‘Love of country not just a one-day affair’

By Dionisio Dennis, Jr. BAGUIO CITY -- Filipinos may be done celebrating the120th Philippine Independence Day on Tuesday, but to an heir of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the country’s first president, patriotism is not a one-day affair and inculcating the trait in the younger generations is a continuing effort. “Instill more patriotism in your hearts and mind,” Emilio Aguinaldo Mendoza Suntay III, Aguinaldo’s great-grandson from his youngest daughter Kristina, would always remind people who visit the Aguinaldo clan’s museum here in Baguio. The Aguinaldo museum here keeps the original Philippine flag waved by Gen. Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite upon the declaration of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898. Suntay says patriotism includes honoring and respecting the flag, which symbolizes the Philippines as a free nation. The flag, he says, symbolizes the very freedom that Filipinos continue to enjoy. “This is in line with our museum’s goals and mission to convey a feeling of patriotism truer to what our flag truly deserves by encouraging people to physically be a witness to its existence while it lasts,” he shares with the Philippine News Agency (PNA). Suntay says the flag is not just a cloth, not just a thing, and definitely not an artifact that should be kept shielded and locked away. Instead, he stresses, it must be shared, seen, and felt by every Filipino. Protected from natural wear and tear, the original flag that was hoisted and waived by Gen. Aguinaldo in Cawit Cavite 120 years ago is on display at the family-owned and managed Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Museum, here in Baguio. Suntay is the managing director of the museum. The Aguinaldo clan established it in the 1980s and continues to maintain the facility. In partnership with the city government, the Aguinaldo family conducts seminars on Heraldic Code for various sectors -- school officials, city officials, institutions, and private entities -- to teach them the correct way of using the flag, where to place it, how to wear a flag pin, how to care for it, and how to pay respect to the flag in general. “At the end of the day, it’s a way for us to remember how to give respect to the flag, so the best way to learn the code is to put it into your heart not to memorize it,” Aguinaldo’s direct descendant says. An ideal place to preserve the flag The Aguinaldo descendants had opted to put up the museum in Baguio and keep the original flag in the facility for certain reasons. “It’s the best place to preserve antiquities, heraldic and tourism wise. It is a good place to bring the flag closer to the people,” Suntay points out. He explains that Baguio is a tourism and educational city visited by thousands of people. “Tourism wise, siyempre summer capital of the Philippines. If the people cannot come to the flag, then at least we can bring it closer to the people. Pasyal sila dito and hopefully silipin naman nila yung kanilang flag (Baguio is the Philippines’ summer capital. If the people cannot come to the flag, then at least we can bring it closer to the people. Perhaps they can visit the place and hopefully see their flag),” he says. Scientifically, he said the good weather in Baguio makes it easier to preserve the 120-year-old flag, the first Philippine flag that was sewn by Marcela Marino de Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo, and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad in Hong Kong and first flown in battle on May 28, 1898. It was formally unfurled during the Proclamation of Philippine Independence and the flag of the First Philippine Republic, on June 12, 1898 by President Aguinaldo. “This is a good place to have a century-old flag, 120 years na yan,” Suntay notes. He adds that in Baguio, the weather is cooler, so the cooling system is natural. “Compared with Manila, we will still have to cool it and dehumidify the place to dry it, which is quite complicated, especially considering that the facility is privately owned, with funds mostly coming from the family and some donors,” he explains further. However, he says the Aguinaldo descendants are also working with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts on some aspects of the facility. A museum for all ages The Aguinaldo museum is not just host to the original Philippine flag. “There are other significant flags, each telling its own story as part of our road to independence. People just have to see it for themselves,” Suntay says. At the museum, it’s not only Suntay who does the guiding and the briefing of the visitors. There are also stewards doing guided tours to the museum. “Kakaiba ang tour (It’s a unique tour). There are visuals and immersive experience. Maraming (There are lots of) sound effects, lights, and sounds,” he says. The Aguinaldo clan is just glad to receive many children visitors at the museum. “The youth’s appreciation of what the flag means is very high, especially those from the provinces,” he notes. “They have a deeper appreciation of what the flag means, especially after seeing it, when they become even more appreciative and develop a deeper understanding of the importance of the flag,” Suntay observes. He added the museum is for all people of all ages. “The museum is intended for the young people and the young at heart. That is why we want them to come and see it to feel and embed in themselves the meaning of the existence of the flag,” Suntay explains. He says the Aguinaldo museum wants Filipinos to see the Philippines more than just a country, but a home. He invites all Filipinos: “I invite you sincerely to visit and give your love and respect to your very own Philippine flag. Take your time, your family, and try to visit us. I encourage you to instill more patriotism in your hearts and mind.” (PNA)