Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Desecrating the Philippine Flag

My column today at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Since elected officials make it a point to implement projects that distinguish them as the exact opposite of their predecessors—especially if they belong to opposite sides of the political fence—I hope that they will make it a point to stop practices that violate laws and promote disrespect for our national symbols.

I have one suggestion to newly elected Mayor Alfredo Lim of Manila: Please stop the desecration of the Philippine flag which your predecessor, Lito Atienza, loved to do. My friends think this is a wild shot, given Mayor Lim’s renowned stand on vandalism.

However, Mayor Lim is also known for being a stickler for what is right so I think there is reason to hope.

Around this time of the year when the country celebrates Independence Day, the City of Manila becomes abloom with Philippine flags hanging at practically every streetlamp at Roxas Boulevard and on every pillar of the LRT on Taft Avenue down to Avenida Rizal. This is understandable because most of the important historical landmarks are found in Manila.

I know that other cities and municipalities also have this penchant for hanging out the Philippine flag—the more, the merrier—as if they are decorative banderitas that are haphazardly strung and festooned on streets during fiestas. But sadly, the City of Manila wins hands down as most notorious in the area of disrespecting the country’s tricolors.

Makati City, for example, also decks Ayala Avenue with hundreds of Philippine flags this time of the year. This preoccupation with quantity really boggles the mind—we don’t really need that many flags to remind us of the significance of the occasion.

I don’t have anything against displaying the Philippine flag around this time of the year or even throughout the whole year if anyone wants to do so. Anyone who wants to proudly proclaim his nationalism by displaying the flag outside his home or office is very much welcome to do so. It’s a free country and there are certainly worse things one can do in the name of nationalism.

However, I must insist that the flag be treated with respect.

This brings me to my rant about how the City of Manila usually desecrates the Philippine flag around this time every year. I hope this year will be different with Mayor Lim at the helm of the city.

Last year, I wrote in my blog (www.bongaustero.blogspot.com) a protest about the way the Philippine flag was being disrespected throughout Manila. To commemorate Independence Day last year, the city government went nuts and decided to plaster the city with Philippine flags galore. It put one up on every pillar of the LRT on Taft Avenue all the way to Avenida Rizal. Actually, it put two, one for the benefit of the southbound and another one for the benefit of the northbound motorists.

But the flags were haphazardly and crudely put up. Most of the flags were skewered with wires on each corner and spread-eagled on the pillars like, excuse me for being graphic here but the metaphor is appropriate, someone being raped. Many flags were directly exposed to rain. Other flags were placed directly under the drainage pipes of the LRT and thus served as receptacle for whatever foul liquid spewing out of those pipes. The litany of horrors did not stop there. Many of the flags were grimy and tattered, which could be expected since they were exposed to the elements including noxious gases. Some were even ripped. Some flags had parts touching the ground.

Over at Roxas Boulevard, specifically at the Baywalk, the inconceivable happened—Philippine flags were used as decorations for merrymaking. These flags resembled barbecues as they were skewered with sticks and wires and displayed like they were ordinary welcome banners. I even saw at least three flags that were deliberately punctured with holes for the wind to pass through. And believe it or not, one flag even had the words “Independence Day 2006” inscribed on it. It was sacrilege of the highest order.

It was enough to make any Filipino angry. I personally felt like walking to the Manila City Hall to throw stones at then Mayor Atienza’s giant billboard showing him behind a giant flag (also another form of disrespect as nothing, not even the faces of our elected executives should be printed on the face of the Philippine flag).

The sad thing is that there is a law (Republic Act 8491, An Act Prescribing the Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat-of-Arms, and Other Heraldic Items and Devices of the Philippines; also known as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines) that prescribes how the Philippine flag should be treated. The law specifies everything about the Philippine flag—from the right colors, the correct dimensions, the proper way to display it, including the protocols in hoisting the flag or flying it half mast.

The law is readily available in the Internet for anyone’s guidance. Wouldn’t it be great if someone—anyone—who works for local executives actually reads up on the law before they go into the wild orgy of hoisting, plastering, butchering hundreds of Philippine flags on our thoroughfares?

But then again, do we really need a law to guide us on how to respect our country’s primary symbol? What kind of citizens require guidance on how to respect the country’s foremost symbol of sovereignty?

Besides, aren’t these things taught in schools? I thought developing citizenship is the whole point of all those subjects on social studies and civics. And aren’t these standard modules in basic scouting? I remember being taught the rudiments of how to raise the flag, how to fold it, even the proper way of displaying it as a scout in my elementary and high school days.

I think that showing respect for the Philippine flag is one of the most basic requirements of citizenship. This is the reason why we stand when the National Anthem is played and the flag is hoisted. The same reason why the flag should not be made to touch the ground, skewered or punctured, or even why old tattered flags should be replaced and burned.

If our local executives cannot display respect for the Philippine flag despite their pronouncements about their supposed patriotism, then we are truly in trouble. This can only mean one thing— the death of citizenship.

3 comments:

Mapangurirat said...

i agree. sadly, i don't think that the proper handling of the flag is part of what they teach in schools nowadays. It is sad becuase there are even government offices which still fly tattered philippine flags. More power to you.

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Not a Granny said...

Hi, I am a member of a Rotary club here in Florida. We have a group of Filipino professionals staying with us and attending a meeting on Thursday morning (5/7/09). I have borrowed a Philippine Flag to hang during our meeting, we have an American Flag that is displayed also. I read online the correct way to hang it but I cannot figure out how to fold it after the meeting. One set of directions that I received said in 1/2 and in 1/2 again and then triangularly with the sun and stars on the top. Do you know of any websites that have pictures?? I don't mean to sound so silly, but I am having a real challenge getting the sun and stars on the top.