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High Blood

How an ‘anthem-changer’ got away with it

04:09 AM November 28, 2011

Young Filipino-Canadian singer Maria Aragon sought the advice of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) before stepping up for the musical front act at the recent Pacquiao-Marquez bout.

So she did fairly well. The Philippine National Anthem rang out stirringly correct.

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Others before her—Sarah Geronimo, Lani Misalucha, Ciara Sotto, Martin Nievera—did the mandatory curtain-raiser in past Pacquiao matches, but they didn’t rate official approval. In particular, Nievera’s enthusiastic effort. Why?

The vocal rendition was good, the pitch right, the interpretation deeply emoted, befitting the anthem’s rousing theme. But—and this is a somewhat debatable fact—the previous singers’ efforts failed, according the NCHP appraisal, because their style, attuned to soulful projection, de rigueur in the entertainment theater, somewhat struck a “wrong” note.

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This recent development prompted this writer to recall how one man “toyed” with the National Anthem once upon a dangerous time in the 1940s and got away with it. His account, as he narrated it then, might hopefully tweak patriotic sentiments, especially now that ongoing events call for its resurgence.

As Prof. Felipe Padilla de Leon remembers the incident: His gambit started on Nov. 25, 1942, when the Occupation forces paid him a visit at his home on Vergara Street in Quiapo. He was told that he had been singled out by some Filipino businessmen to compose the music for one Catalino S. Dionisio whose poem won in a nationwide contest. The contest had been launched for the purpose of introducing another national anthem to replace the original one which had by then become anathema to the Occupation forces.

The idea of supplanting the National Anthem, even with his own composition, was abhorrent to De Leon. But remembering how the Occupation hierarchy nearly knocked him over for daring on one occasion to incorporate a fragment of the National Anthem in the play he and Clodualdo del Mundo were directing at the Palace Theater, the professor decided to hold his peace.

He saw in the offer to write a “new” anthem a chance to make use of the forbidden piece. How?

By the simple expedient of melodic reversions and rhythmic variations of the same work-theme and germ-motive, he said, recalling the incident to this writer amusedly, on one occasion 40 decades ago.

In other words, the “Tindig” march or what later became officially known as “Awit sa Paglikha ng Bagong Pilipinas” (Song for the Creation of the New Philippines) was the National Anthem in spirit worked in almost all sections and phrases of the “new” music. The melodic pattern of the third part of the Philippine Anthem, revealed Professor De Leon, chuckling amusedly, is clearly evident in the eight-bar introduction of the “Tindig” march.

Also, the opening phrase of “Tindig” is premised along the commencing phrase of our National Anthem. The same ingenious incorporation will be noted throughout the piece.

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But the Occupation forces were not aware of this, said De Leon.

“At first I thought they were,” he said ruefully, “because right after I had played the piece for them, they remained silent.” It was a suspenseful moment and I was never so scared. Then they reacted with handclaps and shouts of approval, and I knew that my musical ruse had succeeded.”

This writer now recalls this episode in the context of today’s seeming detachment of the Filipino from the need to assert his true nationhood.

By his copycat espousal of many things foreign, alien to his culture, particularly in fashion, music choices, social gimmickry, cheeky chika, names and nicknames na hindi naman bagay, today’s Filipino has become, sadly, a clueless flotsam in the international sea.

Gloria Garchitorena-Goloy, 84, is a poet and former associate editor of the pre-martial law Sunday Times Magazine (STM). She has published three collections, one of her poems, and the other two of her sports essays and articles on various subjects in STM and other publications. She is working on a fourth, featuring articles from the Paco Parish Sentinel, the newsletter of the Parish of San Fernando de Dilao, which she used to edit. Besides current events, she is a keen follower of sports news.

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TAGS: Maria Aragon, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, NHCP, Pacquiao-Marquez Fight, Philippine National Anthem
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