Sotto makes sense

Bashing Senate President Tito Sotto is once more in fashion.  

Before he was chosen by his peers to lead them as their president, Tito Sen, as most Senate beat reporters fondly call the regular guy, was excoriated for his inappropriate remark when then DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo faced the Commission on Appointments.

Asking about the single mother’s civil status, he made a “salitang kanto” remark about being “ah…na-ano ka.”  He has since apologized for the unfortunate comment, but many feminists raked him over the coals.

I was told by Senate old-timers that Tito Sen was already being groomed by many senators to replace then-Senate President Koko Pimentel, but the “coup” had to be put in the back burner after that remark got a lot of media flak.

Now comes his suggestion to change the last line of Lupang Hinirang, the national anthem, from the defeatist “ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.”  He proposes “ang ipaglaban kalayaan mo.”

Instead of debating the pros and cons of Sotto’s suggestion, netizens and some in mainstream media chided him with the standard line that with all the problems facing the nation these days, why bother with what to many of  them amounts to something trivial.

“Malayo sa bituka ’yan,” someone said. “Intindihin ng mga senador ang presyo ng bilihin at kakulangan ng kita.”

For many whose politics is “politica del estomago,” nothing else matters.

Nothing as lofty as placing the national spirit right, or history being placed in its proper context.

Jose Palma’s Filipinas from which lyrical poem that starts with “Tierra adorada” Julian Felipe set the lilting music of our Lupang Hinirang, translated later in 1956 into the Tagalog “Bayang magiliw, perlas ng silanganan,” also ends with “Es una gloria para tus hijos, Cuando te ofenden, por ti morir.”

Even in the original Spanish version, death is the offering to country.  It is as if the race has a common death wish.  “Defeatist,” the Senate President opines.

Indeed, it remains a puzzlement to me why we celebrate defeats, and we commemorate the deaths, rather than the birth dates of our heroes.  One can only surmise that it is part of the religio-cultural upbringing from the Roman Catholic frailes and today’s bishops, who extol martyrdom for God or religion as the ultimate good.

April 9 is the Fall of Bataan.  Defeat, where thousands died.  We remember our national hero, Jose Rizal not on his June 19 natal day, but on Dec. 30, when the Spaniards executed him at Bagumbayan.  Even Ninoy Aquino is remembered on that dastardly day when he was shot at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, Aug. 21, rather than Nov. 27.  The value-concept of death, of “martyrdom” is the celebratory theme of our history.

We do not, however, commemorate the day when Bonifacio was executed, likely because he was murdered by his fellow Philippine revolutionaries, and so we celebrate his Nov. 30 birth anniversary.  Only when the story of Heneral Antonio Luna became a cinematic hit did Filipinos realize that the revolution failed because of the greed for power of some of its leaders.  The revolution was devoured by the revolutionaries in the altar of their own ambitions, as Apolinario Mabini, it’s resident wise man, the Sublime Paralytic, decried.

In our pantheon of heroes, we tend to forget Sumoroy of Samar who fought the Spaniards, or Francisco Dagohoy who persisted long in the Bohol Revolt, or Diego Silang of Ilocos, and the Moros who never surrendered to Spain, nor America.

Senator Sotto is right in reexamining those core values that we enshrine in our tragic history.  Why the tragedy of death instead of the celebration of life, of a lifetime of dedication for the good of country and fellowmen?

Take America’s Star Spangled Banner, which ends in the famous lines “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Francis Scott Key extols bravery and glorifies victory in his lyrics.  But not death.

La Marsellaise, the French national hymn, is probably a bit more gory, describing how the sons of France would destroy their enemies and repel invaders, over and over again, for the liberty for the motherland, but does not extol “martyrdom” or death.

Nearer to home, Malaysia’s anthem follows the British tradition of glorifying their monarch, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as repetitively as “God Save the Queen” (or King when Elizabeth II is eventually replaced by either Prince Charles or Prince William). 

And although the Thais sing about sacrificing every drop of blood, the message is defiant, against all invaders, and proud of their history of never being colonized by a foreign imperialist.

Modern Singapore’s anthem, Majulah Singapura or Onwards Singapore, is all about a common goal of happiness for all, unity and continued success.  All very positive, all uplifting.

Japan’s Kimi Ga Yo is a very solemn rendition of a poem that simply, and repetitively says: “May Japan’s reign last for ten thousand years, until the pebbles grow into boulders lush with moss.”  A paean to eternal greatness.  

Lupang Hinirang is truly such a beautiful anthem, in its lilting melody and poetic lyrics that describe the beauty of our country and how wonderful life is in its lush mountains and blue seas, and extols the courage of a people who will not be oppressed, yet sadly ends with the expression of willingness to die for country.   Much like Rizal’s own death wish: “Morir es descansar.”  Resignation rather than defiance.

Tito Sotto makes sense.  So does Senator Dick Gordon’s long-standing advocacy for a ninth ray in the sun emblazoned in our flag, to give recognition to the valiant Moros who persisted in the fight against invaders.

And if it must take a referendum to alter an historical oversight, and convert death wish to a defiant and glorious struggle for freedom, then let us debate, and not litter the arguments with non sequiturs.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Sotto makes sense , Senate President Tito Sotto
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