This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Philippines: the shade of blue

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: philippines |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Five colour changes

The blue colour has changed at least five times in the Philippines flag:

See also:


There has been a long-standing debate on the proper shade of blue for the Philippine flag. A good synopsis of the debate has been written by Philippine historian Ambeth Ocampo:

In 1955, the Heraldry Commission issued the official specification for the Philippine flag. The shade of blue given was United States Cable 70077, or navy blue. Earlier, all flags had been using navy blue. However, the late Domingo Abella, the Director of the National Archives and a member of the NHI [National Historical Institute] believed that the shade of blue should be light blue, because he says that at the turn of the century when the Philippine flag was finally allowed to fly and be displayed after years of suppression, flag makers didn't have a supply of light blue cloth. Thus, they used dark-blue cloth instead, perpetuating the mistake. No documentary evidence was presented by Abella and so he was not taken seriously till the late Teodoro A. Agoncillo also supported the camp battling for the light-blue flag. E. Aguilar Cruz, another member of the NHI, stated in his monograph of [Philippine revolutionary and artist] Juan Luna that he found a watercolor by Luna which showed a Philippine flag with a light-blue field. [Aguinaldo's first Prime Minister] Apolinario Mabini in one of his letters even proposed that the blue in the flag of the Revolution be 'azul celeste', or sky blue.

The navy-blue camp is supported by all extant flags having this color, plus the testimony of Marcela Agoncillo, the only surviving daughter of Marcela Agoncillo, who made the original flag which Aguinaldo waved to the crowd outside his mansion in Cavite when he declared Philippine Independence.

However, both sides may be wrong, because in a letter to [sympathizer of the Filipino cause and friend of Jose Rizal] Ferdinand Blumentritt in 1898 [Filipino revolutionary] Mariano Ponce sent a drawing of the Philippine flag which showed that the blue is 'azul oscuro' which is in between 'azul celeste' (sky blue or light blue) and 'azul marino' (navy or dark blue). So the blue in the flag is not sky blue but a shade lighter than the present navy blue. This caused confusion among the people. Someone mistook 'lighter than the present blue' to mean sky blue, which is wrong. The issue would have ended here had Ponce kept quiet because in 1899, in one of the few letters he wrote in English, he told a Mr. Y. Fukishama, "My dear sir, I am sending you, by parcel post, one scarf pin representing our flag: please
accept it as a poor souvenir. The blue color of the sky means our hope in future prosperity through progress".

Noted historian Carmen Guerrero Nakpil asserts that the original color was 'Cuban blue', although this assertion is itself subject to different interpretations since there isn't an official shade for the color blue in the Cuban flag.

To confuse things even further, the late Filipino artist Galo Ocampo (designer of the 1946 coat of arms of the Philippine Republic and for decades head of the Heraldry Authority of the Philippines) wrote to the Minister of Education in 1985, saying that the Heraldry authority adopted the dark blue in 1955 after consultations with General Aguinaldo. It seems the Heraldry Institute (then headed by him) showed the aging Aguinaldo a color chart and asked him to think back of how the original flag looked like Yale Blue.

Critics opposed the sky blue because 'that the color shouldn't be sky blue, as the blue part would merge with the sky and disappear, leaving the flag looking like a misshapen red and white trumpet.'

Manuel L. Quezon III, 12 April 2002

Navy or American Blue (1919-1981, 1986-1998)

National Flag

[Flag of Philippines] image by Jay Allen Villapando, 6 December 2009

National Flag

[Flag of Philippines] image by Jay Allen Villapando, 6 December 2009

The colour in 1946 is reported as navy blue, darker than is currently used.

Pale sky blue (1981-1986)

National flag proposal

[Flag of Philippines] by Jay Allen Villapando, 26 September 2009

War flag proposal

[Flag of Philippines] by Jay Allen Villapando, 26 September 2009

On 25 February 1985 President Marcos changed the blue color of the flag to light blue, according the first design, but, after his fall, Cori Aquino abolished the change.
Jaume Ollé, 11 September 1996

This lighter shade of blue is to follow that of the Cuban flag (see history of the flag) where our site reports: "And so it was: Three light blue stripes, later changed to ocean blue, representing Cuba's three sections at the time, Western, Central and Eastern. The two white stripes representing the purity and justice of the patriotic liberators' motives. While the lone white star within the equilateral red triangle represents the unity of our people upon the blood spilled by our revolutionary heroes."

I am pointing this out because of the debate over the Cuban shade of blue leads to one of those exasperating debates that has been going on for decades now over the shade of blue of the Philippine flag. The consensus from FOTW seems to be there was no official specification of the colour Cuban flag at the time of the Cuban Revolution against Spain. If we knew that, then that would solve, definitively, the original shade of blue of the Philippine flag. All historians are wrangling over at present is a statement made by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in his old age, that the flag's original color was the "the color of our beautiful skies" while there is a letter from a Filipino revolutionary saying the blue was the color of the blue waves etc.
Manuel L. Quezon III, 25 January 2002

Royal blue (1998 to present)

National Flag

[Flag of Philippines] by Jay Allen Villapando, 26 September 2009

War flag

[War Flag of Philippines] by Jay Allen Villapando, 26 September 2009

According to Flag Bulletin No 180, a change was made to the national flag on 16 September 1997 when the shade of blue was altered from navy blue to royal blue.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 20 September 1998