A nation’s symbol is representative of its culture, traditions, norms, values and people. Of a number of identified symbols in the Philippines, only nine are officially declared by the Philippine Government through enactment of laws and Presidential decrees. The others are traditionally recognized which do not lessen their significance in the lives of the Filipinos. Let’s briefly look at these symbols.
Official National Symbols
1. Philippine Flag – Pambansang Watawat ng Pilipinas. The flag is horizontal with dominant colours of blue and red. The triangle in white is where the sun with eight rays is placed with three stars on each corner. The sun and the stars are yellow in colour. The three main islands, namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are represented by the three stars. The eight rays of the sun represent the first eight provinces that revolted against the Spanish during the Philippine Revolution. The blue stripe is displayed on top during peace period; the red stripe is displayed on top when the country is at war.
2. Coat of Arms – same features as the Philippine Flag but with the inclusion of the bald eagle representing the United States of America on the blue side; and on the red field is a lion, representing Spain. The representation of the United States of America and Spain recognizes the colonial history of the Philippines.
3. National Anthem – Lupang Hinirang (Chosen Land). Music was composed by Julian Felipe in 1898. The lyric was written (in Spanish) by Jose Palma in 1899. At present, the National Historical Institute acts as the overseer of its proper rendition.
4. National Language – Filipino. This was made official under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
5. National Motto – this was instituted in 1998 through Republic Act No. 8491. The National Motto is Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Maka-kalikasan at Maka-bansa (For God, People, Nature and Country).
6. National Tree – Narra (Pterocarpus indicus). The wood from this tree was a popular choice for furniture and massive doors in large houses. However, due to it nearing extinction, the logging, cutting and use of the tree is now legally prohibited.
7. National Bird – Philippine Eagle or popularly called as the monkey-eating eagle because it preys on monkeys. It is a huge bird, standing at about 3 feet tall and has a wingspan of almost 6 feet.
8. National Flowers – Sampaguita (Arabian jasmine). Dainty, fragile and has sweet smell, it is usually strung into leis which are offered to saints by Catholic Filipinos. The second National Flower is Waling-Waling (Vanda sanderiana) by virtue of Philippine House Bill No. 4073. Waling-waling is indigenous and endemic to the Philippines unlike Sampaguita which originated from India and Arabia.
9. National Sport – Arnis. This is a traditional form of martial-arts which uses two sticks, hand to hand combat included. Popular in the West as “Kali”. This was made official last 2009 through Republic Act 9850, in effect replacing sipa as the National Sport.
I consider the following symbols as “people’s choice” simply because these are not officially declared but are traditionally acknowledged by Filipinos.
1. National Fruit – Mango. Referred to as King of Philippine fruits.
2. National Leaf – Anahaw (Fan Palm Leaf). In near extinction due to widespread use mainly for wrapping food and ornamental purposes.
3. National Fish – Bangus (Milkfish or chanos chanos). Sturdy fish which is easily cultivated in fishponds in Pangasinan and Laguna de Bay.
4. National Food – Adobo, Sinigang, Lechon (roasted pig). Adobo and sinigang are regular, everyday fare while lechon is always the centrepiece food in celebrations that mark life’s milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, fiestas, graduation party, baptismal celebration, etc.
5. National Animal – Carabao. Considered the farmer’s partner in farming. Likewise, nearing extinction.
6. National Dress or Costume – Barong for men; Baro’t saya for women. Authentic when made with indigenous materials like “pinya” cloth (hand woven from pineapple fibers) and “jusi” (pronounced “who c”), cloth material made from banana fibers.
7. National House – Bahay kubo (Nipa Hut). Made from lightweight materials like bamboo and nipa or anahaw leaves for the roof.
8. National Dance – Tinikling. A folk dance using bamboo poles. This originated from Leyte in the Visayas and has evolved over time.
9. National Name – Juan dela Cruz. This name symbolizes the Filipino people in general.
10. National Hero – Jose Rizal. His birth, works and death are nationally commemorated yearly and yet Jose Rizal was never proclaimed as the Philippine National Hero.