Wednesday, June 12 marks the 115th anniversary of the Philippine declaration of independence from Spain. In commemoration of this significant event, here are three versions of our national anthem. Our hymn, just like many other aspects of our culture, is multilingual and reflective of our country’s many-layered history.
The original version is in Spanish, a beautiful piece of poetry written in 1899 by Tondo-born soldier and poet José Palma. Titled Filipinas, It was later set to the music of Marcha Nacional Filipina, a rousing composition by musician Julián Felipe played on that historic day in Kawit, Cavite.
Hija del sol de Oriente
Su fuego ardiente en ti latiendo está.
Patria de amores
Del heroismo cuna,
No te hallarán jamás.
En tu azul cielo, en tus auras,
En tus montes y en tu mar
Esplende y late el poema
De tu amada libertad.
Tu pabellón, que en las lides
La victoria iluminó
No verá nunca apagados
Sus estrellas y su sol.
Tierra de dichas, del sol y amores,
En tu regazo dulce es vivir.
Es una gloria para tus hijos,
Cuando te ofenden, por ti morir.
In one of Philippine history’s many little ironies, just a few a months after this triumphal proclamation of independence, the old Spanish-speaking colonizers we thought we had gotten rid of sold us to some new, English-speaking colonizers for a few million dollars. But we’re not going to dwell on that on such a day as this. Just enjoy the following English version of our national anthem:
Land of the morning,
Child of the sun returning,
With fervor burning,
Thee do our souls adore.
Land dear and holy,
Cradle of noble heroes,
Ne’er shall invaders
Trample thy sacred shore.
Ever within thy skies and through thy clouds
And o’er thy hills and sea,
Do we behold the radiance, feel and throb,
Of glorious liberty.
Thy banner, dear to all our hearts,
Its sun and stars alight,
O never shall its shining field
Be dimmed by tyrant’s might!
Beautiful land of love,
O land of light,
In thine embrace ’tis rapture to lie,
But it is glory ever, when thou art wronged,
For us, thy sons to suffer and die.
Although the Flag Law banned the use of Filipino nationalist symbols during the early years of the American occupation, it was repealed in 1919 and our hymn was translated into English. The one above is the most popular version, written by Senator Camilo Osías and an American, Mary A. Lane. Imagine, though, an American writing about the Philippines being a land whose flag’s shining field will never be dimmed by tyrant’s might, just when her country had us under its power; and about how it is glory for Filipinos to suffer and die when their country is wronged, just a few years after thousands of them did just that in the hands of American soldiers during the Philippine-American War. It boggles the mind!
I much prefer the Filipino version, written when we were finally free from foreign control (at least officially). The following is the one that I had to sing with my classmates at 7 a.m. every single school day for over a decade. Handa, awit:
Perlas ng Silanganan,
Alab ng puso,
Sa dibdib mo’y buhay.
Duyan ka ng magiting,
Di ka pasisiil.
Sa dagat at bundok,
Sa simoy at sa langit mong bughaw,
May dilag ang tula
At awit sa paglayang minamahal.
Ang kislap ng watawat mo’y
Tagumpay na nagniningning,
Ang bituin at araw niya
Kailan pa ma’y di magdidilim.
Lupa ng araw, ng luwalhati’t pagsinta,
Buhay ay langit sa piling mo;
Aming ligaya, na pag may mang-aapi
Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo.
My favorite line from all these versions is from the Spanish one: en tu regazo dulce es vivir. It conjures this image in my mind of my country as a loving mother on whose lap I sit, enjoying the warmth of her tropical embrace, looking up at the coconut trees set against the background of her cloudless blue skies, basking in the glow of her dazzling sun.
Sorry for the nostalgia; I’ve just been in England for too long and I desperately need some sunshine. And it is our national day after all.