The Philippine National Anthem: Historical Notes

The Philippine National Anthem is a product of revolution, a response to the need of the revolutionary times that gave birth to it. And this need arose in 1898, when the revolution against Spain was in its second year and a Filipino victory was in sight.

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo astutely recognised the need for national symbols to rally the nation against the enemy. On June 5, 1898, he commissioned Julian Felipe, a Cavite pianist and composer, to work on a mark for the revolutionists. Felipe worked on the assignment for six days and on June 11, sitting in front of a piano in the Aguinaldo living room room, played his music before the presidente and his lieutenants. Named by Felipe the Marcha Filipino Magdalo (after Aguinaldo’s nom de guerre and his faction in the Katipunan), the music was adopted on the spot and renamed the Marcha Nacional Filipina (Philippine National March).

The national anthem was heard publicly for the first time on June 12, 1898, when, standing on the balcony of his Kawit mansion, Aguinaldo proclaimed Asia’s first independent republic before a cheering throng. Two rallying symbols were presented to the infant nation that day. Also displayed for the first time was the national flag, unfurled to the stirring strains of the marcha nacional played by the band of Sand Francisco de Malabon (now Heneral Trias) whose members had learned the music the day before.

But still without words, Felipe’s music was simply a march. It could not be sung. The need for lyrics was just as great as there was for the music. In December 1898, the Philippines was ceded by Spain to the United States of America in the Treaty of Paris. Having thrown off Spanish rule, the Filipinos found themselves under new colonial masters, the Americans. In February of 1899, the Filipino-American War erupted.

The defiant lyrics to match the stirring strains of Felipe were supplied by Jose Palma, a 23-year old soldier who was as adept with the pen as he was with the sword. He wrote a poem entitled “Filipinas” and this was wed to the Felipe composition. The anthem was readily taken by the young nation at war. But on March 23, 1901, the war with America ground to a halt with the capture of Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela.

The first half of the century were years of humiliation for the Filipinos and their anthem. The American administrators discouraged the singing of English and Tagalog translations.

In 1956, a new version penned by the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (Institute of National Language) was adopted. That version is now the current official Filipino lyrics sung all over the country and given wider propagation through radio, television and cinema.
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*** Article first published on emanila in June 1998.

Comments

  1. Team EmanilaTeam Emanila says

    @ secret – Alam natin na ang Kasaysayan ay History at tayo ay mga Filipino. Pakilinaw lang kung alin ang tinutukoy mo sa iyong komento.

  2. Miguel T. Mendiola, Jr. says

    I take issue with the paragraph, “The first half of the century were years of humiliation for the Filipinos and their anthem. The American administrators discouraged the singing the English and Tagalog versions.” During the Commonwealth years, I was in school at that time, we sang both the Philippine and U.S. National Anthems during flag raising ceremonies when both flags were raised.

  3. Team EmanilaTeam Emanila says

    Mr Mendiola

    The article you referred to has been part of the archives of the Philippine Centennial Commission which was re-printed from the website we created for the Commission’s Sydney unit as part of the Centennial celebration of Philippine Independence.

    We will forward your comments to the Philippine Consulate General in Sydney.

    Salamat po sa inyong pagpuna.

  4. aky alcasid says

    “The first half of the century were years of humiliation for the Filipinos and their anthem. The American administrators discouraged the singing of English and Tagalog translations.”

    so this statement refers to the commonwealth era which was from 1901 to 1941?

    “To crush this spirit, or at least to contain any expression of nationalism, the Americans found it necessary to pass the Sedition Law of 1901, the Brigandage Act of 1902 and the Flag Law of 1907.”

    “The Flag Law prohibited the display of the Philippine Flag from 1907 to 1919.”

    as well as singing the anthem perhaps?

    Mr. Mendiola must have been born after 1919 :D

    quoted from Identity and Consciousness: The Philippine Experience (Constantino. 1974:34)

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