Pacete: Behind the Philippine National Anthem

LAST week, I was invited by a school principal on a “mano a mano” concerning our song of a nation, The Philippine National Anthem. For me, the Philippine National Anthem is a song which embodies the struggles and the glory of the Filipino people in their search of independence from foreign domination.

That could be the reason why in every fight of Manny Pacquiao we are always meticulous when it comes to the singing of our anthem. Young Filipinos have been trained (or obliged to memorize) the anthem. Day Care classes are taught to sing. Primary and elementary pupils do the singing every flag ceremony.

The anthem had been a part (before) of the Preparatory Military Training, Citizen Army Training, and even in the Reserved Officers Training Corps. It is included in the course Military Courtesy and Discipline. Employees are mandated to sing the anthem every Monday’s flag raising ceremony. I even remembered one mayor who obliged his employees to sing the anthem before the payroll. (May his soul rest in peace.)

Our anthem began as an instrumental march. The original score prepared by Julian Felipe was known as “Marcha Nacional Filipina Magdalo” because it was commissioned by Emilio Aguinaldo whose “nom de guerre” happened to be “Magdalo.” Historian Raymundo Banas reasoned out that our national anthem was composed as background music for the Declaration of Independence on June 12, 1898. It was not intended to become the Philippine National Anthem.

Historically, the present “Pambansang Awit” was not our first anthem. In 1896, Andres Bonifacio commissioned Julio Nakpil (who later married his widow Gregoria de Jesus) to compose a “himno nacional.” This was the “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan”. (This reminded me of the Cinco de Noviembre 1898 Revolution in Negros. The Lacson-Araneta force had “Binangon” as it anthem.)

If Bonifacio did not lose to Aguinaldo for leadership, we are now singing a different tune. Pro-Bonifacio historians are convinced that the Nakpil anthem is superior to the “Marcha Aguinaldo”. They said that Felipe borrowed (or copied) the notes from the Spanish “Marcha Real,” the French “Marseillaise”, or even from the “komedya” or “moro-moro” music.

There was also the third anthem composed by an expatriate Filipino in Hong Kong. He was also commissioned by Aguinaldo. His composition (that was lost) was brought by Aguinaldo from Hong Kong together with the Philippine flag. No one heard the sound of the lost anthem. (We can ask Aguinaldo and Felipe.)

On September 3, 1899, Jose Palma provided a poem that would suit to the music of “Marcha Filipino Magdalo.” The score was published in “La Independencia,” a newspaper published in Pangasinan. This was called “Filipinas.” I can still memorize the first four lines, “Tierra adorada… Hija del sol de Oriente… Su fuegoardiente… En tilatiendoesta.”

The American education system introduced the English translation by Camilo Osias and M.A.L. Lane in 1920. I will give you the first stanza. “Land of the morning… Child of the sun returning… With fervor burning… Thee do our souls adore.”

My beloved school principal displayed a sweet smile. Our present anthem did not come that easy. The Pinoy version that we are singing now (official version) was in use since 1956. This is under the twin authorship of Ildefonso Santos and Julian Cruz Balmaceda (lyrics appeared in the 1990s).

“Bayang magiliw…Perlas ng Silanganan..Alab ng puso…Sa dibdib mo’y buhay.” The official Filipino version was proclaimed by President Ramon Magsaysay on May 26, 1956 (56 years old now). Some revision was made in 1962. (The key was changed from the original C to G. The time signature has been adjusted from the original 2/4 to 4/4… and back?)

Whatever is the key or the signature, we have to remember that the song keeps alive the memories of the struggle, the love of country, the reverence for freedom, and the vigilance to guard and defend our independence.*
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