Monday, November 17, 2008

The first national anthem of the Philippines

As Bonifacio Day nears, we remember the story of what happened to the Katipunan. The Katipunan became irrelevant as a political player when the Magdiwang faction of Andres Bonifacio lost to that of Magdalo Emilio Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo's government eventually became Republica Filipina. Bonifacio was executed in questionable circumstances.

One of the casualties of this power play is the National anthem commissioned by Bonifacio in November 1896 perhaps in what is now UP Diliman. Entitled Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan (Honourable Prayer of the Tagalogs) the hymn goes on with these lyrics

Mabuhay ‘yang Kalayaan!
At Pasulungin ang puri’t kabanalan.
Kastila’y mainig ng Katagalugan.
At Ngayo’y ipagwagi ang kahusayan.

Long live Freedom!
Uphold the cause of honor and piety.
The Spaniards have been overwhelmed by the Tagalogs.
Now fight for order to triumph.

(Ambeth Ocampo's translation)

The Nakpil anthem had been almost lost to history save for the 1898 centennial celebrations when it was played again. The Andres Bonifacio Choir has a stirring rendition of it together with what appears to be the standard rendition of Julian Felipe's "Lupang Hinirang". Some critics say it is a better national anthem than "Lupang Hinirang" but such debate is now moot. Although Congress can pass a law changing our national anthem, the flag or even the nation's name, it is unlikely it will be supported by the people.

It is because the Felipe hymn was the hymn sung during the time singing it was a criminal offence, when the Filipino flag was first raised equal with that of the colonizer's during the Commonwealth inauguration, during the Japanese invasion and Filipino resistance, during Laurel's republic, and throughout the history of our being an independent nation. It was played when Marcos became dictator, Ninoy Aquino was buried, during EDSA 1, 2 and 3 and beyond.

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