Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rumpus in Zamboanga over Chavacano version of the National Anthem

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (PNA / Oct. 23, 2008) - Is the Lupang Hinirang sung during flag ceremonies nationwide, the official anthem of the Philippines? Is its singing mandatory and required by law? And what is the penalty for not singing the anthem properly?

A controversy is raging in Zamboanga, among local officials, and, if resolved, could answer these questions.

First this story

The officials in formal attire — polo barong, Barong Tagalog and Filipina costume — stood on the big makeshift stage in front of City Hall one Saturday afternoon. Also there on the stage was the top military officer of the country, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano.

A group of costumed men and women gathered in front of the stage and they sang: "Tierra adorada Hija de sol Oriente,Su fuego ardiente En ti latiendo esta.

Patria de amores! Del heroismo cuna, Los invadores No te hallaran jamas.En tu azul cielo, en tus auras, En tus montes y en tu mar Esplende y late el poema De tu amada libertad …" (… and so on along the melody of the Lupang Hinirang.) The civilians on stage placed their right hands on their chests. American officers and service men saluted. Filipino soldiers and policemen on stage stood at attention with their right hands by their sides.

The singing of the song or an altered version of the original Tierra Adorada was held in the afternoon of Oct. 11, the eve of the Town Fiesta of Pilar in Zamboanga City that falls on Oct. 12.

The matter could not have mattered at all, except for one alert television reporter, Lisa Jocson, who reported the story of the "incident" Monday evening over local television TV-11 Dateline Zamboanga Chavacano newscast.

In her report, Jocson explained that in that program, the Zamboanga Chorale sang the National Anthem in the Chavacano Version and that was why the soldiers and officers on the stage simply stood at attention and did not snap into salutes.

Vice Mayor Manuel Dalipe said he took time to explain to the visitors that the song sang there at the program was the Spanish or Chavacano version of the National Anthem. "I apologized to the visitors who questioned why the anthem was not sung in Pilipino."

The anthem in Chavacano was sung by the Zamboanga Hermosa Choral during the opening program where the city government conferred the title of 'Hijo de la Ciudad de Zamboanga" on Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander B. Yano.

(Chavacano is the local dialect in Zamboanga that is about 70 percent Spanish) Others say that what was sung in Front of City Hall was the Spanish original version. Nevertheless, Spanish is not the official language of the country anymore.

Dalipe confirmed television footages of the occasion that showed local officials with their right hands on their chests as the Chorale sang the song in front of the improvised stage at Plaza Rizal.

The honoree and Guest Speaker during the program, Gen. Yano, who was on stage at that time, did not salute the flag while the chorale was singing the song. Other police and military officers on stage merely stood at attention, while the song was sang.

In his repartee, City Mayor Celso Lobregat said the song that was sung during the program was the Chavacano version of the anthem and not Spanish as Dalipe (originaly) claimed. Lobregat offered to donate to Dalipe a copy of a Chavacano-Spanish English Dictionary so the vice mayor "will know the difference between Chavacano and Spanish."

However, to make it official and to enter his protest on the records, the vice mayor delivered a privilege speech at the city council last October 16 and denounced the singing of the Chavacano version of the anthem.

Dalipe said that the law provides for only one version of the Philippine Anthem to be sung in Filipino. "As far as I can remember, we sing the anthem in Pilipino," Dalipe said.


Section 36 of Republic Act No. 8491 – an Act prescribing the Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat of Arms and other Heraldic items and devices of the Philippines provides that "The National Anthem shall always be sung in the national language within or without the country.

Julian Felipe composed the music for the National Anthem. Lyrics were originally written in Spanish by Jose Palma. It was later translated into English by author Camilo Osias. This was later translated into Pilipino during the administration of then President Ramon Magsaysay.

This is the version that we all know and sing these days.

The Spanish version of the anthem was sung during the Revolution against Spain and the 1990's war against the United States of America. When the Americans won that war, they took over and colonized the Philippines, they forbade the singing of the anthem, but later on allowed the singing of the English Version during the Commonwealth period after the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

After the grant of Independence in 1946, the Filipinos continued to sing the English version of the anthem that begins with "Land of the morning, child of the sun returning, With fervor burning, thee do our souls adore…for us they sons to suffer and die. "

Councilor Jaime Cabato said that the anthem for him will be the English version because that was what he "learned in school." Filipinos within the age range of 60 and above will remember that the anthem was always sung in the English version until the time when President Ramon Magsaysay introduced the singing of the anthem in Pilipino.

Sometime in 1992 then Zamboanga Mayor Vitaliano Agan conducted a contest to translate the National Anthem from Pilipino to Chavacano. A winner was selected, but the city council did not enact an ordinance to enforce its singing because the Republic Act 8491 provides for only the Pilipino Version.


Dalipe said the unauthorized singing of the national anthem in what was claimed to be a Chavacano version could open the floodgates for other tribes in the country to sing their own anthem and disintegrate the republic.

On the other hand, City Hall Information Officer Sheila Covarrubias said "a research on the national anthem of the Philippines show that the hymn has been translated to several versions in different areas which are being used by the concerned local government units during special occasions."

Writing at the Zamboanga Today newspaper, Covarrubias said these "versions include the Aklanon, Bikol, Butuanon, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Manobo, Pangasian, Taosug and several other adaptations."

Zamboanga Chorale musical Director Virginia Angelina Constantinopla said that her group has been tapped to sing the doxology and the national anthem on two important occasions every year: Dia de Zamboanga and Fiesta Pilar. The mayor said that he gave no specific instruction on what they should sing but said he will support the chorale group.

Editor Frenchie Carreon of Zamboanga Today reported that she interviewed Gen. Yano who explained why he did not salute when the anthem in Chavacano was sung by the chorale.

"In her banner story titled "Yano: AFP, PN follow rule on proper flag salute," Carreon quoted Gen. Yano as saying: "It's a military rule not to salute when the anthem is sung by the audience or by a chorale."

"And we salute the Philippine Flag when the band plays the anthem, or nowadays, when an instrumental recording is played, "Carreon continued the quote.

At the Sangguniang Panlungsod, City Councilor Juan "Kim" Elago said that the office of the City Mayor should have first consulted the public or the city council before singing the national anthem in Chavacano during the program culminating the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival last Oct. 11.

Elago said that there is a law that provides that the Philippine National Anthem should be sang only in Pilipino.

"SECTION 50 of Republic Act 8491. Any person or juridical entity which violates any of the provisions of this Act shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not less than Five thousand pesos (P5,000) nor more than Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000), or by imprisonment for not more than one (1) year, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court: Provided, That for any second and additional offenses, both fine and imprisonment shall always be imposed: Provided, further, That in case the violation is committed by a juridical person, its President or Chief Executive Officer thereof shall be liable. "
"Not so," said Mayor Lobregat.

Although the mayor acknowledges the existence of Republic Act 8931 that prescribes the national anthem, He said this law is not the final arbiter in the case as argued by the Vice Mayor and Councilor Elago.


Mayor Lobregat cited Section 2, Article 16 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution that provides that "Congress may, by law, adopt a new name for the country, a national anthem, or a national seal, which shall all be truly reflective and symbolic of the ideals, history, and traditions of the people. Such law shall take effect only upon its ratification by the people in a national referendum.' Lobregat read this quote on television.

Ergo, the mayor argues that since "no plebiscite was held on the national anthem" there is nothing wrong with singing the Chavacano version of the Lupang Hinirang."

The law on the National Anthem was approved February 12, 1998 or 11 years after the ratification of the present constitution.

He also noted that if one would follow the original music of Julian Felipe written in a march tempo, those who sang or were responsible for the singing of the anthem in non-marching tempos should be liable for violation of the law.

And the mayor asked: In the case of the boxing bouts of Manny Pacquiao in the United States, who will file a case against the singers of the anthem there?

Last Monday, the city government employees lined up in front of city hall for the flag ceremony. They sang the Lupang Hinirang, - in the Pilipino version.

And since the mayor said that somebody must decide on the argument, he challenged the vice mayor to go to the National Historical Institute and file his complaint there.

Dalipe told the PNA, "I will refer the matter to MalacaƱang." (Felino M. Santos / PNA)

1 comment:

Bryce said...

A very interesting conflict, but this is very good coverage of the issue.

For more on the Chavacano language, be sure to check out Chavacano de Zamboanga wiki browser