"It describes the character of a nation. "
To many of us, singing the National Anthem is just one of those chores that we have to perform on certain occasions. School children and government employees sing it every Monday during flag ceremony. Even those of us who like going to late movies have to stand up and sing it before the evening’s last full show.
An anthem usually tells about a country, its people, and describes the character of a nation. It also tells what a people is willing to do for their country. As an example, there is Germany’s Deutschland Uber Alles or Germany Above All. The United States’ National anthem tells us about the land of the free and home of the brave. The United Kingdom of course has its God Save the Queen or King as the case may be, which tells us about the importance of the institution of the monarchy in that country. France’s Marseillaise, borne out of the French revolution, is reputed to be the most famous national anthem in the world. During the Second World War, it was one of the symbols of French resistance as depicted in countless motion pictures.
There are also national anthems without any lyrics like the Spanish anthem and a few other countries. There are also the so-called unofficial national anthems like in Australia. The official anthem is Advance Australia Fair and the unofficial one is the popular Waltzing Matilda.
To a certain degree, we also have a sort of an unofficial anthem in Bayan Ko which was sung by the opponents of President Marcos during the Martial Law period. Anthematology, which is the study of national anthems, could be an interesting field of study. If one does not know anything about a certain country, the national anthem could be a good start simply because it can tell us some important points about a country.
Our own national anthem has also an interesting history. Although sung only in Pilipino nowadays, it has three versions. The original was in Spanish, played for the first time on June 12, 1898 when General Emilio Aguinaldo declared our independence from Spain. During the Commonwealth era, the English version was introduced as the Philippine Hymn in 1934. Then in 1956, Lupang Hinirang was introduced which my generation started singing during our elementary years. It has been said that when Aguinaldo was looking for an appropriate piece, to be played on June 12, 1898, he wanted it to evoke the spirit of patriotism that everyone could feel when the music is played. There were a number of compositions presented to him until he settled for Julian Felipe’s adaptation of the Spanish poem Filipinas written by Jose Palma. By all accounts, the piece achieved what General Aguinaldo wanted when played for the first time. We can therefore say in all fairness that General Aguinaldo owns our national anthem.
I listened to the three versions recently and noticed subtle differences. The English versions has a faster tempo than the Spanish and Pilipino versions. It was basically played as a marching music. The Spanish version has the slowest tempo with the Pilipino being in the middle. If I have to choose which is better suited for us, I would prefer the Pilipino version.
I remember during the term of Former President Fidel V. Ramos when there was a minor controversy on the proper way of singing our national anthem. This came about because of the way some artists sing the anthem during public gatherings. There were different versions because every artist seems to want to be different. There was a clamor that the anthem should be sung only in one way. The result was an order from the Palace that the anthem should be played as a marching music reminiscent of the English version during the Commonwealth era. This, however, has not stopped people from singing the anthem the way they want it.
The lyrics of the Pilipino version is to me also more appropriate than the two earlier ones. It tells us of our beautiful land and our willingness to die if need be and to defend it from those who might want to trample on or covet our country. Furthermore, it also tells us of our history of continuous struggle for freedom and our fighting various invaders like the Spaniards, the Americans and then the Japanese.
This is why it is painful to see our national leaders being unable to forge a common stand on how to deal with our West Philippine Sea territorial claims. The issue is important to all of us Filipinos, yet we do not have a united stand. Right now, our approach is so divided with the current administration blaming the former administration for losing the Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese and some officials of the former administration countering by saying that it is worse now because the Chinese are already here in the country.
If only our current administration can lead by calling for a National Security Council meeting to develop a united stand and avoid being blamed in the future, it will be easier for the people to accept even if the decision is to ditch our current alliances and move closer to China the way the current administration seems to want. But if our current leaders cannot find a united approach, maybe they should go back to our national anthem to find a common ground. Our national anthem must mean something to all of us. If not, maybe it is about time to change our national anthem especially the last two sentences.