It’s just a piece of cloth. The Flag has been used for everything from jackets to social networking avatars to computer wallpaper to boxer shorts and yes, boxers’ shorts. Yet the difference between ordinary pieces of cloth and the Flag is that the latter evokes emotions, stirs the national conscience, and establishes the national consciousness. Among many things, it is what makes us Filipino.
I’m not a patriotic flag-waver: it’s been a very long while since I waved the Philippine Flag, and there are few-and-far-between flag ceremonies for me to pay my reverence and respect to the country’s national symbol. Yet Sen. Richard Gordon authors a bill – and it passes in Congress – to add a ninth ray to the Sun of the Flag. He defends his bill by saying:
This is a great step in recognizing the fact that we had Muslims such as Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat, Amai Pakpak, Sorongan, who kept fighting the Spaniards long before this country thought of a revolution against Spain. This would foster unity, make sure that nobody is excluded. If we are to have national unity in this country it must begin in our flag, it must be symbolized in our flag.
There’s an old saying that goes: Patriots wrap themselves around the Flag to protect it, yet scoundrels wrap themselves with the Flag to be protected.
Flags are not just repositories of symbols: the flag itself is a symbol. Our nation’s flag represents our nation not because of what forms it, and the meanings of the forms inside it, but because of what it is. Those rays may mean more than just provinces,, those stars may mean more than just Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Those colors may mean more than just purity, bravery, and peace. The Flag, on its own, without the forcible deconstruction of its component parts, is the definitive symbol of our people. That Flag, as it stands and waves, is the representation of our people, our sovereignty, and our independence.
Adding rays on the Sun on that Flag is to trivialize that Flag as a piece of cloth, a scrapbook, a repository of symbols. In his sales pitch, Gordon claims that our Flag becomes all-inclusive and united with the addition of a ninth ray. Will it make us any “more Filipino” to add one, sixteen, or 7,099 more rays to that Sun? Will it make us any “more Filipino” if we added a crucifix and crescent to that white field? Does the present iteration of our Flag make us any less Filipino?
Adding rays to the Sun to accommodate Mindanao is the brilliant (pun intended) excuse to make up for promises forgotten and a history forgotten. Rays that translate to votes, support, and more than just the usual footnote to history. The people who live and die by that Flag do not do so because they have a province in a ray, or a star in the field, but because that Flag represents who they are, where they came from, and their duty to protect what it stands for and what it is.
Any piece of cloth – burned, altered, sewn, or changed – wouldn’t mean much. Yet when a symbol of national identity – when that rectangle called the Flag – is changed, it is the people who are represented and who represent that Flag will evoke and invoke emotions never given to other pieces of cloth. The Flag, as it stands, is all-inclusive; it is the identity and representation of a nation, a population. As it stands, it is meaningful and beautiful. To change it just because, is to reduce that Flag to nothing more than cloth.