09 October 2007
The Problem with Lupang Hinirang
I saw this article by Lorenzo P. Niñal (Insoymada) of the Sun*Star Cebu dated October 9, 2007. I was truly amused at his wit and candor on the way our singers render their version of the Philippine National Anthem, which is of course almost always an embarrassment (either the singer is off-tune or makes a shorter version of the anthem). As he said, our national anthem is composed and supposed to be sang while marching and with a bolo in hand. Which got me to thinking: are our lawmakers creating the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines for real? Do they know what law are they making?
I decided to copy the whole article for your amusement.
Promise this won't be another Pacquiao-Barrera piece. A Pacquiao victory was so boring. In fact, the excitement in that match began and ended with the singing of the three national anthems, Mexico's, the US' and ours. And that's the reason I waited for the fight. I wanted to verify reports that our pop singers are lobbying for a shorter version of Lupang Hinirang, one that goes straight to "ang mamatay nang dahil sa 'yo" after the opening line.
But I was frustrated because RnB princess Kyla failed to do a Christian Bautista Part 2. It was a boxing match. I was in a mean mood. I wanted to see people drop dead at the ring, if not from killer punches, at least from embarrassment. I hear Pacquiao had orders from Malacañang to hit Kyla with a left if she missed a line.
Lupang Hinirang is one scary song to sing in front of a crowd. It's double the scare if some dork before you messed it up big time and an entire country is expecting you to correct the error. It's a difficult song to sing to begin with. You have to be in short pants to sing it well. Remember how we never missed a line of it during flag ceremonies in grade school? The song seems harder to sing as life gets more complicated.
But then maybe national anthems are really written to make life difficult for a nation's people. The Star-Spangled Banner is one difficult song to sing too, even more difficult than ours. The Star-Spangled has a range of one and a half octaves. That's hell for us, lovers of Lito Camo songs.
What songwriter in his right mind would want to write a song in that range and expect an entire nation to hit the high notes right, from the lowest "say" to the highest "free"? I read somewhere that the Star-Spangled was a poem set to the tune of a popular British drinking song. A drinking song! That probably explains it. But why would we want to sing Star-Spangled, anyway?
And the Himno Nacional Mexicano, well, Marco Antonio Barrera lost. The lyrics, which allude to Mexican victories in battle and cries of defending the homeland, failed to give Barrera a glorious career exit. Let's leave it at that.
What about our national anthem? It's a marching hymn. Julian Felipe's composition was called "Marcha Nacional Filipina." He composed it for the bolo-wielding revolutionaries and gallant generals marching in victory. That's the reason it was set to the original 2/2 time signature, which is ideal for marching. For marching, not for singing, because the lyrics came only after more than a year.
Now our singers, whenever they perform the song solo, are expected to sing it the pop way using the friendly 4/4 time signature. It's where the problem lies. How do you sing a song whose music was actually for marching?
And there's our Constitution to consider. Republic Act 8491, or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, specifies that Lupang Hinirang "shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe."
Literally, this means our national anthem should only be performed by a pianist or by a brass band, as these were the only versions that were produced by Felipe. Maybe it's the only way to do it right.
Which got me to thinking: If Christian Bautista was marching in military fashion, with bolo in hand, when he sang Lupang Hinirang, he wouldn't have probably missed it.