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A Katipunero Grandson’s Dream

A story of a fledgling republic, the Philippine flag, and a cry for recognition

Published

By SOL VANZI

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Doming Topacio was the oldest cameraman at ABS-CBN News when I joined the outfit in 1968. He grew up in Imus, Cavite listening to his grandfather’s stories about life under the Spanish rulers and the group of Filipino rebels, the Katipuneros, which almost all able-bodied men of the province joined. Those were the vignettes he shared with me when he learned that I was also a native of his province.

For two years, 1968 and 1969, Doming took me to Barrio Alapan to do TV news reports on aging Katipuneros weakly parading in commemoration of the battle and the flag. I interviewed a dozen of old Katipuneros dressed in Rayadillio striped uniforms.

Doming had one dream: Recognition for the victory of his grandfather’s band of Katipuneros against better-equipped Spanish troops in Imus, and their march in victory with the Philippine flag entrusted to them for safekeeping by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo just days before.

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FLAG OF OUR FOREFATHERS A marker on the site of the Battle of Alapan, which was the first military victory by Emilio Aguinaldo (left) after he returned from exile in Hong Kong

The flag, designed by Aguinaldo, was sewn in Hong Kong by Marcela Agoncillo, her daughter Lorenza, and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, a niece of Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

UNEXPECTED WIN

The “Battle of Alapan” on May 28, 1898 was a hardearned accomplishment of the revolutionaries under Gen. Aguinaldo against the Spanish force prior to the proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898.

It happened after the return of the general to the Philippines on May 18, 1898 from exile in Hong Kong. The rebels captured more than 270 Spanish soldiers. Their celebratory parade around town with the flag was a historic first.

MOMENTOUS EVENT IGNORED

The rebels’ victory march is the first known public display of the Philippine flag, yet generations of Filipinos were taught that the flag was first displayed from Aguinaldo’s balcony the day he proclaimed independence. That is the image popularized in photographs, commemorative stamps, paintings, and historical reenactments.

Although in 1965, Pres. Diosdado Macapagal ordered the commemoration of the day of the flag moved to the date when it was first unfurled, May 28, through Proclamation No. 374, the proclamation merely gathered dust after Macapagal lost to Ferdinand Marcos. It took a People Power Revolution and a former military general to restore attention to a forgotten episode in our history.

GRAND CENTENNIAL

The country, under Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, prepared for its 100th anniversary of independence by creating a Centennial Commission headed by former Vice President Salvador Laurel. Among the matters, Laurel’s group focused on was our flag—its evolution and history.

I attended Laurel’s first Centennial press conference and narrated my 1968 interviews with Imus Katipuneros. Laurel confessed that he was not aware of the Alapan flag incident, as he himself presumed the Aguinaldo Kawit flag waving was the first. True to his promise, Laurel worked to rewrite history books.

It took a People Power Revolution and a former military general to restore attention to a forgotten episode in our history.

The declaration of the 15-day National Flag Days is contained in Republic Act 8491 or the “Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines” and House Bill 5224, which were approved by Congress.

The 15-day Flag Day period is also declared in Executive Order 179 issued by Pres. Fidel Ramos. The EO had set the extension of the commemoration of the national flag from May 28 to the days leading to Freedom Day on June 12. It also called on officials and residents to display the Philippine flag distinctly during the period.

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Center of Flag Day activities is Barrio Alapan in Imus, where the Philippine flag was first raised and waved in victory by the revolutionaries.

FLAG FESTIVAL

Imus commemorated Flag Day with pomp and colorful program with its own “Wagayway” (Flag Wave or Display) Festival.

Imus is now known as “Flag Capital of the Philippines” citing the historical Alapan encounter with the revolutionaries and the first public view of the flag.

Doming Topacio, son of Imus and grandson of a Katipunero, has achieved his dream.

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