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Our forefathers died for the flag

Selling of Chinese flags is contrived at Rizal Park for online posting last eve of Independence Day. Months earlier at Malacañang during the Chinese president’s state visit, only his country’s banner is paraded without the Philippine flag by the honor guards. In a 2016 prank a college student videos himself mopping the classroom floor with the Philippine flag. And in many buildings nationwide are left hanging the national colors even if faded and tattered.

All those breach the Flag and Heraldic Code of 1998. Worse, they diminish our forefathers’ sacrifice even of life for the Filipino emblem.

Gregorio del Pilar fell in the Battle of Tirad Pass defending not only President Emilio Aguinaldo from pursuing US troops. He held up high the Philippine flag aspiring for nationhood. Apolinario Mabini was exiled to Guam for refusal to kiss the flag of the new colonizers. Gravely ill, the Sublime Paralytic was allowed home only two months before he died in May 1903. Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos would rather face the firing squad than swear fealty to the Japanese flag. He spent his last moments on May 2, 1942, consoling his son that to die for country was a rare privilege. In Bataan after the fall a band of battle-worn soldiers from Rizal hid the Philippine flag from the victorious enemy. Most of them were captured and executed (Proculo L. Mojica, “Pateros – Home of the Brave,” 2009). World War II resistance guerrillas, like Wenceslao Vinzons of Camarines, riskily flew the national colors in their jungle lairs. Discovered by Japanese Occupation forces, he and his wife, two children, father and sister were tortured to death.

The flag is the symbol of a race’s unity and purpose. For Filipinos it comes with a pledge in the national hymn “Lupang Hinirang”: “Aming ligaya na ‘pag may mang-aapi, ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo. (But it is glory ever when thou art wronged, for us thy sons to suffer and die.)” The emblem is not a mere stitching together by Marcela Agoncillo of red, white and blue fields with yellow sun and stars. It emboldens even the feeblest of us to struggle on.

That’s probably why enemy forces desire to take our flag as war booty. US Army Gen. Frederick Funston bragged about it in his account of the Battle of La Loma, outside Caloocan, on Feb. 6, 1899, two days after the Filipino-American War erupted. His 20th Kansas Infantry Regiment had routed the Filipino soldiers from trenches near the church, he wrote in “Memories of Two Wars.” The “insurgents” were given “the necessary castigation,” he said condescendingly. Many, including one “plucky little Filipino,” were run through with bayonets, “getting the cold steel.” He noted that “these troops were fighting under a very fine silken flag with the emblem of the Katipunan embroidered on it… When we finally got the flag it had been riddled with bullets and was drenched with blood. It is now in the State House at Topeka (capital of Kansas).” (Credits to Dr. Gill H. Boehringer, professor of law and history, Sydney, Black Agenda Report, 2009)

The flag so fired up Filipino nationalist fervor that the American rulers banned it under the Flag Act of 1907. Fine of P500 to P5,000 and/or imprisonment of three months to five years was imposed for any public or private display. Covered were not only the “flags, banners, emblems and devices of the Katipunan Society.” Included was the national flag unveiled in Kawit, Cavite, at the birth of the Republic on June 12, 1898. For, those were “used during the late insurrection in the Philippine Islands to designate or identify (the) public enemies in armed rebellion against the United States.”

Five thousand pesos at the time could build a stone house at the poblacion. Yet flouting the penalties, Filipino artists persisted in showing the flag in stage presentations. Many times, showings of “Walang Sugat” were raided by American authorities at Teatro Libertad and Manila Grand Opera House. The Tagalog zarzuela by Severino Reyes depicted in verse, songs, music and dance the 1896 Revolution against Spain. But as the finale featured the unfurling of the Philippine flag – to which the audience rose in applause – the actors, musicians, and stagehands invariably were rounded up. Upon release, they regrouped and did it again.

Three months after the imposition of the Anti-Flag Law, Macario Sakay was sentenced to death. Assuming as commander-in-chief of the Filipino army he continued the fight for independence after the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo and Miguel Malvar. About to be hanged, he requested one last time to view the revered Filipino colors. But derided as a highwayman under the Brigandage Act of 1902 against freedom fighters, that was denied him.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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