It’s that time of the year again when we start seeing Philippine flags hanging everywhere we go — establishment windows, street lamps, your neighbor’s gate, etc. Even though the pandemic has turned all else upside down, Independence Day is here again, hopefully reminding all of us just how hard our ancestors fought so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. Filipino kids are taught about the history of this day every year, but some of these little-known Philippine Independence Day facts might still surprise you. Read on and you might just learn a thing or two!
“Lupang Hinirang” wasn’t our first national anthem
“Lupang Hinirang” was composed in 1898, but the very first Philippine anthem was commissioned by Andres Bonifacio in 1897. Bonifacio asked musician Julio Nakpil to compose the anthem in November 1896, and Nakpil came up with “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan” (Noble Hymn of the Tagalog Republic):
Even though there was already a Philippine anthem, President Aguinaldo asked composer Julian Felipe to compose a national hymn on June 5, 1898. Aguinaldo wanted a march-like anthem, and Felipe drew inspiration from The Marcha Real, the Grand March from Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, and La Marsellaise.
You couldn’t sing to the original “Lupang Hinirang”
When the national anthem was first played on June 12, 1898, it was known as the Marcha Nacional Filipina, and it didn’t have any lyrics. It was only a year later when the Spanish poem by Jose Palma entitled Filipinas became the words of the national anthem:
In the 1900s, the lyrics were translated from Spanish to Filipino by Felipe de Leon, and in 1938, the anthem was officially given the title “Lupang Hinirang”.
The three stars on the flag didn’t represent Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao
Yup, you read that right. Though this was probably one of the first “facts” you learned about our flag back in school, the stars didn’t originally symbolize Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. When Emilio Aguinaldo designed the flag, he indicated that the three stars represented Luzon, Panay, and Mindanao. Back then, Panay was considered one of “the archipelago’s three principal islands”, as it was called on the Proclamation of Independence.
The original flag was lost in Pangasinan
After the first Philippine flag was unfurled in Kawit on June 12, 1898, it was brought to Malolos and displayed in Barasoain Church. But during the Filipino-American war, Aguinaldo had to retreat to Northern Luzon, and he brought the flag with him. However, the flag was lost somewhere in Tayug, Pangasinan. We still don’t know what really happened to it and where it is today.
June 12, 1898 wasn’t the first time Philippine independence was declared
Andres Bonifacio declared Philippine Independence on April 12, 1895 inside a cave called Pamitinan in Montalban (now Rodriguez town) in Rizal. Bonifacio and the Katipuneros scrawled “Long Live Philippine Independence” on the wall.
The Philippines used to observe Independence Day on the Fourth of July
The declaration of Philippine Independence wasn’t recognized by Spain, the United States, or any other country. In 1898, the Spanish essentially handed the Philippines over to the United States after signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War.
The U.S. only granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946, so that it corresponded to the U.S.’ Independence Day. It wasn’t until 1962 that the country started to celebrate Araw ng Kalayaan on June 12, after President Diosdado Macapagal made a presidential proclamation calling it the “true birthday of an independent Filipino nation.”
In a 1962 public address on Independence Day, he said:
“It is proper that what we should celebrate is not the day when other nations gave recognition to our independence, but the day when we declared our desire to exercise our inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.”
The Republic Act No. 4166 in 1964 made this change of date official.
The Philippine flag was made in Hong Kong
After signing the Pact of Biak-na-Bato on December 14, 1897, Emilio Aguinaldo visited the family of Don Felipe Encarnacion Agoncillo in Hong Kong, where the family had taken up residence after the revolution broke out in 1896. Aguinaldo then asked Doña Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo to hand-sew a flag according to his design. Marcela Agoncillo enlisted the help of her eldest daughter, five-year-old Lorenza Mariño Agoncillo, and Mrs. Delfina Herbosa Natividad, Dr.José Rizal’s niece by his sister Lucia, to sew the first Philippine flag.
Years later, Marcela Agoncillo said this about the whole endeavor:
“In the house at No. 535, Morrison Hill, where I lived with my family, exiled from our country on account of the national cause, I had the good fortune to make the first Philippine flag under the direction of an illustrious leader General Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy. It took me five days to make the national flag, and when completed, I myself delivered it to General Aguinaldo before boarding the transport McCulloch… General Aguinaldo is the best witness who can give the information whether or not that flag was the first to be displayed in Cavite at the beginning of the revolutionary government against the government of Spain in these islands.”
The Declaration of Independence wasn’t read from a balcony
When most Pinoys picture the Declaration of Independence, we think of the National Flag being raised from the iconic balcony at Emilio Aguinaldo’s Kawit home:
But according to historian Ambeth Ocampo, that balcony wasn’t added to the house until 1919. The declaration was actually read from this window:
The more you know, huh?
Know any cool Philippine Independence Day facts? Share them with us in the comments!