8 Myths About Philippine Independence Day, Debunked
Jun 8, 2023   •   Cristina Morales
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Jun 8, 2023   •   Cristina Morales
Have you ever heard a story about Philippine Independence Day that left you scratching your head or feeling confused? You’re not alone. Over the years, many myths and misconceptions have emerged about this momentous event, some of which were even taught in our history classes. These stories have been passed around for decades, but it’s time to set the record straight. In this article, we are going to debunk some of the most common myths about Philippine Independence Day and get to the truth behind this significant day in our nation’s history.
FACT: Philippine Independence Day was celebrated on July 4 until the 1960s.
Independence Day in the Philippines used to be celebrated on July 4, which was the day when the country gained independence from formal colonization in 1946. But in May 12, 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal changed the national holiday to June 12 to honor Emilio Aguinaldo’s first proclamation of Philippine independence from Spain.
Macapagal believed that changing the Independence Day celebration to June 12 would restore the legacy of the Filipino struggle for independence from Spain. This independence was disrupted by 50 years of U.S. colonial rule.
FACT: The three stars actually represent Luzon, Panay, and Mindanao.
Contrary to popular belief, the three stars on the Philippine flag do not represent the country’s principal grouping of islands (Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao).
According to the Philippine Declaration of Independence in 1898, the stars stand for the “archipelago’s three principal islands” where the revolution against Spanish rule began. That’s Luzon, Panay, and Mindanao.
FACT: The Red, White, and Blue actually pay tribute to the United States.
In our elementary history classes, we were taught that the color red on the Philippine flag symbolizes courage, blue represents the willingness of Filipinos to fight and die for independence, and white represents our ancestors’ desire for peace.
However, the Philippine Declaration of Independence says otherwise. In it, it says that the colors actually pay homage to the United States:
“…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 lent us and continues lending us.”
FACT: The Philippine flag was first unfurled on May 28, 1898.
On May 28, 1898, Filipino revolutionaries emerged victorious against Spanish troops in a battle in Alapan, Imus, Cavite. The clash raged on for five hours, starting at 10 a.m. and concluding at 3 p.m.
After their victory, Aguinaldo raised and unfurled the Philippine flag for the first time at Teatro Caviteño in Cavite Nuevo (currently known as Cavite City). More than 270 captive Spanish troops, along with Filipino revolutionaries, were present during the event.
The flag was actually unfurled a month prior after Filipino forces emerged triumphant in the Battle of Alapan, where Filipino forces emerged victorious against those aiming to govern the Philippines. This event marked the debut of the Philippine Flag being raised and is renowned as the victory in the Battle of Alapan.
To pay tribute to the Battle of Alapan, May 28 is still commemorated as Flag Day. This date also marks the beginning of the nationwide festivities in commemoration of Independence Day.
FACT: It was Aguinaldo’s legal advisor Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista who waved the flag and read the Declaration of Independence.
Many people believe that Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippine Republic, was present during the country’s Independence Day celebration on June 12 and raised the Philippine Flag. However, it was actually Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, Gen. Aguinaldo’s legal advisor, who hoisted the flag and read the Declaration of Independence from Spain in Kawit, Cavite.
In fact, General Aguinaldo might not have even been present during the Declaration of Independence. According to American journalist Trumbull White, Aguinaldo was not in Kawit during the declaration. In his book Our New Possessions, White wrote that during the Declaration, Aguinaldo was hiding somewhere in the Cavite province to avoid any potential assassination attempts.
FACT: It happened in the late afternoon.
Many media depictions of the Philippine Declaration of Independence are often set in the morning. But, according to Julian Felipe, the composer of the National Anthem, the declaration occurred around 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM. It was challenging for the delegates from different parts of Luzon to arrive in Kawit, Cavite by morning, particularly since transportation systems were not as developed back then.
FACT: The first Philippine anthem was “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan”
Before Lupang Hinirang became our national anthem, the Philippines had a first anthem called “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan,” which Julio Nakpil composed upon Andres Bonifacio’s request.
So when did “Lupang Hinirang” replace “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan”? It happened soon after the power struggle that displaced Bonifacio’s revolutionary government. Emilio Aguinaldo took over, and on May 10, 1897, executed Bonifacio. Sadly, the Battle of Manila in 1945 destroyed the original form of “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan”. But years later, Nakpil reconstructed the anthem from memory as a piano piece, which is still in use today.
On June 5, Julian Felipe met with Aguinaldo and presented a letter of introduction from Mariano Trias. Aguinaldo then requested him to compose a march that would be played during the Declaration of Independence. Originally titled “Marcha Filipina Magdalo”, this later became “Lupang Hinirang”.
FACT: The Philippine flag was lost somewhere in north Luzon.
The flag that’s currently displayed in the Aguinaldo Museum in Baguio City is made of cotton. According to Marcela Agoncillo, the first flag was made using the “finest satin” purchased from a store located on Powell Street in Hong Kong. Agoncillo created the first Philippine flag in May 1898 based on Aguinaldo’s instructions and sketch. It was delivered to Aguinaldo on May 19, 1898, before he sailed for the Philippines.
The flag was first flown during the Battle of Alapan and played a significant role during the Declaration of Independence in Kawit on June 12, 1898, as well as the opening of the Malolos Congress in Barasoain in 1899. Then, it got lost.
Following the outbreak of the Philippine-American War, Aguinaldo had to move further north and brought the original flag with him. Sadly, it soon got lost. The location of the first Philippine flag remains unknown until this day. (In 1919, Aguinaldo claimed that the flag was lost somewhere in the Caraballo mountains in Nueva Vizcaya. But in 1925, he stated that it was lost in Tayug, Pangasinan.)
Even though the flag in Baguio is probably not the first flag, it was Aguinaldo’s favorite. According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, it was “the one [Aguinaldo] held aloft when Philippine Independence Day was moved from July 4 to June 12 by President Diosdado Macapagal in 1962, the one brought to his bedside when he was ill, the one that was proudly displayed in a relic cabinet in the living room of his home in Kawit.”
What other Philippine history myths do you know? Tell us about them in the comments!
Though a chronic dabbler in whatever tickles her fancy, Cristina claims she can count her passions on one hand: feminism, literature, the environment, embroidery, and the power of a solid pop song. She lives in Uniqlo lounge pants and refuses to leave the house without a winged eye.
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