Everyday History
Celebration of Flag Day
American Occupation of the Philippines Daily History

Flag Day celebrated for the first time: Oct. 30, 1919

On this day in 1919, Filipinos celebrated Flag Day for the first time since the American government banned the use of the Philippine flag in 1907.

The celebration of Flag Day stemmed from the Philippine Legislature’s enactment of Act. No. 2871 on Oct. 22, 1919. The legislation repealed the controversial and punitive Act No. 1696, also known as the Flag Law, which the Philippine Commission passed on September 6, 1907.

The law prohibited the display of flags, banners, emblems, or devices used in the Philippines for the purpose of rebellion or insurrection against American authority. It also banned the display of Katipunan flags, banners, emblems, or devices, and it use for other purposes.

The law imposed hefty penalties against violators, which include fines of between P3,000 to P5,000 or imprisonment of between three months to five years.

Since 1907, several bills and resolutions were filed in the Philippine Assembly demanding the repeal of the Flag Law, none of which was passed.

Repealing the Flag Law

In 1913, Francis Burton Harrison became Governor-General of the Philippines. During his term, he was sympathetic to the Filipinos and their cause for independence.

He promoted greater Filipino involvement in governance through the appointment of Filipino officials and expressing his support for legislations that promoted Filipino interests. His approach led to improved relations between the American colonial government and the Filipinos in the government.

After the World War I, on October 6, 1919, House Speaker Sergio Osmena wrote to Senate President Manuel Quezon from Japan.

“In view of the fact that circumstances have totally changed, I believe that the occasion has come to submit again to the governor-general the question of our flag, that he may be persuaded this time to withdraw his objection to the repeal of the law which prohibits its use,” Osmena said.

On Oct. 16, 1919, during his annual message to the Philippine Legislature, Harrison urged the legislators to repeal the Flag Law. In no time, Sen. Rafael Palma introduced Senate Bill No. 1 to repeal the law. The Senate quickly and unanimously approved the bill, thus sending it to the House of Representatives.

Both houses of the Legislature approved the bill on Oct. 22, 1919 and became known as Act. No. 2871. Two days later, on Oct. 24, Harrison issued Proclamation No. 18 declaring Oct. 30 as Flag Day, which is a public holiday in celebration of the Philippine flag.

Celebrations

Colorful celebrations were held throughout Manila and the rest of the country on Oct. 30 as Filipinos lined the streets and their homes with the colors of the flag and rejoiced in being able to display their flag once more.

Prior to the celebrations, former Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo even wrote Quezon requesting if he could be the flag bearer during the celebrations. Quezon denied the request, earning criticism from newspapers at the time.

Aguinaldo designed the Philippine flag in 1898 while in exile in Hong Kong, while Marcela Agoncillo, her daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa Natividad sewed flag using silk cloth.

After 1919, the celebration of Flag Day has been moved to other dates. It is celebrated today from May 28 to June 12, which corresponds to the dates when the Philippine flag was first displayed during the Battle of Alapan and the date that Philippine independence was declared in Kawit, Cavite.

References:

Quirino, Jose. “How our flag flew again,” Philippine Free Press, June 9, 1956. Accessed via crwflags.com.

Philippine Commission. “Act No. 1696, s. 1907.Official Gazette of the Philippines. August 23, 1907

Fifth Philippine Legislature. “Act No. 2871, s. 1919.Official Gazette of the Philippines. October 22, 1919

Trivia Question:

Which Philippine President designated May 28 to June 12 as the new Flag Days?

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