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Philippines Provincial Flags

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Philippine Provincial Flags

The Philippines are divided in large divisions called regions (English: region/regions, Spanish: región/regiones, Filipino: rehiyon), which in turn are divided into provinces, numbering of 79 (English: province/provinces, Spanish: provincia/provincias, Filipino: lalawigan), plus one national capital region, undivided and smaller in area than the average province. Below this level there are municipal governments - a 1992 map refers to the national capital, regional centers, province capitals and chartered cities, some of these based on amalgamation. (English: city/cities, Spanish: ciudad/ciudades, Filipino: lungsod/.)

Almost all flags are 1:2 plain cloths in one of 26 colors (see below), with the province or city seal centered on it. The seal is always circular, measuring 7/10ths of the flag's height, typically bearing a shield of varying shape with local heraldic bearings (the degree of heraldic correctness varying greatly but quite low in average) on a solid background surrounded by an outlined ring typically bearing the name of the entity. The specific typeface, color and exact content of this inscription varies, but mostly it is dark sans serif; almost all rings and seal backgrounds are white. This inscription may be either in English or Filipino, official languages of the Philippines, tough many toponyms are in Spanish, official language until 1908. The words "sagisag opisyal ng" appear to mean "official seal of" in Filipino.

How many provinces were there in the Philippines at various times?  I have contacted Gwillim Law who maintains the site on subdivisions of the world at He is also author of the book "Administrative Subdivisions of Countries", from which he quoted the list of changes in the administrative system of Philippines. The list below for reference, with data after 1995 taken from his site (as he suggested). From the legislation on the presidential flag quoted by Manuel few days ago, we know that 51 is the right number for 1951, so this seems correct.

The current number of provinces is 81, so I suppose that there might have been an additional split in 2002.
Željko Heimer, 18 November 2002

According to the Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board at, there are 79 provinces at present, not 81. At time of independence (July 4, 1946) = 50 provinces:
01 Abra
02 Agusan1
03 Albay
04 Antique
05 Bataan
06 Batanes
07 Batangas
08 Bohol
09 Bukidnon
10 Bulacan
11 Cagayan
12 Camarines Norte
13 Camarines Sur
14 Capiz
15 Catanduanes
16 Cavite
17 Cebu
18 Cotabato2
19 Davao3
20 Ilocos Norte
21 Ilocos Sur
22 Iloilo
23 Isabela
24 La Union
25 Laguna
26 Lanao1
27 Leyte
28 Marinduque
29 Masbate
30 Mindoro1
31 Misamis Occidental
32 Misamis Oriental
33 Mountain Province
34 Negros Occidental
35 Negros Oriental
36 Nueva Ecija
37 Nueva Vizcaya
38 Palawan
39 Pampanga
40 Pangasinan
41 Quezon
42 Rizal
43 Romblon
44 Samar4
45 Sorsogon
46 Sulu
47 Surigao1
48 Tarlac
49 Zambales
50 Zamboanga1

1 - non-existent today
2 - the original province was split into 2 in 1966, namely North and South Cotabato. North Cotabato was offcially renamed Cotabato on December 19, 1983.
3 - the original province was split into 3 in 1967, namely Davao Oriental, del Norte and del Sur. Davao del Norte was officially renamed on June 17, 1972.
4 - the original province was split into 3 in 1965, namely Northern, Eastern, and Western Samar. Western Samar was officially renamed Samar on June 21, 1969.

Additional Provinces:
51 13-Jun-50 Oriental Mindoro/Occidental Mindoro5
52 16-Jun-52 Zamboanga del Norte/Zamboanga del Sur5
53 08-Nov-56 Aklan [from Capiz Province]
54 22-May-59 Lanao del Norte/Lanao del Sur5
55 22-May-59 Southern Leyte [from Leyte Province]
56 19-Jun-60 Surigao del Norte/Surigao del Sur5
57 19-Jun-65 Northern Samar [from (Western) Samar Province]
58 19-Jun-65 Eastern Samar [from (Western) Samar Province]
59 18-Jun-66 South Cotabato [from (North) Cotabato]
60 18-Jun-66 Camiguin [from Misamis Oriental Province]
61 18-Jun-66 Benguet [from Mountain Province]
62 18-Jun-66 Ifugao [from Mountain Province]
63 18-Jun-66 Kalinga-Apayao [from Mountain Province]
64 08-May-67 Davao del Sur [from Davao (del Norte) Province]
65 08-May-67 Davao Oriental [from Davao (del Norte) Province]
66 17-Jun-67 Agusan del Norte/Agusan del Sur5
67 10-Sep-71 Quirino [from Nueva Vizcaya Province]
68 08-Jan-72 Siquijor [from Negros Oriental Province]
69 11-Sep-73 Tawi-Tawi [from Sulu Province]
70 22-Nov-73 Sultan Kudarat [from South Cotabato]
71 22-Nov-73 Maguindanao [from South Cotabato]
72 27-Dec-73 Basilan [from Zamboanga del Sur Province]
73 13-Aug-79 Aurora [from Quezon Province]
74 16-Mar-92 Sarangani [from South Cotabato Province]
75 11-May-92 Biliran [from Leyte Province]
76 22-May-92 Guimaras [from Iloilo Province]
77 14-Feb-95 Kalinga/Apayao6
78 07-Mar-98 Compostela Valley [from Davao (del Norte) Province]
79 22-Feb-01 Zamboanga Sibugay [from Zamboanga del Sur Province]

5 one province takes place of the former mother province in the original list, and the other assumes the latest number in the list.
6 Apayao and Kalinga resulted from the split of Kalinga-Apayao (which itself was formed when Mountain Province was split into four in 1966); one province takes place of the former mother province in the original list, and the other assumes the latest number in the list.

Jay Allen Villapando, 18 March 2005

It seems to me that the standard 1:2 plain-coloured flag with the city/provincial seal in the centre have remained unused since the fall of the Marcos regime, although I remember seeing on TV back in 1998 that in the Expo Filipino in Clark Air Base, provincial flags with the standard seal-on-plain-cloth design were displayed in an archway-like fashion at the park entrance, as part of Philippine centennial celebrations - the only one missing from the set would probably be the flag of Zamboanga Sibugay, a province created only in 2001. The notable thing is that the flag of Cagayan Province, which was adopted in 1970, does not appear in both the 1975 'Symbols of the State' book, and my TV sighting in 1998. What is the reason behind this and the uniformity that seems to be imposed on the provincial flags? I understand that the book from which most of the provincial/city flag images were based was printed in thirty years ago. Do the provinces and cities retain their 1975 flags as their de facto official flags until today? I have emailed provincial governments about this, but almost all have said that no flag exists for their province today - although matters as trivial as these can be easily overlooked in a country that's not too fond of vexillology.

Jay Allen Villapando, 15 June 2005