By Augusto de Viana, Chief History
Researcher, National Historical Institute
May 28 is National Flag Day, honoring the
glorious banner that inspired our heroes and heroines in the Great
Revolution against colonial Spain and during the seven-year
Filipino-American War. The tricolors were first unfurled on May 28,
1898,in Cavite Viejo and formally raised at the proclamation of
independence on June 12, 1898, in Kawit, Cavite.
One of the historical errors being perpetuated
in history textbooks and commemorative rites is the place where the
Philippine flag was first displayed. One signboard in Cavite claims
that the national standard was first raised in Alapan, Imus, Cavite,
on May 28, 1898.
The source of this claim is Proclamation No.
374, issued by then-President Diosdado Macapagal on March 6, 1965.
One of its �whereases� states: �Our flags was (sic) first
raised and received its baptism and victory in the Battle of Alapan,
Imus, Cavite on May 28, 1898.� Alapan is a barrio in Imus.
Primary historical accounts indicate that the
first display of the Philippine flag took place in Cavite City. Gen.
Emilio Aguinaldo made this narrative. In Exhibit No. 71, Vol. 1 of
the Philippine Insurgent Records, a printed pamphlet that was
written originally in Spanish, Aguinaldo narrates:
�On the following day [May 28, 1898] and at
the time when the arms were delivered to those of Kawit, in said
barrio, a column of more than 270 Spanish soldiers, of the Marine
Corps, surrendered, which was set by the Spanish General, Sr. Pe�a,
in pursuit of said arms.
�It was there where the first fight of the
Philippine Revolution of 1898 was started, which we may call the
continuation of the campaign of 1896 to 1897, a fight which lasted
from ten o�clock in the morning to three o�clock in the
afternoon, when on account of lack of ammunition the Spaniards with
all their arms surrendered to the Filipino Revolutionaries who
entered into Cavite [port] with the prisoners. I took advantage of
the glorious opportunity to bring to light and undulate the national
flag which was saluted by an immense multitude, with cheers of
delirious joy and great hurrahs �vivas� for Independent
Philippines and for the generous nation of the United States, all of
which was witnessed by several officers and marines of the American
Squadron, who plainly showed their sympathy for the cause of the
Filipinos by taking part in their great rejoicing.�
The flag waving at Cavite port (then called
Cavite Nuevo, now Cavite City) was duplicated later at Binakayan,
Kawit, in a place called polvorin where the Filipino revolutionaries
attacked a Spanish detachment. The Spanish defenders, numbering 250,
surrendered in a few hours after exhausting their ammunition.
Aguinaldo again took advantage of this
victorious moment to unfurl the national flag atop the polvorin
barracks where it could be seen by foreign warships anchored on
Manila Bay. According to his account, the foreign ships represented
all the greatest and civilized nations of the world and those aboard
were witnessing providential events after 300 years of Spanish
Aguinaldo wrote that this glorious triumph was
the prelude to continued victories. On May 31, the date set for the
general uprising, the whole country rose as one to shake off the
power of Spain.
The first flag-waving therefore took place near
the port of Cavite Nuevo, not in Alapan. The latter was where a
famous battle took place. Historical accounts do not say that the
flag fluttered at the battle. Clearly, it was the sight of the
prisoners marching into the Cavite port that prompted Aguinaldo to
bring out the flag made in Hong Kong and to display it publicly. It
was a festive occasion imbued with patriotism, according to the
general, the first battle of the second phase of the Philippine
The use of historic documents, which corrects
our views of the past, does not diminish in anyway the pride and
courage displayed by our heroes during this important episode in our