Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT ARE THE NATIONAL SYMBOLS OF THE PHILIPPINES?

Last month, a foreigner asked me what the national symbols of my country are. I enumerated what I remembered from elementary school with one or two which I recalled have been changed, like the national bird and motto. But this made me think, are there other updates/changes? Do you know them all, dearest Seniors? Well, here is the result of my research.

The following are official national symbols of the Philippines, all enacted through law, prior to 1998:

  1. Coat of Arms of the Philippines – The coat of arms was adopted on July 3, 1946 through Commonwealth Act No. 731, and reaffirmed on February 12, 1998 through Republic Act No. 8491.
  2. Lupang Hinirang – The national anthem with the music adopted on June 12, 1898 through a proclamation of President Emilio Aguinaldo, and the lyrics adopted on May 26, 1958 through an Administrative Order by the Department of Education. This was reaffirmed on February 12, 1998 by Republic Act No. 8491.
  3. Philippine eagle (Pithecophagajefferyi) – It was initially adopted as the national bird on July 4, 1995, through Proclamation No. 615.
  4. Flag of the Philippines – The national flag was adopted on June 12, 1898 through a proclamation of President Emilio Aguinaldo and reaffirmed on February 12, 1998 by Republic Act No. 8491.
  5. Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac) – It was initially adopted as the national flower on February 1, 1934 through Executive Proclamation No. 652, issued by Governor General Frank Murphy.
  6. Philippine pearl (Pinctada maxima) – It was initially adopted as the national gem on October 15, 1996, through Proclamation No. 905.
  7. Filipino – This is the national language, adopted on February 11, 1987 through Article XIV, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines.
  8. “Isang bansa, isang diwa” (One nation, one spirit) – national motto; see my post: (I will insert the link here)
  9. Narra (Pterocarpus indicus) – It was initially adopted as the national tree on February 1, 1934, through Executive Proclamation No. 652.

There were new and reaffirmed national symbols of the Philippines enacted through law, by Republic Act 8491 (The Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines), passed by President Fidel V. Ramos on February 12, 1998:

  1. Philippine eagle (Pithecophagajefferyi) – It was initially adopted as the national bird on July 4, 1995, through Proclamation No. 615.
  2. Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac) – It was initially adopted as the national flower on February 1, 1934 through Executive Proclamation No. 652, issued by Governor General Frank Murphy.
  3. Philippine pearl (Pinctada maxima) – It was initially adopted as the national gem on October 15, 1996, through Proclamation No. 905.
  4. “Maka-Diyos, maka-tao, makakalikasan, at makabansa” (For God, for the people, for nature and for the country) – This is the new and current national motto. See my post: (I will place the link here)
  5. Arnis – It was recognized as the national sport and martial artand reaffirmed by Republic Act No. 9850 on December 11, 2009.
  6. Narra (Pterocarpus indicus) – It was initially adopted as the national tree on February 1, 1934, through Executive Proclamation No. 652.

Now, now, dearest Seniors, I know what you are thinking: Tita S, where are the other national symbols we were taught or knew for some time? Well, bottomline, the proper authorities have not declared/enacted them through law, so they are unofficial, i.e., not officially recognized as national symbols.

Take the case of our national hero:

  1. On November 15, 1995, the Technical Committee of the National Heroes Committee, created through Executive Order No. 5 by former President Fidel Ramos, recommended nine Filipino historical figures to National Heroes: Jose Rizal1, Emilio Aguinaldo2, Melchora Aquino3, Andres Bonifacio4, Marcelo H. del Pilar5, Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat(declared a national hero during the presidency of President Marcos), Juan Luna7, Apolinario Mabini8, and Gabriela Silang9. However, to-date, they have not yet been declared as national heroes.
  2. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo officially declared Benigno Aquino, Jr.10, as one of the national heroes, through an Executive Order in 2003.
  3. Congresswoman Liwayway Vinzons-Chato filed House Joint Resolution No. 42 declaring the nine heroes recommended by the Technical Committee above, along with two other historical figures (Benigno Aquino, Jr.10 and Corazon Aquino11) during the 14th Congress (July 23, 2007-June 9, 2010).12

But wait! Foreign Seniors, whenever you visit a town/city in the country, go to the plaza, usually fronting or beside the municipal/city hall, because most of the time, there will be a bust, statue or monument of Rizal. Ask the name of the main or major street in a town, most likely it is named after Jose Rizal! Doesn’t these prove that Dr. Jose Rizal deserves to be the national hero? He even has so many monuments worldwide. See a related post: (I will place the link here)

On January 17, 2014, Bohol First District representative Rene Relampagos filed a bill at the Philippine House of Representatives, House Bill 3926, or the “Philippine National Symbols Act of 2014”, that sought to declare and re-declare and to recognize a number of national symbols like: the coat of arms (Commonwealth Act No. 731 and reaffirmed by Republic Act No. 8491), Jose Rizal1 (as the only historical Filipino to be recognized as a national hero), adobo13 (as national food), anahaw14 (as national leaf), carabao (as national animal), mango (as national fruit), bangus15 (as national fish), baro’t saya16 (as national costume), bakya17 (as national slippers), bahay-kubo18 (as national house), jeepney19 (as national vehicle), Bayan Ko20 (as national song), cariñosa21 (as national dance), the national flag (proclaimed by President Emilio Aguinaldo and reaffirmed by Republic Act No. 8491), and MakaDiyos, Makatao, Makakalikasan at Makabansa (Pro-God, pro-people, pro-environment and nationalist).22

The House of Representatives approved, on third and final reading, House Bill 7070 declaring the balangay23 as the national boat, sponsored by Congressmen Ramon H. Durano VI and Lawrence Lemuel H. Fortun, but was not enacted as a law.24

Oh, no! So, we officially do not have a national hero, nor a national boat, nor the following:

  1. adobo, lechon25, or sinigang26 (national food);
  2. anahaw14 (national leaf);
  3. bakya17 (national slippers);
  4. bangus15 (national fish);
  5. barong27 and baro’t saya16 (national costume, his and hers);
  6. “Bayan Ko”20 (national song);
  7. carabao (national animal);
  8. cariñosa21 or tinikling28 (national dance);
  9. Jose Rizal1 (national hero);
  10. Jeepney19 (national vehicle);
  11. Juan de la Cruz29 (national personification, symbolizing the Filipino people);
  12. Malacañang Palace30 (national seat of government);
  13. mango (national fruit);
  14. Manila (national capital);
  15. National Seal (modified version of the coat of arms of the Philippines);
  16. nipa hut (bahay kubo18, national house);
  17. Philippine peso (national currency);
  18. sipa31 (national sport); and,

Unfortunately, all these were also not included in the said 1998 law, RA 8491, and still need to be formally declared as national symbols. So, to-date, these do not have any official status.

Remember, a Philippine national symbol can only be considered official if it is declared through a new law or a proclamation, after consultation with the public. And now we all know!

All symbols cited are according to the Wikipedia page, “National symbols of the Philippines.”32

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1Jose Rizal (1861-1896) is widely considered as the national hero of the Philippines. He was a Filipino patriot and a distinguished reform advocate during the end of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines. He was also a polymath, i.e., a person with a wide-ranging knowledge/learning – he was an ophthalmologist, painter, educator, sculptor, playwright, poet, linguist, and novelist. He was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion, allegedly inspired in part by his writings, according to the Wikipedia page “Jose Rizal”.33

2Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) was the first and youngest president of the Republic of the Philippines. He was a Filipino revolutionary, politician, and military leader. He led the Philippine forces first against Spain in the latter part of the Philippine Revolution (1896-1898), and then in the Spanish-American War (1898), and finally against the United States during the Philippine-American War (1899-1901), according to Wikipedia page “Emilio Aguinaldo”.34

3Melchora Aquino (1812-1919), commonly known as “Tandang Sora”, was a Filipino revolutionary during the Spanish regime. Her store became a refuge for the sick and wounded revolutionaries. She fed them and gave them motherly advice and prayers so she was given the titles “Mother of Balintawak”, “Woman of Revolution”, and “Mother of the Philippine Revolution”, according to Wikipedia page “Melchora Aquino”.35

4Andres Bonifacio (1863-1897) was a Filipino revolutionary leader and the President of the Tagalog Republic, the revolutionary government involved in the Philippine revolution against Spain, from 1896-1897. He is considered a de facto national hero of the Philippines, according to Wikipedia page “Andres Bonifacio”.36 He is often called “The Father of the Philippine Revolution”. He co-founded the Katipunan and later became its “Supremo” (Supreme Leader).

5Marcelo H. del Pilar (1850-1896) was a Filipino journalist, lawyer, writer, and freemason. He was a leader of the Reform Movement in Spain, together with Jose Rizal and Graciano Lopez Jaena. He is commonly known for his pen name – Plaridel. He was a leading propagandist for reforms in the Philippines as well as editor and co-publisher of La Solidaridad, a newspaper published in Barcelona, Spain, for 6 years.Said newspaper revealed the social, cultural, and economic conditions of colonial Philippines, and featured the speeches of the Spanish liberals about the country. Information is from Wikipedia page “Marcelo H. del Pilar”.37

6Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat (1581-1671) was the 7th Sultan of Maguindanao (1619-1871) who, during his reign, successfully fought off Spanish invasions. He was declared a national hero during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos. Information is from Wikipedia page “Muhammad Kudarat”.38

7Juan Luna (1857-1899) was a Filipino painter, sculptor, and a political activist of the Philippine Revolution during the late 19th century. He is known for his famous painting – the Spoliarium – which won the first gold medal (out of three) in Exposicion Nacional de BellasArtes in 1884 in Madrid. In 1896, he was captured and imprisoned in Fort Santiago on suspicion of being a Katipunero39. Information is from Wikipedia page “Juan Luna”.40

8Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903) was a Filipino revolutionary leader, educator, lawyer, and statesman who served first as a legal and constitutional adviser to the Revolutionary Government, and then as the first Prime Minister of the Philippines, upon the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. He is known as the “Brain of the Revolution” despite having lost the use of both his legs to polio in 1896, according to Wikipedia page “Apolinario Mabini”.41

9Gabriela Silang (1731-1763) was a Filipino revolutionary leader known as the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence from Spain. She took over Diego Silang’s (her husband’s) revolutionary movement after his assassination in 1763, leading the Ilokano rebel movement for four months before she was captured and executed by the colonial government of the Spanish East Indies. Information is from Wikipedia page “Gabriela Silang”.42

10Benigno Simeon “Ninoy”Aquino, Jr. (1932-1983) was a senator of the Philippines and, together with Gerry Roxas and Jovito Salonga, formed the leadership of the opposition against President Ferdinand Marcos. He was arrested in 1972, incarcerated for seven years, allowed to seek medical treatment in the USA for his heart attack, stayed in self-exile in the USA, and returned to the Philippines in 1983, but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport. Information is from Wikipedia page “Benigno Aquino Jr.”.43

11Maria Corazon“Cory” Cojuangco Aquino (1933-2009) was the wife of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. She eventually became the 11th President of the Philippines after the 1986 People Power Revolution. She was the first woman to assume this office. Information according to Wikipedia page “Corazon Aquino”.44 CongresswomanVinzons-Chato stated that she deserves to be a modern national hero (as Asia’s Joan of Arc and modern Gabriela Silang9) because she restored Philippine democracy that led to the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. In addition, she was recognized as a democracy icon by the international community (e.g., honored as Time Woman of the Year, 1986; recipient of the J. William Fullbright Prize for International Understanding, 1996; recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, 1998; and, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, 1986).12

12www.news.abs-cbn.com

13Adobo is a Filipino dish, Spanish-inspired, where meat (usually pork and/or chicken) is stewed with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns.

14Anahaw or round-leaf fountain palm (Saribusrotundifolius) isa palm tree found in Southeast Asia. It is also called Luyong in Filipino. The leaves are used for thatching and food wrapping. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Anahaw”.45

15Bangus or milkfish is the sole living species in the family Chanidae which grows to be no more than 1 meter in length. It has an elongated and almost compressed body, with a generally symmetrical and streamlined appearance, one dorsal fin, falcate pectoral fins, and a sizable forked caudal fin. Its body color is olive green, with silvery flanks and dark bordered fins. Its mouth is small and toothless. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Bangus”.46

16Baro’t saya is the (unofficial) national dress of the Philippines. Traditionally made of piña (a fiber made from the leaves of the pineapple plant), it is the feminine equivalent of the barong27. This conservative attire is composed of a blouse called “baro”, with butterfly sleeves, and the skirt is called “saya”, generally fashioned out of opaque plaid or striped cotton and sinamay varieties. An “alampay” is a square kerchief usually made of the same fabric as the saya, worn over the “baro” to cover the breasts which also doubles as a veil, later called the “panuelo”. An overskirt made of a darker and thicker material called a “tapis” is wrapped around the lower half of the woman’s body and tied at the waist or below the breasts. It is the pre-colonial clothing of the Tagalogs and Visayans made of silk in matching colors, exclusively worn by women from the upper class; those belonging to the lower caste wore a “baro” made from pounded white bark fiber. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Baro’t saya”.47

17Bakya, or wooden clogs, was the common footwear in the Philippines before the rubber slippers. It was made from local light wood like santol and laniti. It is cut to the desired foot size before being shaven until smooth. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Bakya”.48

18Bahay kubo or nipa hut, is a native house of the indigenous people of the Philippines before the Spaniards arrived. Originally made of bamboo, it is considered an icon of Philippine culture. Anahaw14 thatching material is often used for its roof. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Nipa hut”.49

19Jeepney is the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. It was originally made from the US military jeeps left over from World War II.

20Bayan Ko is a popular patriotic song and kundiman (Filipino love song) of the Philippines, originally penned in Spanish by the Revolutionary general Jose Alejandrino as opposition to the on-going American Occupation (1898-1946), and translated into Tagalog by the poet, Jose Corazon de Jesus. It is also used as a protest song by different political groups at various points in Philippine history. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Bayan Ko”.50

21Cariñosa is a Philippine dance of colonial era origin from the Maria Clara suite of Filipino folk dances, where the fan or handkerchief plays an instrumental role as it places the couples dancing in a romantic scenario. It originated in the Panay Island in the Visayan region and was introduced by the Spaniards during their colonization of the Philippines. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Cariñosa”.51

22www.manilatimes.net

23Balangay or Butuan boat is the oldest watercraft found in the Philippines which is a plank boat adjoined by a carved-out plank edged through pins and dowels. It was the first wooden watercraft excavated in Southeast Asia and is evidence of early Filipino craftsmanship and their seamanship skills during pre-colonial times.Information is from the Wikipedia page “Balangay”.52

24www.news.mb.com.ph and www.congress.gov.ph

25Lechon is a pork dish, popularly served during fiestas and special occasions in the Philippines. It is the Spanish term for “roasted suckling pig”, according to the Wikipedia page “Lechon”.53

26Sinigang is a Tagalog sour-savory soup/stew made of meat/fish, vegetables (like tomatoes, water spinach, yardlong beans, eggplant, finger-long peppers, okra, radish, taro) and a sour ingredient (e.g., fresh tamarind or powdered tamarind mix, guava, kamias, calamansi, santol or unripe mango) in the Philippines, according to the Wikipedia page “Sinigang”.54

27Barong is the short term forBarong Tagalog, the traditional, lightweight, long-sleeved, embroidered, formal shirt for Filipino males. It is worn untucked over an undershirt. It is considered the (unofficial) national dress of the Philippines. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Barong”.55

28Tinikling is a traditional Filipino folk dance where 2 people (the “clackers” or ”clickers”) sit or kneel on the ground holding a parallel pair of bamboo poles which they then tap, and slide together on the ground (or on 2 raised pieces of wood). The poles are tapped twice on the ground on the first 2 beats then brought together on the 3rd beat, with the tempo progressing faster and faster. Two or more barefoot dancers then step over and in between the poles to the rhythm of the 1-2-3 beat. In some instances, more pairs of clackers and bamboo poles are utilized, and the dancers then weave through the rapidly moving bamboo poles. The dancers need to be skillful and agile enough to follow the rhythm to ensure that their ankles/feet do not get caught between the poles when these are snapped closed on the 3rd beat. The dancers start with their hands at their hips or clasped behind their backs, then they hold hands when the tempo becomes faster, and end by letting go of each other’s hands and stepping out of the moving bamboo poles. Traditionally, the tinikling is performed to rondalla music, an ensemble of stringed instruments (e.g., bandurrias, guitars, laúdes, octavinasor ukuleles), with the female participants wearing a dress called balintawak or patadyong, and their male counterparts wearing thebarong27. NOTE: Tinikling means “to perform like a ‘tikling’, a local bird” that walks gracefully and speedily between grass stems and runs over tree branches. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Tinikling”.56

29Juan de la Cruz is the national personification of the Philippines, often used to represent the “Filipino everyman”, coined by Robert McCulloch-Dick, the editor-publisher of The Philippine Free Press in the 1900s. He is usually depicted wearing the native hat, barong27, long pants and tsinelas (Filipino for slippers). Information is from the Wikipedia page “Juan de la Cruz”.57

30Malacañang Palace is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the Philippines, located in the city of Manila.

31Sipa is a traditional Filipino game where players kick or toss a washer covered with colorful threads using a foot. A player starts to toss the washer and counts the number of times s/he does it successfully without the washer touching the ground. The player who has the most kicks wins the game. Sipa literally means “kick”. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Sipa”.58

32“National symbols of the Philippines,”accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_symbols_of_the_Phlippines.

33“Jose Rizal,”accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Rizal.

34“Emilio Aguinaldo,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Aguinaldo.

35“Melchora Aquino,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchora_Aquino.

36“Andres Bonifacio,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andres_Bonifacio.

37“Marcelo H. del Pilar,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcelo_H._del_Pilar.

38“Muhammad Kudarat,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Kudarat.

39Katipunero refers to a Filipino who was a member of the Philippine secret revolutionary society, called the Katipunan. This secret society was founded by anti-Spanish colonialism Filipinos in Manila in 1892, and its primary aim was to gain independence from Spain through a revolution. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Katipunan”.59

40“Juan Luna,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Luna.

41“Apolinario Mabini,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolinario_Mabini.

42 “Gabriela Silang,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriela_Silang.

43“Benigno Aquino Jr.,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benigno_Aquino_Jr.

44“Corazon Aquino” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corazon_Aquino.

45“Anahaw,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anahaw.

46“Bangus,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangus.

47“Baro’t saya,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baro’t_saya.

48“Bakya,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakya.

49“Nipa hut,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nipa_hut.

50“Bayan Ko,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayan_Ko.

51“Cariñosa,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cariñosa.

52“Balangay,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balangay.

53“Lechon,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lechon.

54“Sinigang,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinigang.

55“Barong,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barong.

56“Tinikling,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinikling.

57“Juan de la Cruz,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_de_la_Cruz.

58“Sipa,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_de_la_Cruz.

59“Katipunan,” accessed May 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katipunan.

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