HIMNO ning Kapampangan (Pampanga Hymn), I just found out, was originally Imno ning Kapampangan, minus the H, which is as it should be, since the Kapampangan language has neither the letter 'h' nor the sound /h/.
I also found out that three poets had written it, instead of just one, as originally thought.
I made these discoveries in an old newspaper, Pampanga Newsweek Vol. IV No. 41 (August 15-21, 1982), which is in the library of the Center for Kapampangan Studies.
The newspaper carried the announcement of a songwriting competition in which contestants were asked to put music into the words of a poem entitled Imno ning Kapampangan.
The contest rules contained the poem in its entirety; below the poem were the names of its authors: Vedasto Ocampo, Serafin Lacson and Jose Gallardo.
This confirmed the long-standing allegations of some people, often spoken in whispers, that three poets, not one, had written the lyrics of the iconic hymn. Joel Mallari, then still a researcher of the Center for Kapampangan Studies, actually wrote about it in 2010 as a letter to the Sun.Star editor.
My own research led me to two other documents: one was a certification written by Vedasto Ocampo (before he died) and the other a letter written by Aristedes “Teddy” Panopio to a certain “Imang Vangie.”
Teddy Panopio, brother of popular yodeler Fred Panopio, was the person Governor Estelito Mendoza had sent in early 1982 to ask poets Jose Gallardo and Vedasto Ocampo to write what would eventually become the lyrics of Imno ning Kapampangan.
1982 was the year the annual Aldo ning Kapampangan (Pampanga Day) was first held in December, based on Proclamation #2226 signed by President Ferdinand Marcos. Previously, Pampanga Day was celebrated every February 13, the anniversary of the establishment of civilian government in the province in 1901.
Governor Mendoza felt that the new date of celebration should be marked with a new provincial hymn, and so he ordered the writing of the lyrics and the search for the melody afterwards.
Gallardo at the time was the reigning Ari ning Parnaso (King of Parnassus, the honorific title given to the acknowledged premier poet of the province) and host of a popular program on dzYA.
Ocampo, on the other hand, was the organizer of the literary contest Ligligan Pamanyulat Kapampangan sponsored every year by the Capitol. (Ocampo would eventually succeed Gallardo as Ari ning Parnaso after Gallardo's death in 1986. Ocampo himself passed away in 2009.)
According to Panopio, it was Vedasto Ocampo who suggested that they also invite another Kapampangan poet, Serafin Lacson, as a member of the writing team.
Ocampo and Panopio then went to see Lacson in the latter's residence in Magalang town. According to Ocampo, there were two other people with them when they drove to Magalang: Fr. Jose de la Cruz (now deceased) and Dr. Vicente Catacutan. They told Lacson about the project, and the Governor's wish that the poem should be "makatagkil panandam" (stirring). Lacson accepted the invitation and offered to host the brainstorming and writing sessions.
In their first session, Gallardo, Ocampo and Lacson agreed that the poem should use figures of speech and that it should contain only 12 lines. Then they went to their respective corners in the house and started writing their individual poems.
After 30 minutes, they were ready for a plenary meeting to hear each other recite his poem. To their delight, the three poems turned out to be similar ("Kayap namu miyagpang-agpang la"), except for meter and rhyme, so Ocampo and Lacson asked Gallardo to consolidate them into one poem ("Ya na ing misundu at mamupus king pamibalangkas").
"Alang tinutul metung man (No one objected)," Ocampo said. "Marahil, uling maragul ing tiwala mi kang JMG (Gallardo), a sinulat king tanyag a kantang Beterano ning Hukbalahap."
"Matula (kaming) mikakawani ketang gatpanapun a ita (We left feeling satisfied that afternoon)," Ocampo wrote.
Teddy Panopio, who served as intermediary between the three poets and the Governor, confirmed Gallardo's critical role: "Masalang-masala king katandanan ku ring dakal a amanu keng Himnong Kapampangan ibat la kang Jose Gallardo at digdagan de di Tatang Serafin at Vedasto Ocampo ba yang mikompleto (I clearly remember many of the words came from Jose Gallardo with inputs from the two to complete the Himnong Kapampangan)."
After three days, Ocampo said, he and Lacson and several others received their copies of the consolidated poem. Apparently it became the final version, although Ocampo noticed its "alang malino rima at medyu patad-patad a panga amanu" (unclear rhyming and somewhat disjointed phrasing).
Two Carmelite nuns, accompanied by Teddy Panopio, went to see Ocampo in his office at the then Ministry of Agriculture and Food-Region III to ask for an English translation, "uling ali de aintindian ("because they could not understand it").
Here is Imno ning Kapampangan with Ocampo's English translation: Kapampangan, misapuak/King leguan na ning Alaya/Gabun ding pantas at marangal/Sibul ning lugud, karinan ning tepangan;/Batis ning katalaruan/At panandam makabalen/Ligaya mi ing mie payapa/King malugud mung kandungan./Kapampangan, sale ning leguan/Kapampangan, sandalan ning katimawan/Kilub ding pusu mi atin kang dambana/Luid ka, luid ka! Palsintan ming Kapampangan!
Pampanga, born/Of the beauty of the East/land of the wise and dignified/Spring of love, abode of bravery;/Fountain of justice/And patriotism/We are happy to live in peace/On your loving lap./Pampanga, birthplace of beauty/Pampanga, backrest of liberty/Within our hearts you have an altar./Long live, long live!/Our beloved Pampanga!
After the poem was finished, the provincial government announced the songwriting competition, which called on contestants to put the appropriate melody. The criteria for judging: suitability of music to the lyrics (35%), creativity and originality of melody (25%), artistry and musical treatment (25%), and accompaniment (15%).
The contest winner was Msgr. Greg Canlas, a noted composer of church hymns. As per contest rules, the composition became the property of the Provincial Government of Pampanga.
If Vedasto Ocampo would have his way, it's better for the Imno ning Kapampangan not to bear the names of its authors, like what they do with similar hymns in other countries. For his part, Teddy Panopio attested that "Ini ing tune milyari king pangagawa na ning Himnong Kapampangan (This is what really happened in the writing of the Imno)" and that it's not too late to include the names of Jose Gallardo and Vedasto Ocampo as the Imno's authors alongside that of Serafin Lacson's.
"Mangaintulid la naman lunto lagyu (Their names deserve to be recognized, too)," Panopio said.