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Historical Revisionism And The National Flag

September 25, 2009

rp flags rowed

This is what I call a post within a post: the on-going discussion online at the political writing collective Filipino Voices over the impending revision of our national flag with a ninth ray being added.

Here’s how it will look:

9-rayed Philippine flag

My co-contributor there, Blackshama, correctly writes:

(Sen. Richard) Gordon’s bill reflects  historical revisionism for political “pogi points”. The Flag is one of two relatively unchanged (if we discount the “what color of blue is right?” question.) legacies of the Philippine Revolution that exist to the present. The other one is the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) (the second largest non-Catholic church in the country) of which Agoncillo honored as the “only living tangible result of the Revolution” The IFI has the Flag in its coat of arms and episcopal heraldry.
While the IFI is vitually ignored in our neo-colonial psyche, the flag isn’t. The flag remains as the only focus of nationalist aspirations. The symbols of the flag are well known to schoolkids. The color scheme was selected in honor of the Great North American Republic, blue for nobility and red for courage,  the Sun represents liberty and links the flag to the independence struggles of Latin American countries, the equilateral triangle has Deist and Masonic origins and represents the Katipunan and equality, the rays represent the first 8 provinces that rose in the Katipunan revolt and the three stars represent the major geographic divisions of the country. The flag is unique in thr world that if flown with the red field on the hoist, it symbolizes a state of war. President Manuel Quezon codified these meanings in an executive order.
In short, the flag is all about the revolution of which the Katipunan initiated and gave rise to the Republic we have now. Gordon is right to pay homage to Muslim resistance to colonial rule but they did not join the Katipunan. Cesar Majul’s “Muslims in the Philippines” cites the letters sent by the Aguinaldo government to the sultans asking them to join in the revolution but while the sultans recognized the common struggle for independence, they could not join it. They viewed the Christian Filipinos as colonial proxies for subjugating Islam in the Philippines.  The American, Commonwealth and post 1946 independent Philippines sadly confirmed this as true.
With Muslim Filipinos choosing not to be part of the Katipunan led revolution, should they be honored with an additional ray? This I believe depreciates and trivializes the nature of their struggle against colonialism. If Filipinos want to honor their struggle, the Christian majority should say their mea culpas and recognize and value their Islamic identity in all aspects. They should not be surprised when Eid al Fitr is celebrated. Christian and Muslim Filipinos should accept that the Mindanao Star in the flag recognizes that the First Philippine Republic wanted a united Philippines that includes Muslim Mindanao. That is the ideal that we Filipinos haven’t reached. Gordon should leave it at that.
As Philippine society becomes more mobile, Muslims are found in all regions of the country. By and large Christian and Muslim communities exist peacefully side by side.  Mosques are found in Luzon, Visayas and of course in Mindanao and Sulu. Many are in close proximity to Christian churches.
Of course the Flag can be changed by law. What riles me as a citizen (whose great great grandparents, grandparents and granduncles died for the Flag) is that these amendments proposed without consulting the Filipino people. Gordon should submit his bill to a referendum if he wants to change the Flag. Not a few Muslims died for the same Flag in World War II. They died for that Mindanao Star too. My Aglipayan and Roman Catholic  granduncles were executed by the Japanese in Intramuros for the Flag and the Luzon Star. As Rizal wrote
“Lo mismo es si lo piden la patria y el hogar”
Filipinos should warn Gordon that changing the Flag may shoot down for good any Presidential ambitions he may have in the future! The majority of Pinoys will be opposed. Gordon hasn’t gotten the message that another national symbol (though much changed from the Spanish original) when changed in singing style and tempo, gets Filipinos into ballistic mode!

The news story on the impending congressional action bears this update:

Congress approved on Tuesday a bill seeking to add a ninth ray to the sun on the Philippine flag to honor Filipino Muslims.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate panel and principal author of Senate Bill (SB) 3307, said the measure would foster greater unity among Filipinos regardless of religion. The bill amends Republic Act 8491, otherwise known as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.
“We are a country that has had a conflict with our Muslim brothers for the last so many decades. I think this is a big step towards reuniting our country, recognizing the contributions of our fellow countrymen, the Filipino Muslims,” he said.
The bicameral conference committee has ironed out the differences between SB 3307 and House Bill 6424. Present during the meeting were Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Representatives Del De Guzman (Marikina, 2nd District), Ma. Carissa Coscoluella (Sectoral Representative PL-Buhay), Salvador Escudero III (Sorsogon, 1st District), and Roman Romulo (Pasig City, Lone District).
Gordon proposed to add a ninth ray to the sun on the Philippine flag to acknowledge the courage, bravery and integrity of Filipino Muslims who fought for the nation’s independence.
The eight rays in the sun stand for the provinces that led the uprising against Spanish oppression during the country’s colonial past. These are Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna, and Batangas.
“This is a great step in recognizing the fact that we had Muslims such as Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat, Amai Pakpak, Sorongan, who kept fighting the Spaniards long before this country thought of a revolution against Spain. This would foster unity, make sure that nobody is excluded. If we are to have national unity in this country it must begin in our flag, it must be symbolized in our flag,” he said.
“We take an amendment of the law here but we actually amend the mindset of our countrymen and bring the nation back to its original posture, one that will not accept tyranny, one that will oppose tyranny. And we should give credit where credit is due,” he added.

Sen. Gordon can clothe his historical revisionism in statesmanlike rhetoric.

But it does not change the abomination being foisted upon us, least of all short-cutting the resolution of the economic grievances of Filipino Muslims.

A finer point, also from blackshama at FV:

I believe that the Christian majority could pay due recognition to the Muslims by recognizing that their struggle while similar to theirs is indeed, different.

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