Saturday, April 17, 2021

Altering the anthem and flag is a lousy idea

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“Aming ligaya na ‘pag may mang-aapi,
Ang mamatay nang dahil sa’yo”

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These are the last two stanzas of the Philippine National Anthem in the Filipino language. The official English translation reads:

“But it is glory ever, when thou art

wronged, For us, thy sons, to suffer and die.”

Those stirring words are a reminder to Filipinos of the sacrifice their forebears bore in the country’s history. And the ultimate sacrifice, according to the anthem, is to offer one’s life for one’s country.

That’s the accepted thinking.

But if Senate President Vicente Sotto III gets his way, the last stanza of the anthem should be changed.

According to Sotto, he wants to tweak the anthem’s ending to give it a more “positive meaning.”

He wants the last stanza changed from “Ang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo” to “Ang ipaglaban kalayaan mo.”

In an ABS-CBN news report, Sotto explained that he prefers the new line because it was a statement that reminds Filipinos of their commitment to defend the country’s independence.

The Senate President may have a point about his idea. However, he lost my interest when he explained that the present last stanza of the anthem sends a “defeatist” message.

“My suggestion is perhaps the proper Senate Committee should study and we can consult the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) to look at that possibility,” he was quoted as saying in the ABS-CBN report.

Sen. Richard Gordon /Photo by Roi Domingo

Matters were made worse when Senator Richard Gordon sided with Sotto.

Gordon, who’s also pushing to revive his old bill calling for the adding another ray in the national flag’s sun, may have agreed with Sotto in order to gain Sotto’s support.

Gordon, who refiled his old idea in Senate Bill 102, wants a ninth ray in the flag’s sun to represent Filipino Muslims who fought against the Spaniards.

He said the Muslims in Mindanao should be represented in the national flag.

“The more important thing is when we replace the rays of the sun there will be discussions in our country’s schools…reminding our people that we have a rich past,” Gordon was quoted as saying in news reports.

I call the points raised by these two senators crazy, outrageous and lousy.

I firmly disagree with the two of them.

First point, the Sotto proposal.

Ang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo” doesn’t smack of defeatism. Sotto is wrong about that. For me, and I know I am not alone in this, it’s a call and reminder to Filipinos to be ready to sacrifice one’s self for the country. In short, it’s a reminder in the anthem of putting country above self.

Senate President Vicente Sotto / Photo by Bullit Marquez)

This concept is best illustrated by the selfless sacrifice of Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos in the early days of the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines during World War II.

Abad Santos reminds me why we should retain the anthem’s last stanza.

His tale of sacrifice began when he became acting President of the Philippine Commonwealth when President Manuel L. Quezon escaped to the United States.

When Imperial Japanese officials demanded that Abad Santos collaborate with the invaders, Abad Santos refused.

The Japanese response to his refusal was swift. Abad Santos was executed. Abad Santos chose martrydom, literally choosing death instead of betraying his country.

Now let’s look once more at Sotto’s proposal.

When Sotto says the last stanza should be changed to reflect a more positive outlook, this belittles the sacrifice of Abad Santos.

If we agree with Sotto’s view that dying for one’s country is defeatist, that means we also agree that Abad Santos’ decision, was a wasted effort. Abad Santos, in effect, gave up on the country.

That’s why I disagree with Sotto’s suggestion.

Now for the second point, which is Gordon’s suggestion to add a ninth ray to the national flag’s sun.

Gordon’s idea is, at best, ill-informed. At worst, it would destroy the flag’s historical context.

Gordon is wrong when he claimed that Muslims or the Bangsamoro need to be represented in the flag.

Why do I say Gordon is wrong?

It’s simple really. All it takes is an actual appreciation of the symbols shown in the flag.

The main thing is this: Muslims are already included and represented in the national flag.

The flag has three stars, which represent Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The stars are not just symbols of geographical locations. Each star also represents each location’s peoples, cultures, religions and histories.

When Gordon claims his idea would make the flag more representative of the country’s history, he’s being misleading.

If we follow Gordon’s viewpoint, the Cordilleras should also be the 10th ray. And if the Bangsamoro gets their own ray, why shouldn’t the other tribes or provinces? Why isn’t Bohol represented?

Because the Cordilleras is represented in the Luzon star and Bohol in the Visayas star.

When Gordon says his idea would give the flag a richer historical meaning, he conveniently forgets the history represented in the flag.

The star in the flag wasn’t meant originally for the Visayas before. It used to just be Panay.

It was changed to Visayas to emphasize the idea of three geographical regions that represent each area’s unique history, culture and peoples. Yet though there are three, these three are united in one country.

I believe Gordon, who’s an Amboy, is distorting the flag’s symbols in order to ape the US practice of using its stars in their flag to represent their states. Their flag originally had 13 stars for the original 13 colonies. Now it has 50 stars for 50 states.

But that’s not how the Philippine flag’s symbols work.

Our flag’s rays refer to the eight provinces that the Spaniards placed under martial law at the onset of the revolution. The revolution broke out in other parts of the archipelago, too, not just those eight provinces. Yet there’s no clamor to include those provinces as additional rays.
Our flag traces its origin to the First Republic, born from that revolution at the end of the 19th century.

We are now on the Fifth Republic.
Yet those symbols have generally been consistent. Sun with eight rays. Three stars. Tricolor. One flag for one country.
As for which shade of blue the flag, that’s another story. G

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