Philipppine Independence Day is celebrated on June 12. The symbols that evoke great Filipino pride are the country’s flag and its national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
Flags are designed to have symbolic meaning. According to World Flags 101, the Philippine flag means the following:
The blue stripe symbolizes patriotism and justice. The red represents valor and the blood spilt for freedom and independence and the white stands for peace and purity. The white triangle represents equality and the Katipunan nationalist organization. The three stars represent the three main geographical regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao and Visayas. The sun represents independence and its eight rays represent the eight provinces that led the Philippine uprising against Spanish rule.
When I first visited my family in the Philippines as a child, my aunt (an elementary school teacher) taught me that the flag can be flipped so that during war time, the red stripe flies on top. Fortunately, this turning of the flag has never been purposefully done. Recently, it was wrongly displayed to the embarrassment of the US government.
Dr. Jose Rizal is considered to be the Philippine national hero. Trained as an ophthalmologist, Rizal was multifaceted and seemingly a genius. He apparently spoke over 20+ languages, wrote poetry, essays, and books, drew, and had many more interests. Every Filipino child learns about Rizal in school. His books Noli Me Tangere and its sequel El Filibusterismo are required high school reading. These books describe life in the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule in the late 19th century. Eventually, the Spanish imprisoned and executed him as a revolutionary instigator. His death made him a martyr and fueled the movement to fight for independence from Spain. Today, the Rizal Memorial located within Rizal Park, or Luneta, stands near the site of his execution in Manila. The memorial has a statue of Rizal along with his remains; it is guarded at all times by two soldiers. Below, an excerpt from “Mi Ultimo Adios” a poem written by Rizal, on the eve of his execution.
“My Last Farewell”
Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.
Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic. Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.