Tweaking national anthem, flag will need people's vote: historian

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2018 10:53 AM | Updated as of Sep 21 2018 11:11 AM

MANILA - Changing a line in the national anthem as proposed by a legislator cannot be implemented without the ratification of the people through a vote, a historian said.

The Constitution provides that while the Congress may "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," it can only take effect upon a national referendum, said Xiao Chua, an author and academic from the De La Salle University.

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"Hindi magagalaw ang national anthem nang hindi ginagawa yung referendum kahit may batas," he told Bandila on DZMM Thursday evening.

(The national anthem could not be touched without the referendum even if a law is enacted.)

"Kung 'yan ay papalitan, bukas naman ako, pero kailangang hindi lang yung wika. Dapat may musicality ka d'yan at may batayan 'yan. Bumabalik ako kay Palma. Ang gumawa niyan, si Jose Palma, isa siya sa mga kawal nung laban natin sa mga Amerikano," he said.

(If that will be changed, and I am open to it, it should not be limited to the language. There's also the musicality and the basis, which I go back to Palma. Jose Palma authored that and he was among the soldiers who fought against the Americans.)

"Lupang Hinirang" was composed in 1898 by Julian Felipe. Its lyrics were written by Jose Palma a year later.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is seeking to tweak its lyrics to give it a more positive meaning. Instead of this line, which talks of the Filipinos' willingness to sacrifice their life for the nation in the face of oppression:

"Aming ligaya na 'pag may mang-aapi,
Ang mamatay nang dahil sa'yo"

Sotto prefers this line, which changes the final message with Filipinos' commitment to defending the country's independence:

"Aming ligaya na 'pag may mang-aapi,
Ang ipaglaban kalayaan mo"

Senators also discussed this week the possibility of adding a ninth ray to the sun in the national flag, as sought by Sen. Richard Gordon who argued that it is needed to represent Filipino Muslims who fought against the Spaniards.

Chua noted that Constitution, in Article 16 Section 1, did not specify that the sun should have 8 rays, but only said "The flag of the Philippines shall be red, white, and blue, with a sun and three stars, as consecrated and honored by the people and recognized by law."

He explained that it was a misconception that the rays symbolized the first 8 provinces that declared an uprising against Spanish colonizers.

Rather, it pertained to the provinces which were placed under martial law by the then-governor general, but which the people interpreted to be pockets of revolution.

"Nung narinig nila na may 8 probinsya na nag-martial law, akala ng mga tao na 8 probinsya yung nag-rebolusyon pero hindi. Hindi naman tayo gaya ngayon na alam natin lahat ng nangyayari sa mundo," he said.

(When they heard that 8 provinces were under martial law, they thought these provinces staged a revolution, but that's not it. They were not like us today who knows what's happening everywhere in the world.)

Chua said he could not yet name another country which hoped to change its national symbols, but it might have happened.

"Yun ay may sariling konteksto sa kanilang panahon. Kailangang makita natin na meron tayong konteksto at kailangang ito ay batay sa kasaysayan at batay sa katotohanan," he said.

(That has its own context in its time. We have to see that ours also has its own context and it has to be based on history and on truth.)

Asked if he thinks such moves would succeed, Chua said: "Sana hindi."

"Ipinaglaban ng mga bayani natin 'yang simbolo na 'yan. Maraming namatay sa digmaan na 'yan ang flag. Maraming namatay sa digmaan na 'yan ang kanilang inaawit na national anthem. Gusto ko na mag-stay 'yan."

(Our heroes fought for those symbols. Many died in battle under that flag, many died in battle singing that national anthem. I want those to stay.)