Respect for Flag Waning

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The countdown to Independence Day celebration on June 12 officially starts today, May 28, with the observance of National Flag Day-the same date when the Philippine flag was first hoisted in the ”Battle of Alapan” 114 years ago.

Aside from commemorating the very first time the Philippine Flag was unfurled in Imus, Cavite, in 1928 that signified the first victory of the Philippine Revolutionary Army under General Emilio Aguinaldo, National Flag Day also aims to promote the integrity and value of the national symbol by encouraging all Filipinos ”to display the Philippine flag in all offices, agencies and instruments of government, business establishments, schools and private homes throughout this period provided that they abide the law governing its proper use and display,” as mandated by Republic Act 8491 or The Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

Still, many people remain unfamiliar not only with the date of the celebration but what the occasion calls for: respect for the flag.

Nine out of 10 college students who were randomly asked about National Flag Day said they were ”not familiar” with the celebration. The students-ages 18 to 20-are mostly from Metro Manila schools and taking up various courses.

Carol Rogales, a Mass Communication student from Adamson University, said that she heard about it but not familiar what is the celebration all about. ”I’m not familiar about it because it’s not well-promoted,” she explained in Filipino. Erico Nico Lati of Mapua Institute of Technology, on the other hand, said that he heard about the celebration because he lives in Imus, Cavite. ”I know that there’s celebration because it’s been declared holiday but not as ‘National Flag Day’,” he said.

Lito Sanchez, a street vendor who sells small flags” in Manila, said it is the first time he heard about National Flag Day. ”Nagsisimula na talaga kami magbenta kapag malapit na mag-June kasi Independence Day pero di ko alam ‘yang Flag Day na yan,” he said.

Asked where did he get the Philippine flags, he said ”gawa lang namin yan.”

According to the official list from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, (NHCP)-Heraldry and Display Section, there are only nine ”accredited flag manufacturers” in the country-five in Manila and one in Rizal, Leyte, Iloilo and Cebu respectively. The biggest and the oldest among these accredited flag makers can be found in Rizal Avenue in Sta. Cruz, Manila-the Atlas Super Flags.

The company has been making flags since the early 1900s. Its owner, Lu Tan Gatue, considers the Philippine flag as the ”most important national symbol” and how people treat it ”reflects who were as a people but as a nation in general.” Having a flag be torn or tattered flag is something that nobody should allow to happen. ”If a flag is torn and we let it be, it reflects who we are as a people and as country-sira-sira at wasak-wasak,” she said

The 81-year-old Tan Gatue said the way Filipinos treat the flag ”is not the same as we used to.” Practically living all her life surrounded by Philippine flags, Gatue expressed her disappointment whenever she sees flags that are not treated with respect. ”Yung pagbebenta pa lang sa kalye ng di magandang klase ay di na yan pag-respeto sa bandila. Tapos makikita mo pa kung saan-saan ginagamit at inilalagay, (The mere selling of low quality flags in the streets shows disrespect. Then, some put and use it just anywhere and in any way they want to),” she said. She also mentioned the importance of bringing back out-of-school youth ”kasi karamihan sa kanila, wala ng galang sa bandila dahil di naman naituturo sa kanila di kaparehas ng mga pumapasok sa eskwela.”

The Tan Gatues have been making flags since 1910. Tan Gatue recalled that the biggest flag that they have ever made is 50ft x 100ft banner which was used in Luneta Park five years ago. The other is 22ft x 44ft flag used in Subic.

Gatue said that although they are not the only makers of flags in the country, they remain the most trusted company because of quality. ”We show how we value the Philippine Flag by making sure that it passes the test of strength and of course, only the quality materials are being used,” she said. To ensure strength, nylon is being used for each standard-sized flag which takes at least two hours to make. If taken care of properly, Gatue said that one Atlas Super Flags flag ”could last up to lifetime.”

The peak season for Philippine flags starts from May to June before the Independence Day celebration. ”But for other flags like school flags and company flags, whole year naman,” she said.

According to Gatue’s son Bong, the number of Philippine flags produced on an annual basis can range from 10,000 to 100,000 depending on the size. ”We have more than 10 sizes and we also use various types of cloth and other materials in our flags,” he said.

Mother and son hope that the flag business would be continued by their family’s future generations. ”We have instilled in them the importance of the Philippine Flag not just because it is in line with our business but its importance in keeping one nation’s people together,” she said.

According to Department of Education (Deped) Property Division, the Central Office in Pasig, City purchase flags from Atlas Super Flags while in other areas or regions, it depends on the nearest accredited flag manufacturer available.

Despite the distractions brought by modern times and technology, Education Secretary Armin Luistro stressed that ”patriotism is still alive” among the students.

”I have seen for myself on many unannounced visits to schools where I am able to attend flag ceremonies that respect for the Philippines flag and patriotism is still alive,” Luistro said when asked to comment on students’ declining familiarity with national emblem

Luistro said that a good example of this is Janela and Edzel Lelis, a student from Bicol, who went out of their way to save the flag during the onslaught of typhoon Juaning. ”I believe there are many untold stories of students who continue to display a deep sense of citizenship,” he added. s

For the 2012 National Flag Day, Luistro said DepEd Division of Cavite Superintendent Yolanda Carpina will represent DepEd in the flag raising and wreath laying ceremonies. The Alapan Elementary School Boy and Girl scouts will recite the Panunumpa and Imus National High School will render a speech choir on the historic victory of the Battle of Alapan.

Luistro said that DepEd, in partnership with the NCHP, continues to train teachers and students on the national flag and heraldic code. ”Also, part of the K to 12 curriculum reform is strengthening national pride among our students,” he said.

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