A PIECE of history trivia for all our readers.

How many nations in the world use two positions in the way they display their national flags–one position in times of peace, and another in times of war?

Ten countries? Twenty? Fifty? Well, guess what? The right answer is one. Yes, we are all by our lonesome when it comes to the way we display our national symbol. When we are at peace with all countries, we fly the flag with the blue colour on the superior side (on top when flown, or on the right when hung downwards). However, when we are at war with a belligerent power, we fly the flag with the red side on top.

Interesting, isn’t it? Our country has a very unique and well-developed practice when it comes to the use of our national emblem. More sophisticated even than what are adopted in more powerful countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and the other major powers.

The sad truth is–and even sadder when we think about it on our Independence Day–this is all there probably is when it comes to the way we uphold our sovereignty as a nation–symbolism and appearances.

As a free and independent state, there is hardly anything to suggest that on our own, we would be able to protect our status as one. As many of you no doubt have, I have viewed many a documentary of our claim on the Kalayaan island chain, and the state of our military depicted in those documentaries is nothing short of embarrassing.

Our soldiers and sailors guarding the country’s Western frontier practically live on a floating piece of junk, so rotten and dilapidated that it could very well give them tetanus and kill them, if they should ever cut themselves on board. In contrast, the Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysians and the other claimants to the chain go around in sophisticated gunboats and warships, oftentimes bullying our small and rickety ships into submission.

Closer to home, we saw how our elite Philippine National Police (PNP) commandos were humiliated by a ragtag band of rebels, killing the best of the best among our fighting men. And how? Because their critical ammunition failed to explode when needed. Dud grenades made them sitting targets of their enemies’ high caliber weaponry.

We all love our country. In my many years overseas, I get the occasional goosebumps when hearing my country’s national anthem played in remote corners of the globe. In international gatherings where I have had the chance to represent the national contingent, pride always runs high among the Philippine participants. A lack of patriotism is definitely something we Filipinos do not suffer from.

But upholding national sovereignty and independence requires far more than goosebumps and hearts welling with pride when the national anthem is played. It demands that we act with integrity and honesty in matters affecting our national welfare.

Starting, of course, with the decision-makers for our nation’s military and police forces. Like it or not, independence still very much depends on our perceived ability to defend ourselves in times of threat. We need basic weaponry and equipment for this ability to carry any weight. But we cannot have these defense necessities if those in position continue to appropriate the resources for their own unpatriotic ends.