Facebook has had to apologise to the Philippines after accidentally declaring that the republic was at war in a celebratory banner rolled out across its network. Inspired by the Google Doodle, Facebook has been starting to roll out special features dedicated to help users celebrate important days and festivals in their respective countries.

The social network decided to recognise Independence Day in the Philippines with a special celebratory banner appearing at the top of News Feed which users could choose to share with their friends. Unfortunately for Facebook, the flag in the banner appeared upside down.

While having an upside down flag would usually be considered to be just a silly mistake, in the Philippines, this takes on a graver meaning – during peace time, the flag is flown with the blue section at the top and the red section at the bottom. By turning the flag upside down, Facebook was essentially declaring that the Philippines was at war.

"This was unintentional, and we're sorry," Facebook told the Philippine Star. "We care deeply about the community in the Philippines and, in an attempt to connect people on Independence Day, we made a mistake."

Independence Day

The Philippines was colonised by both the Spanish and later the US before officially becoming an independent nation state in 1946. The country's Independence Day is celebrated every year on 12 June.

That day is of great importance to Filipino people as it commemorates the Philippine Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on 12 June 1898 by Filipino revolutionary forces led by General Emilio Aguinaldo. This is when Filipinos revolted against the Spanish and created their own national flag and anthem.

Although the declaration was neither recognised by Spain or the US, when the country was granted independence in 1946, historians and nationalists urged the government to change the date back to the 19th Century date.

The Philippines flag has only ever been turned upside down and used as an official war ensign twice. Once during the Philippine-American War between 1899 to 1901 and, again, during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines when the country declared war against the UK and the US in 1944.