‘Les Misérables’ as historical revisionism | Inquirer Opinion
Sisyphus’ Lament

‘Les Misérables’ as historical revisionism

/ 05:09 AM September 25, 2017

SINGAPORE — “Di Niyo Ba Naririnig?” is a work of haunting beauty. Eunikkoh Castillo recorded the first rendition on the eve of last Sept. 21’s protests, wearing a plain white T-shirt against a black backdrop, looking straight while lit from his left. Its even, martial cadence evoked pain, anger and dignified hope.

Castillo found Palanca awardee Vincent De Jesus’ translation on Facebook. The translation soon went viral. It was performed on a Luneta stage 24 hours later, hashtag #LunetaRally #NeverAgain #ManlabanTayo. Castillo’s Facebook video is Radio Veritas’ evolution.


“Do You Hear The People Sing?” is on fleek in Southeast Asia. Protesters in Thailand sang the Thai version in 2014, fingers raised in the “Hunger Games” salute. The Cantonese version buoyed Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution,” alongside Cantopop ballad “Hoi Fut Tin Hung” (“Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies”).

The story is so uplifting that no one thought to ask what cultural bankruptcy possessed us to elevate a French musical to a martial law anniversary’s centerpiece, no matter how intertwined it is with Lea Salonga.


Claude-Michel Schönberg’s “Les Misérables” premiered in Paris in 1980. In great contrast, “Bayan Ko” (“My Country”) is a distinctly Filipino kundiman from the American occupation. The original Spanish lyrics are attributed to José Alejandrino, a revolutionary general, senator and friend of Antonio Luna. Poet José Corazón de Jesús (Huseng Batute) wrote the Tagalog lyrics in 1928.

Freddie Aguilar rearranged the song for martial law in 1978. It was soon banned as seditious. It defined Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.’s funeral in 1983 and the Edsa Revolution in 1986.

Salonga led a new generation in singing “Bayan Ko” at President Corazon “Cory” Aquino’s funeral in 2009, amidst the widespread corruption allegations that defined the 2010 elections.

Jim Paredes wrote “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” (“Gift of the Filipinos to the World”) in three minutes in 1986. A “supergroup” led by the APO Hiking Society, Kuh Ledesma, Celeste Legaspi and Edru Abraham recorded it, in a seeming nod to “We are the World” led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

It was reinterpreted 25 years later by a supergroup led by Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera. Its lyrics remain inscribed on an Edsa Shrine wall, underneath the
giant bronze Virgin Mary.

Paredes uploaded director Mike de Leon’s 1986 music video to YouTube in 2007. I grew up with its scenes of ralliers pushing against tanks and the supergroup’s ’80s haircuts.

The list goes on. Sarah Geronimo and Regine Velasquez likewise reinterpreted Sen. Tito Sotto’s “Magkaisa” (“Unify”) in 2009 and 2011, respectively.


Why not reboot the battle hymns of 1986 ftw, the way Jerrold Tarog and Fernando Ortigas retold “Heneral Luna” for the struggles of a new century? Why decline to harness the raw power of history?

Today’s historical revisionism goes beyond rehabilitating Ferdinand Marcos. Why do rallies tacitly bypass the Edsa Shrine for Rizal Park and the University of the Philippines? Why has black spontaneously replaced yellow? Why have witty placards replaced the Laban sign?

Why do we emphasize young martyrs Edgar Jopson, Archimedes Trajano, Lean Alejandro and Liliosa Hilao, but unconsciously edit out Ninoy, Cory and the nuns from Edsa’s front ranks?

Yes, today’s youth kennat bitter old people accusing them of forgetting events from before they were born — don’t me. Yes,
Edsa was allegedly politicized, such that “dilawan” is a political epithet. Yes, the Catholic Church lost all credibility after its vicious anti-Reproductive Health Act campaign.

But why we are so shookt by obliviation of the Marcos dictatorship, yet unwoke and complicit when robbing ourselves of our history’s most poignant symbols, down to the great anthems of 1986?

Let us hope that the flower of our youth will never need to draw on Harry Potter, Jyn Erso and Katniss Everdeen for patriotic fervor. In our country’s darkest hours, let the words of courage on our lips be drawn from our own culture, our own history, our own hearts, our own minds.

React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: ‘les miserables’, Bayan Ko, Di Niyo Ba Naririnig, Eunikkoh Castillo, Freddie Aguilar, Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo, historical revisionism, Jim Paredes, Oscar Franklin Tan, Sisyphus’ Lament
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Fearless views on the news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2022 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.