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NRCP researcher Jamail A. Kamlian during his paper presentation.

The Philippine national symbols should espouse cultural sensitivity for a more inclusive and accurate depiction of the identity of Filipino people as one nation.

This is the call put forward by NRCP researcher Jamail A. Kamlian, saying that the legislation-prescribed heraldic items and devices to symbolize Filipino identity remain “culturally insensitive” as they fail to represent the indigenous peoples of Mindanao. Dr. Kamlian is a history professor from the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.

Kamlian said that the Philippine flag which is a revered national symbol that embodies the national ideals and sovereignty and identity of the Filipino people does not include the contributions of Muslim peoples in freeing the country from the hands of the colonial invaders.

“For such a big area of the Philippines that resisted and drove out colonial invaders, how come the indigenous peoples of Mindanao are not in the rays of the sun? The rays in the Philippine flag represent eight provinces which first revolted against the Spaniards are all located in the island of Luzon,” explained Kamlian during the 15th General Membership Assembly of the NRCP Mindanao Regional Cluster and Annual Scientific Conference last November 20, 2017 at the Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City.   

The Republic Act 8491 of 1988 known also as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines officially prescribes the Philippine flag as a national symbol “…which reveals man’s achievement and heroism.”

The description and design of the Philippine flag if meant to display achievements and heroism failed to recognize the important historical feats in other islands of the country apart of Luzon such as Lapu-Lapu’s heroic defense of Mactan against the Spaniard’s invasion, the Dagohoy Rebellion of the Visayas that stretched from 1744 to 1829, and the Lumads and the Bangsamoro peoples in Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan who fought against the Spaniards, Kamlian added.

Other national symbols such as the “bahay kubo” as the national traditional house and the “lechon” as the national food, while not formally prescribed national symbols by any legislation, are deemed selective and not inclusive of the Muslim community, he further emphasized.

Apart from the national symbols, Kamlian also pointed out that most popular history books used in both secondary and tertiary education today often contain “inaccurate” depiction of the images of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples such as the Lumads and the Bangsamoro.

Since these school books are prescribed and enforced by the government in both public and private school systems, misinformation about the culture, identity and history of the Muslim peoples continues to stream into the Filipino consciousness, he added.

A survey made on the popular Philippine History books revealed very small to nil allotment for the discussion of the history and culture of the Lumads and Moro in terms of number of book pages and percentage share in book contents, Kamlian reported.

Kamlian further recommend conducting a thorough examination and exploration of how the indigenous peoples of Mindanao are being presented in history books as well as in national symbols and use the results of these to craft new legislation.

Other four papers presented during the conference aside from Kamlian’s also focused on research initiatives and studies that aimed at contributing to the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of Marawi and reliving the richness of culture and heritage of the whole Mindanao and its peoples.

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