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Lupang Hinirang

Lupang Hinirang
Ronald Roy
Over the weekend, Judith Farrow-Tan and I had an absorbing three-hour chat over lunch in her lovely veranda. Following is a synopsis of that conversation over the raging hullabaloo sparked by Martin Nievera’s rendition of our national anthem before the Pacquiao-Hatton brawl in Las Vegas last May 3.
The two halves’ tempo is a musical beat that guides you through such compositions as Mary Had a Little Lamb, the theme from the Bridge of the River Kwai, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Doe a Deer in Sound of Music, and our own Lupang Hinirang by Julian Felipe. It is a martial beat often favored for national anthems, especially as it evokes a people’s strength and valor during times of war.
And even in times of peace, it is the brass band’s choice for troops or cadets marching around the parade grounds. Can you imagine these machos waltzing along major avenues in three quarters’ time? Thus, Felipe must have chosen the two halves’ beat for Hinirang when 1898, the year he wrote the anthem, was a significant crossroads year in the Filipinos’ fight for independence, first against Spain, then against America.
Personally, I prefer the three quarters’ time for anthems. It is majestic, solemn, dignified and exalting. It is the beat of the national anthems of Great Britain and America. It is the beat I chose for the Law Asia Anthem, the words and music of which I wrote gratis et amore 16 years ago.
The law governing Lupang Hinirang is RA 8491, otherwise known as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines (1998). A pertinent provision thereof requires that “the rendition of the national anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe”.
What then is a musical arrangement? Let me use an analogy. Let us regard a young girl as God’s composition. If we dress her up for a barn dance with blue jeans, a matching blouse and sneakers, we are said to have “arranged” God’s composition. As a person, she exudes a constant inner personality. Her outer personality, on the other hand, varies in accordance with her choice of dresses.
The most beautiful deviation from Felipe’s original arrangement was executed by the Boston Pops when it performed here in Manila in the 60’s. The audience was caught unawares by such an outstanding innovation of the passage “may mang-aapi” that everybody rose to his feet and improperly applauded. Three decades later the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Redentor Romero would again play this version to everybody’s delight, and this arrangement has since remained a favorite. It is often played nowadays, and nobody has cried foul.
Among other purposes, an arrangement usually seeks to alter a composition in conformity with current pop trends. RA 8491 prohibits this in respect of the anthem, and correctly so. Thus, it will not allow Hinirang’s conversion to the rhythm of the bossa nova or the blues. Therefore, how much departure from the original Hinirang is permissible is a matter that must be addressed in resolving Nievera’s allegedly wrongful rendition.
We should not fault Nievera for his artistic and professional preferences in singing the anthem the way he did. He was in his element, and could not have sung it without the characteristic soul and heart that place him head and shoulders over his contemporaries in the pop scene.
The song’s tail-end phrase “and mamatay ng dahil sa’yo” is the main bone of contention because Nievera pushed the lyric ‘yo to a peak a whole octave higher than Felipe’s original. But his right to this option must be respected. To my mind, Nievera even purposely used that gloriously high note precisely to underscore a citizen’s noblest offer to die for his country. I find this the most brilliant and reverential portion of his entire rendition. Bravo, Martin Nievera!
Before Congress sends Nievera to the gallows, some legislators should admit guilt for using public funds to watch boxing fights abroad, and admit they sometimes don’t put their hands on their breasts when the anthem is being played. I did see two of them at ringside being remiss in this regard.
Incidentally Sen. Nene Pimentel’s suggestion that Martin Nievera be banned for a month from pursuing his professional commitments is as shocking as when he held the microphone to the usurping Gloria Arroyo when she took her oath of office in 1960. Pimentel forgets that Nievera’s crime, if at all it was one, was committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of our country. Hmm, the singer could yet have a field day suing hotels, publishing companies, recording studios and others in the music business for bridge of contract in protection of his legitimate activities. (Email: arnydolor@yahoo.com, cell # 09186449517, landline # (02)7106701)

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