Saturday, May 9, 2009

Controversies Over Our Anthem

A WIDE VARIETY of comments has emerged about the way baladeer Martin Nievera sang our beloved Lupang Hinirang before the boxing match that made us Filipinos of our "Pambansang Kamao" beating the daylights out of a well-known "Hitman" from London.

"Martin had no right to stylize the singing of the Anthem," cried one voice, "he should be prosecuted for violating the law!" added another. Others were not so indignant, some others were not indignant at all or were even amused. Still others expressed their celebration of Filipino creative talent. Maestro Ryan Cayabyab had earlier warned Martin not to adjust the Anthem not necessarily because the master was personally against such a deed; he was worried that enough Filipinos would be indignant enough to mobilize a lynch mob. Meantime, three public figures were reported to have expressed their non-disapproval of what Martin did -- a little woman on the throne and two solons in the House, all in all representing three distinctly conflicting political streams. Nievera sang our Anthem on foreign land and sang up a loud controversy here at home, all in one prolonged breath.

I have always frowned on having celebrities or celebrity groups aesthetically perform stylized renditions of our National Anthem before programs and shows at the Cultural Center and elsewhere in the country. I have always believed that the crowd is not supposed to just listen and appreciate such singing, because that crowd is the very owner of that Anthem, the Filipinos who could and actually should be singing that Anthem together passionately, with deep-felt spirit of love for the nation and for the national unity that the Anthem is supposed to represent. Like the "Our Father," the self-declared siblings under the same paternity should be shouting out their (our) soul-voice together. (As someone who has been making two-voice and three-voice arrangements for singing groups I really enjoy listening to blendings and contra-tiempo and Gregorian-chant blendings. But the whole crowd should be singing "even if coarsely and crudely," full of passionate sincerity. Such would not be the time to engage in aesthetics however talented we all are.

Much less should the crowd be just listening tolerantly to the playing of the anthem as is ritually done at the beginning of last full shows and other functions. The Filipino crowd should not be listening appreciatively much less singing tolerantly, we should be singing together the National Anthem if we really deserve to have one.

But the crowd at Las Vegas was not at all a Filipino crowd. And the American crowd would not feel any passion at all for Lupang Hinirang or for King George's anthem; they would tolerate such singing as customary protocol before such an event on their land as the Paquiao-Hatton boxing match. Martin was not performing our Anthem before a Filipino crowd who should then be singing with him, it was a Filipino performance not of Nievera but mainly of Paquiao, before a non-Filipino crowd. In that sort of circumstance. "my rules" that i state and explain above would not simplistically apply. I can afford to admit not being too sure about proprieties. (What i am definitely sure about is this: amending the Constitution to allow foreigners to buy up our national territory is definitely wrong and anti-Filipino! Aside from stupid (even with the monetary rewards!). I would rather rage-rage-rage against that one! There are other things i am very sure are wrong, anti-environment, anti-Filipino, anti-Truth, etc. etc. and i would rather rage-rage-rage also about them.

Despite its historical infirmity (a separate topic, no doubt), and despite the remaining controversy over the last line, we love our current National Anthem together, and we really ought to expect ourselves not just to listen to it tolerantly, not even just to listen to it appreciatively, but to sing it together with a passionate sense of patriotism that should be consistent with being patriotic "sa isip, sa salita at sa gawa.".

For those of us who are hysterically stoning Martin for what they consider to be Martin Nievera's artistic but improper, even "criminal," rendition of Lupang Hinirang, and all other Filipinos, here's my personal challenge addressed to the entire citizenry:
Let our National Anthem be an instrument for unifying us, not for dividing us any further. Let us LIVE our National Anthem!

readdingz, 05-09-09

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