At the Rizal Park in Manila, a gigantic Philippine flag flies day and night up the 150-feet Independence Day flagpole. Almost 68 years ago, on July 04, 1946, the flag described as “blue, white and red with an eight-rayed golden-yellow sun and three five-pointed stars 1” was hoisted at the same spot to commemorate “the culmination of the Filipino people’s quest for national independence 2. The Philippine flag remains a tangible representation of the ideals and traditions which express the principles of Philippine sovereignty and national solidarity3.
From May 28 to June 12, known as the Flag Days, Filipinos are encouraged to display the national colors in public and private buildings as well as their residences as a sign of national pride and reverence to the flag 4. The Flag Days also commemorate the first time the Philippine flag was raised during the battle of Alapan, Imus, Cavite, on May 28, 1898, an event that later on paved the way for the Philippine declaration of independence from the Spanish crown.
As the Philippine flag is considered more than just a piece of cloth or banner, due care and diligence are needed in making our national colors. For 82-year-old flag maker Luningning Tan Gatue, making a Philippine flag requires a special kind of craftsmanship. “It’s not easy to make a flag. You won’t be accredited if you’re not good,” she said while pointing to a government-issued accreditation permit conspicuously displayed in her shop in Sta. Cruz district, Manila.
“We are accredited by the NHCP. It’s not really easy [to make a flag]. You don’t just crumple it up.”
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) annually accredits and inspects flag manufacturers to the make sure that produced Philippine flags are up to the strict standards defined in the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines. The tedious accreditation process for flag manufacturers also includes laboratory testing of fabrics in coordination with the Philippine Textile Research Institute and the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology.
With the help of around 20 employees, Luningning works around the clock to fulfill orders that usually peak during the months of May and June. The Tan Gatue family has been in the flag making business since the 1910s. And it is now the fourth-generation Tan Gatues who are in charge of business’ upkeep.
The process of making flags may seem straightforward to some, but a special set of skills are needed to come up with a good quality Philippine flag that also adheres to government guidelines. The whole process—from trimming fabric, sewing, putting intricate details and doing finishing touches—may take up to 2 hours or even longer depending on the materials used and the size of the flag being made.
Orders come all-year round for flag makers like Luninging. The Philippine government remains to be the Tan Gatues’ top customer. “We make the flags for Luneta, which is 10′ x 20′ in size. We also made the biggest flag which measures 50′ x 100′,” Luningning shared.
“We also make flags, in thousands, used during state visits of foreign leaders here. They put flags along the roads from the airport.”
Luningning added that they also fulfill the flag needs of Malacanang, the military and the offices of the Philippine government overseas.
For Tan Gatues, their flag making business is like a family heirloom that is passed on from one generation to the next. When asked on the company’s future, Tan Gatue said that she sees no end yet for Atlas Super Flags. “Yes, it will continue. My granddaughters who are now in their twenties are here,” Luningning said.