Is the law on national anthem extremely puritanical?
I find it rather strange that in all of Manny Pacquiao’s fights, not one of those who sang the “Lupang Hinirang” passed the standards of the National Historical Institute (NHI). It is a sad fact, indeed, that the NHI criticisms have always dampened what otherwise should be an undiluted national celebration of a Pacquiao victory. On the other hand, I still have to hear of any American, Mexican or Briton airing any comment, good or bad, on how their respective anthems had been rendered by different artists, each one of whom, common sense simply dictates, must surely have his or her own singing style and interpretation. Aren’t we becoming extremely, and unduly, puritanical in this respect?
Of course, the NHI takes refuge under Republic Act 8491, which provides that “the rendition of the National Anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.” RA 8491 punishes the failure or refusal to observe such provision with public censure, as well as with one-year imprisonment or P5,000-fine, or both, at the discretion of the court. (Inquirer, 5/03/09).
Unfortunately, the sheer mention of that law only inevitably brings to worldwide rebuke another of this country’s many “national embarrassments,” to wit: our propensity to make laws that we cannot implement. Why? Simply because practically all the artists who sang the “Lupang Hinirang” in Pacquiao fights before Nievera did not follow the original musical composition and arrangement of Felipe; yet not one of them has ever been formally indicted. Also, that perception is not only highly debatable; even the NHI has not actually demonstrated how the anthem is to be perfectly sung. Neither did our grade school teachers teach it to us as they did English or Arithmetic. Let’s admit, we all learned our national anthem essentially “a la oido.” And so, we would probably have to resurrect Felipe to sing and record it in a diskette, or to have graduates of the Conservatory of Music to correctly interpret it, if we are to implement RA 8491 to the letter.
I am not a musician, but methinks none of the artists who had sung the “Lupang Hinirang” in past Pacquiao fights may be said to have maligned the spirit of patriotism that it connotes. Comparatively, the harm done, if any, is not as much as the Church might have “murdered” the originality of the “Ama Namin” by re-inventing that prayer in as many tunes and variations as we have parishes.
Alack, to such extent that, if similarly done to “Silent Night,” for example, we would no longer feel the coming Christmas when that song begins to fill the air as early as September. But that is entirely another matter.
—RUDY L. CORONEL,