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 which helped clarify the date of the unfurling of the flag for the first time because it distinguished the “unofficial” from the “official” act.
It stated:”The Aguinaldo mansion in Kawit, Cavite, site of the historic Proclamation of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898 was declared a national shrine in June 1964. General Emilio Aguinaldo died on Feb. 6, 1964. The balcony did not exist in the 19th century; likewise, although he unfurled it, it wasn’t Aguinaldo who waved the Philippine flag from the central window; Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista did.
“On June 12, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Filipinos and the birth of the Philippine Republic “under the protection of the mighty and humane North American Union.”
“This momentous event took place in Cavite el Viejo (“Old Cavite”, now Kawit), Cavite Province. Admiral Dewey had been invited but did not attend. The Filipino national flag was officially unfurled for the first time at 4:20 PM.
“ The same flag was actually unfurled, albeit unofficially, on May 28, 1898 at the Teatro Caviteño in Cavite Nuevo—now Cavite City—right after the battle of Alapan, Imus, Cavite, and again three days later over the Spanish barracks at Binakayan, Cavite, after the Filipinos scored another victory.”
I contacted historian Manolo Quezon,who is now undersecretary for Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning, and here’s his explanation by text message:
“ The independence day proclamation states it was first formally presented to the people there. What our flag days commemorate is its being used in battle May 28 hence flag days from date of battle to formal proclamation of independence on June 12 where flag and anthem first presented.
“Also for Filipinos at the time and to now, June 12 is the date hence Flag Day was June 12 since 1941 and the proclamation itself speaks of the flag formally being presented to the assembled people at Kawit.
“It’s only recently we shifted to Flag Days and not Flag Day marking continuum from display in battle to unfurling before the people: Flag Day was moved to June 12 in 1941 with Aguinaldo’s approval even before Independence Day was June 12.”
That’s our history lesson for today.