People urged to see first Philippine flag before it crumbles
BAGUIO CITY—Heirs of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo have sped up their drive to popularize the gains of the Philippine Revolution, including what is arguably the era’s most important treasure: the first Philippine flag.
Emilio Aguinaldo Suntay III, great grandson of the country’s first President, said the latest examination of the flag revealed a larg fabric tear that could worsen because of natural decay.
To keep its memory alive, the family intends to popularize the flag and draw more people to see it before it crumbles and is forgotten, he said.
“We were scared it would not last longer than we hoped, so the family is now discussing whether we would eventually need to conceal the flag to try to preserve it longer or make sure every Filipino gets a chance to see it one last time,” Suntay said on Monday, the eve of the 114th Philippine independence celebration.
On Tuesday, the family signed a deal with the University of Baguio to tap its resources to study the impact of the Philippine Revolution in northern Luzon and to complete the narratives detailing how the region played a role in fighting the Spanish colonial government.
This is the first academic collaboration being developed by the Aguinaldo-Suntay clan to make northern Luzon students aware that their ancestors had played a role in the quest for Philippine independence.
“And maybe, they will be drawn to the symbol of that freedom which is this flag,” Suntay said.
The flag has been kept by the family here since Suntay’s grandmother and Aguinaldo’s daughter, Cristina, found it beneath the hero’s deathbed in 1964.
The flag bears a face stitched into the image of a sun. Its blue field is lighter than the modern flag. Sewn in gold thread is the phrase “Fuerzas Expedicionarias del Norte de Luzon.” The words “Libertad” and “Justicia” are on the other side of the banner.
While the flag appears to be a combination of silk and satin, its fabric is so frayed that only a thin layer of metal mesh keeps it together.
“We saw larger holes when we set the flag beneath a pale light,” Suntay said. “The flag used to be laid out in a different case with a solid base so we never saw the degree of tearing until we transferred it to its new, specially designed dehumidifying case [inside the Aguinaldo Museum here].”
“The soft light beneath the case revealed to us stages of [decay] which worried the family,” he added.
During the last decade, the family tapped experts from abroad to help preserve the fabric. Some suggested replacing each worn-out thread, but the family could no longer find fabric manufacturers which could approximate the original material of the flag.
Instead of replacement threads, experts commissioned a replica of the flag, which is displayed above the original relic’s casing and held by a statue of Aguinaldo.
The statue has Aguinaldo’s height and complexion, Suntay said. It stands in a gallery of heroes which includes the statues of Andres Bonifacio and Dr. Jose Rizal.
Del Pilar flag
The original flag also has a neighbor, the bloodied flag that Gen. Gregorio del Pilar seized from Spanish forces on which he drew three sun faces that mimic the sun face of the original banner.
“This [Del Pilar] flag proves the authenticity of the first flag since he was aware of the design [Aguinaldo made for the Philippine banner],” Suntay said.
He was referring to the continuing debates on whether the Philippine flag kept by the family is the flag Aguinaldo unfurled in Kawit, Cavite province, 114 years ago.
But more details about north Luzon’s revolutionary war stories would be crucial, he said.
During Kalinga’s Independence Day rites, Governor Jocel Baac discussed Aguinaldo’s visit to that province.
In his speech, Baac said: “Aguinaldo passed by Asibanglan, Pinukpuk, Kalinga, and set up a military garrison atop the hill that overlooks the hilly barangay. To this day, the hill is called Aguinaldo Hill in his honor. From Asibanglan, he went to Lubuagan, Kalinga, and established the revolutionary government of the republic for quite a time. But the pursuing Americans made General Aguinaldo [flee to] Palanan in Isabela province where he was caught by his pursuers.”
Suntay said discussing these stories help introduce the flag to young Filipinos.
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