By : Ill. Reynold S. Fajardo, 33º
PGM, Grand Lodge of the Philippines
The Hong Kong designed flag that Aguinaldo brought with him from his exile on board the US dispatch boat McCullock, and which became the official flag of the first Philippine Republic, consisted of two horizontal stripes, blue on top and red below. It had a white equilateral triangle at the hoist that is smaller than that in our flag today. Within the triangle, at its center, a mythological sun was depicted with eyebrows, eyes, nose and mouth in black, bearing eight rays without any minor rays for each, and three five-pointed stars, one at each angle of the triangle. All these devices were in gold or yellow color.
Felipe Calderon, writing with a pejorative and anti-masonic tone, said in his Memoirs :
It is not a secret to any person that one of the causes of the Philippine insurrection against Spain, ...,
was the animosity of the people ... against the religious corporations... As a result of this animosity
against the religious corporations, a tendency which we might call anti-Catholic developed in certain
organizations and individuals of the Revolution so that masonry considered the insurrection, and
therefore also the revolution, as its own work and even put the triangle in the Filipino flag. As I have
already said, this was an evil that had a noxious influence upon the entire body of the Revolution,
because Mabini and its followers considered every mason as qualified to carry out any undertaking, and
at that time membership in a masonic lodge was the best recommendation a man could possess.
In the Question and Answer column of the April 1929 issue of The Cabletow, there appeared the following :
Question - The statement was frequently made that the triangle, sun, and stars in the Philippine flag are of masonic origin. This same statement, made by the managing editor of the CABLETOW in a lecture delivered by him, has lately been repeated in Bro. Emmanuel A. Baja's book entitled "Our Country's Flag and Anthem". Having heard the correctness of this statement doubted, I would like to know on what authority it is based.
Answer - The Editor of this column has heard this statement made by several freemasons who can be considered authorities on the subject, including Wor. Bro. Emilio Aguinaldo, erstwhile president of the Philippine Republic, Bro. Tomas G. del Rosario, M. W. Bro. Felipe Buencamino, and several others..."
PGM Emilio Vitara, a long time private secretary of President Aguinaldo, revealed that Aguinaldo personally acknowledged the indebtedness of the Philippine flag to masonic emblems and symbols.
Official and Semi-Official explanations of the symbols. Ranged against the foregoing claims are the following official and semi-official pronouncements relative to the symbols in the flag : In the Proclamation of Philippine Independence signed in 1898 by Aguinaldo and 96 other Filipino leaders, which consecrated the Hong Kong-designed flag of Aguinaldo as the national emblem of our country, it was stressed :
The white triangle represents the distinctive emblem of the famous Katipunan Society, which
means of its blood compact suggested to the masses the urgency of insurrection, the
three stars represented the three principal islands of the Archipelago, Luzon, Mindanao
and Panay, wherein this revolutionary movement broke out; the sun represents the gigantic
strides that have been made by the sons of this land on the road to progress and civilization :
its eight rays symbolize the eight provinces : Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija,
Bataan, Laguna and Batangas, which were declared in a state of war almost as soon
as the first revolutionary movement was initiated; and the colors blue, red and white, commemorate
those of the flag of the United States of North America in manifestation of our profound gratitude
towards that great nation for the disinterested protection she is extending to us and will continue
to extend to us.
In a speech before the Malolos Congress, Aguinaldo added the following nationalistic interpretation of the meaning of the three colors of the flag :
Behold this banner with three colors, three stars and a sun, all of which have the following
The sun I am referring to...was the mythological sun with eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth. It was
not the artistic one nor the Japanese sun. It was the same sun which appears on the flag of some
South American Republics. And I can assure you of this because I drew the design myself by order
and instruction of the President, General Aguinaldo.
The adoption of the sun was resolved in order that the flag of the Katipunan could be transformed into "the flag of the republic" sustained and defended heroically not only by the Katipunan men but also by the whole people who had joined the Revolution which was started by the worthy "Association of the Sons of the People."
A few months before the Peace of Biak-na-Bato, the Battalion of Pasong Balite, whose commander was the brave gallant General Gregorio H. Del Pilar, had adopted as their ensign a flag which much resembled the present national flag. It had a blue triangle without a sun or stars, the upper half portion was red and the lower half was black.
Like the present Philippine flag, its general outline was inspired also by the Cuban flag.
From these statements it would seem that the devices in the flag were adopted for reasons other than paying homage to Freemasonry. Only the triangle is traceable to Freemasonry through the Katipunan which itself was admittedly and unabashedly patterned after Freemasonry. Even the models would appear to be not the masonic banner, but the flags of Cuba, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. With all these as a backdrop, let us now evaluate and examine the contentions of the freemasons.
|Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo|
June 24, 1860
|Died||May 30, 1946|
|Resting place||La Loma Cemetery|
|Residence||Taal Batangas (ancestral home) and Malate Manila (family)|
|Other names||Doña Marcela, Lola Celay|
|Known for||Her legacy as the principle seamstress of the first and official Philippine flag|
|Spouse(s)||Don Felipe Agoncillo|
|Children||Lorenza, Gregoria, Eugenia, Marcela, Adela and Maria|
|Parents||Francisco Mariño and Eugenia Coronel|
(source for Marcela Agoncillo: Wikipedia)
The Letter of Flores. The assertion of Ambrocio Flores that the Filipino Flag was a spitting image of the masonic banner definitely packs a lot of weight. As a General in the army of Aguinaldo, Flores was familiar with the Filipino flag, and as Grand Master of the Gran Consejo Regional he was also thoroughly conversant with the masonic banner. He therefore, knew what he was thinking about when he compared the flag of the masonic banner. Unfortunately no document has come down to us that corroborate the statement of Flores. His claim, therefore, cannot be verified.
The Triangle. The loftiest and most sublime symbol of masonry in the days of the Revolution was the equilateral triangle. The masonic ritual called it the most perfect figure that could be drawn with lines and regarded it as an appropriate emblem of perfection or divinity.
The triangle was the first masonic object shown to a candidate for the admission into the mysteries of the craft. Prior to initiation he was brought to a chamber of reflections by the "Terrible" and placed in front of a table upon which was laid a triangle. Here he was obliged to answer questions concerning his concept of man's duty to God, to himself and to his fellowmen. Inside that lodge the triangle was everywhere. It was on aprons worn by all the officers and members. Stone triangles were placed upon the throne of the "Venerable Maestro" (Worshipful Master) and on the altars of the "Prime Vigilante" (Senior Warden) and the "Segundo Vigilante" (Junior Warden). The tables of Senior and Junior Wardens and the "Limosnero" (Almoner) were triangular in shape and so were the stools provided for the initiates. The perfect ashlar was represented by a "cubico pyramidal." And the noblest emblem in the lodge, the one which is equivalent to today's letter "G" suspended in the East in all lodges, was the "Delta Sagrada" (Sacred Triangle) with the name of the Great Architect of the Universe inscribed in the center in Hebraic characters.
The triangle also appeared constantly in masonic communications. Many words frequently employed in documents, like taller, logia, hermano, Venerable Maestro, bateria, Salud, Fuerza y Union, were abbreviated and the abbreviations ended not with single but three dots arranged in a form of triangle.
In as much as the triangle was the heavyweight among masonic emblems, it became the favorite symbol of the freemasons, including Aguinaldo. This is the symbol the freemasons inscribed on their rings, cuff-links and other jewelries. Aguinaldo, for his part, used it repeatedly in his letters and documents. He incorporated it in the postage and telegraph stamps issued by his government and on the coins which he ordered minted. Even the insignias on the chevrons of the officers of the Revolution bore the triangle. In social gatherings Aguinaldo never forgot the triangle. On his 31st birthday (22 March 1900), he serve lunch to his guests in his mountain hideout on a "triangular table for 150 persons." When the anniversary of the ratification of Philippine independence by the Malolos Congress was celebrated in Palanan, Isabela on 29 September, Aguinaldo again tendered lunch for the celebrants on a huge triangular table that could seats 200 persons. Years later, when he entertained his guests in the spacious yard of his mansion in Kawit, Cavite after his installation as Master of his lodge, had all the tables where food was served arrange in the form of a giant triangle.
The Spanish authorities were also aware of the importance place by freemasons upon the triangle. Its discovery on any document was taken as a dead give-away that it was masonic. Thus, among the pieces of evidence accepted as proof of the guilt of the Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite, were a booklet with a triangle on its frontispiece and a large photograph confiscated from Hugo Perez, the Master of España en Filipinas lodge in Cavite containing several pictures of the members of his lodge arranged in triangular form.
In light of the important role the triangle played in masonic rituals and symbolism it would be the logical and natural choice of any endeavor to pay tribute to Freemasonry. Taking into account Aguinaldo's ardent love affair with the masonic triangle, and considering further that the claimed masonic tie of the triangle in the Filipino flag does not collide with official explanations of the symbols in the flag, and considering, finally, that even a masonic critic in the person of Calderon asserted that the triangle was included in the flag by freemasons, I submit we can accept the statement which Kalaw attributed to Aguinaldo that the trianglein the flag was placed there as a tribute to masonry.
The Sun, Stars, and Colors. The sun, stars, and colors red, white and blue are minor emblems in the pantheon of masonic symbolism. They were overshadowed by the square, compasses, level, plumb, etc. The only place were the sun, stars, and the three colors had a degree of importance was in the "Decoracion de la Logia" (Decoration of the Lodge).
The rituals of the Grand Oriente Español most emphatically stated that the lodge was a representation of the universe. It directed that the lodge be rectangular in shape and its four walls be denominated East, South, West and North. In the East it was required that a "disco radiante" (radiant disk) be placed representing the sun. Rays radiated from the East, diminishing in brilliance until they reached the West where they were covered with clouds. The ceiling was painted to represent a starlit sky. Stars were also used on the fingers of the canopy covering the throne of Venerable Master. Likewise the altar was draped with red velvet on which was embroidered the square and compasses with a five-pointed stars in the center. Furthermore, a five-pointed star, with the letter "G" in the center, was the symbol of the fellow craft degree.
Red and blue were the dominant colors in the lodge. The walls of the lodge were draped with blood red color (colgaduras encarnadas) and the altars of the Wardens, the tables of the Orator, Secretary, Treasurer and Almoner, the long benches, the stools for initiates, and all the chairs in the lodge were upholstered or covered with red. On the other hand, the canopy covering the throne of the Worshipful Master was sky blue and even the ceiling of the lodge had a hint of blue. To a Master, therefore, sitting upon his throne, the colors which he saw if he looked straight ahead or to either side was red, and blue if he looked up. Also, the banner which the Statues prescribed for the Federation of the Gran Oriente Español had a blue stripe on top and red one at the bottom. That for a Blue Lodge was blue and the one for a Chapter of Rose Croix was red.
If we give a free reign to our imagination, a similarity between the decoration of the lodge and the Filipino flag could easily be perceived. But imagination cannot be the basis for the historicity of the masonic heritage of the flag. Moreover, it is doubtful if Aguinaldo in those days ever saw a lodge decorated in strict accordance with the specification of the ritual. Masonic meetings were then held on the run, because of the persecution of freemasons by the Spanish colonial powers. Meetings had to be kept secret from profane eyes and were moved from one place to another to avoid detection. Even the triangular tables and other paraphernalia had to be so designed that they could dismantled and rearranged at a moment's notice to resemble ordinary furniture. For freemasons to have painted the walls and ceiling of their meeting place in conformity with ritual would have been the height of imprudence. The most that can therefore be said is that Aguinaldo must have been aware of the prescribed decoration of the lodge through the rituals with which he was undoubtedly familiar.
In conclusion, I submit that of all the symbols and devices in the flagit is only the triangle whose masonic parentage may be accepted. The basis for the masonic link of the sun, stars, and colors of the flag are too slim to make out a solid case. But the presence of even only one masonic symbol in the flag should make freemasons proud. After all, it was the premier symbol of the Craft - the symbol of perfection - that was selected for inclusion.
The masonic connection of the Philippine flag does not end with its design. Freemasons have played significant roles during the most memorable events where the flag has been unfolded on Philippine soil. On June 12, 1892, when Philippine independence was proclaimed at Kawit, Cavite a Proclamation of Independence, written by a freemason (Ambrocio Rianzares Bautista) and signed by another mason (Aguinaldo), was read. Thereafter a freemason (Rianzares Bautista) displayed the flag before the populace. On October 14, 1943, Philippine Independence was proclaimed anew under the sponsorship of the Japanese Imperial forces. A freemason (Jorge B. Vargas of Sinukuan Lodge) read the proclamation terminating the Japanese Military Administration and thereafter another freemason (Aguinaldo) hoisted the flag marking the first time since the start of the Japanese occupation that the flag was displayed in public. On July 4, 1946, for a third time, Philippine independence was announced to the world. On this occasion a Proclamation signed by a mason (President and PGM Harry S. Truman) was read by another freemason (Paul V. McNutt) at the Luneta after which a third freemason (President Manuel A. Roxas, Past Master of Makawiliwili Lodge No. 55), raised the Philippine standard.
Considering the historic link between the Philippine flag and Freemasonry, no one should begrudge the freemasons of the Philippines if they behold our flag with unbounded pride. To Philippine freemasons, the flag is not only an emblem of liberty and a symbol of the valor and sacrifices of our people, it is also a memorial to the fraternity which they so dearly loved.
"The great distinguishing characteristic of a Mason is a sympathy with his kind, He recognizes in the human race one great family, all connected with himself by those invisible links, and that mighty network of circumstance, forged and woven by God." - Albert Pike