Sunday, November 7, 2010

The National Anthem

I have a difficult time explaining to some Filipinos why I write behind the Joe America nametag. It fundamentally comes down to my belief that the Philippine standard of free speech is considerably different than that found in America, and, as a visa holder, not a citizen, I am vulnerable to being tossed out of the country if I happen to run against the grain of some official with power based on some wayward utterance. Or even one that is intentionally offensive, for the sake of sparking a brain to think.

The clearest case in point is the Philippine view that the National Anthem MUST be sung in a militaristic march cadence. I was stunned when, oh, a year or so ago, Martin Nevera was required to apologize upon his return to the Philippines after having interpreted the National Anthem as something other than a march at a Paquiao fight. I personally found his rendition inspiring, and was proud to be living in the Philippines.

But Martin Nevera, a talented, globally recognized artist who did the Philippines proud with his rendition, apologized for doing this. If he has to bow, can you imagine how powerless I and my plastic visa card would be?

Somehow, my definition of patriotism differs from that of legislators. They view patriotism as militaristic, and they draw off from the National Anthem the stanzas referring to invaders and tyrants, not mindful that they, themselves, are tyrannical when they hold the only legitimate singing style for the Anthem is a march.

I draw off something different, sacrifice. Giving of one's life to the country. I see nothing that requires this be done in a military uniform. Indeed, I see the millions of working poor and OFW's as sacrificing their muscle, tears, life, and family to try to scrape out another plate of rice by fishing all night long or pedaling a pedicab all day. They are the backbone of this country. The legislators are perhaps not familiar with this kind of sacrifice.

My English translation of the first stanza reads:

Land of the morning

Child of the sun returning

With fever burning

Thee do our souls adore

Now that is plain beautiful, poetic, inspiring. Alas, I would sing it to a blues beat, with a touch of sadness and as much courage as I could get into the tune. I see no guns, no grenades, no uniforms, no saluting, no bowing to tyrants who say "sing it my way" or go home.

Patriotism is where the heart is, not where the gun is.

Freedom means not having to sing it "your way". I would sing it with my heart, loyal to the Philippines, true, willing to give my life to the Philippines. As I am, in my way.

Therein lies the reason I write behind the bushes.

The militaristic legislators, the people with power, don't get "heart" unless it rides on a bullet. How would they ever comprehend that an opinion that differs from theirs can also be patriotic?

Remind me again, what does the Anthem say about tyranny?


  1. JoeAm: You should read Pilipinas law Republic Act 8491 and it will scare the bejesus out of you. That burning a Pilipinas flag or stomping or spitting on one is illegal is, of course, there (and that is understandable). But these??? Pilipinas law says guys and gals walking around in their Ralph Lauren T-shirts with the American flag emblazoned on the front or on the sleeve? They can be arrested and jailed.

    Heck... any Pilipino or Pilipina walking around wearing a t-shirt or jacket or polo-shirt with a Pilipino Flag emblazoned on the front or on the sleeve can be arrested and jailed, too.

    But don't call Pilipinas in Pilipinas jingoistic. They are just paranoid.

  2. Hey... those jeepneys and buses with Pilipinas flag decals??? You guessed it... That artistic portrayal of an affinity for Pilipinas flag is illegal in Pilipinas.

  3. UPn. Sigh. It is paranoia, I agree. There are large minds and hearts, and there are small ones, and I see way too many small ones. There have been large ones in the past, so I know it is just a function of a few people with power trying to ram their Ego-bound idea of patriotism down the throats of the many.

    Only in states like Myanmar and North Korea does this work. It adds to the ridicule here, and I wish some people with big ideas would rise to the top and do away with this nonsense.

  4. Are you saying that anyone should break the law as long as they have good intentions?

    On a side note, I find it ironic that the people trying to show their patriotism by wearing the colors of the flag doesn't even know that what they are doing is punishable by law.

  5. I'm saying some laws need to be changed. Especially those that restrict free speech or allow taxation of books or in other ways limit, rather than encourage, creative expression.


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