Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Published by Manila Today

We grew up singing the Philippine national anthem; in fact we can only recite the beautiful prose of Lupang Hinirang if we quietly sing it. Today, when the use of LCD projectors is already common, we sing and watch the national anthem in schools, movie theaters, public halls, and government buildings. Aside from displaying the flag, a video must accompany the playing of the anthem to inspire the crowd. In many cases, the video also serves as the substitute flag.

The national anthem does not have an official music video. Whether we realize it or not, we are actually honoring the nation by watching a video interpretation of Lupang Hinirang. There is only one song but numerous video versions. However, it does not matter if the video is of poor or good quality, or whether it is made by a small or big production, or performed by amateurs or professionals. We always stand up to sing, listen, and watch the anthem. When we sing, we affirm our citizenship together with other Filipinos in the crowd; when we listen, we relive the founding moments of the Republic; and when we watch, we are bombarded with powerful images that condition our thinking about the nation’s past, the political situation today, and the challenges of nation-building.

But many do not recognize the propaganda value of the video since they assume that it is a simple rendition of a song about our glorious history. They will readily describe the video as patriotic and entertaining without being conscious of its ideological content. They often prefer to overlook the overt and covert meanings in the video; but it doesn’t mean the material has no impact on their thinking.

Thus, watching the video is always an act of politics. It’s either we accept and promote the narrative in the video, or reject and replace it through critical engagement.

There are several popular videos produced by mainstream media networks and government agencies which are available online. Their reach is significant since they are repeatedly shown in theaters, social activities, and free TV. Showbiz artists also played leading roles in these videos which make them extremely popular among the youth and the general public. Their influence will continue to grow since playing the national anthem has top billing in all public and private events across the country.

What is the message of these videos? Whose viewpoint is highlighted? How do they define the task of nation building?

History Lessons

Perhaps it’s inevitable that most of the videos will focus on our struggle for independence to represent the birth of the Philippine nation. After all, the national anthem was written during the revolution against Spanish colonialism. The young should be continually reminded that we became free because we fought hard for this right. The video produced by GMA-7 even included the 1986 Edsa uprising as a legacy of this radical tradition.

However, there are obvious gaps in presenting our history such as the lack of reference to the local struggles in many islands before 1872, or the defiance of our indigenous peoples. Viewers might also get the impression that history is made by great men instead of the great mass of people who are resisting and creating history at the same time.

But overall, the Lupang Hinirang videos are instructive in emphasizing the value of dissent in establishing our modern Republic.

Presidents

The role played by prominent individuals in shaping our history in the past century is exaggerated and distorted in the video produced by the PCSO, Office of the Press Secretary and Philippine Information Agency. The legacy of every president is identified by using keywords which are simplistic and even misleading. For example, the achievement of Marcos is “Infrastructure”. For students who often watch this clip in schools and movie theaters, they will be conditioned to believe that “Infrastructure” is the great legacy of Marcos and not the brutal Martial Law regime. Estrada is described as a “Centennial President” which is factual but his more important credential which the future generation should remember was his plunder case and eventual ouster from office.

Migration

Another problematic theme is the depiction of overseas migration as a natural phenomenon. This is evident in the station ID of GMA-7 and partly endorsed by the video produced by ABS-CBN. Since these videos also provided a historical narrative of the Philippines, the migration of Filipinos in the late 20th century might be interpreted as an acceptable evolution or indicator of progress in society.

Perhaps the intent of ABS-CBN is to show the strength of the Filipino identity by filming our kababayans singing Lupang Hinirang in San Francisco, Dubai, and New York. Indeed, it is not wrong to promote pride and nationalism, and we salute this initiative. But migration is presented without problematizing the issue. We see migrants in the video but not the sad history of migration and its troubling impact on the social fabric of our nation.

The GMA-7 video is an indirect endorsement of labor export. It showed images of POEA, passport, and overseas workers such as health workers, maritime personnel, hotel receptionists, and Middle East engineers. It echoes the state doctrine by calling these workers our modern heroes.

After fighting foreign invaders in the past, the Filipino today is working for foreigners. We should commend the representation if it is a critique of social policies (Walang Natira by Gloc-9) but it is a naïve acceptance and celebration of the globalization ideology. And this is supposed to be a video of our national anthem?

Continuing Resistance

Symbols are important to make the past relevant and motivate Filipinos to continue the fight for a better future. Unfortunately, the videos hardly evoke a new vision which could boost the movement for change in society. They make reference to radical episodes of our history but they do not link these to the current struggles of our people. The present is divorced from the past (with the exception of religion). There is no dreaming of the future. We see only symbols of the present that supposedly constitute modern society such as exotic beaches, idyllic farming villages, happy couples, smiling children, and hardworking migrant workers. We can’t also ignore how some of the videos were concluded by showing the SM Mall of Asia globe icon.

The Lupang Hinirang is a marching song of the revolution. It exhorts the people to fight for the motherland and to make sacrifices for the benefit of the community. Every time we sing it, we feel more patriotic. And every time we see the videos, we become more grateful to our heroes. But there is a disconnect between the radical verse of Lupang Hinirang and the contradictory images in the unofficial music videos of the anthem.

There is a proliferation of videos that pay tribute to Lupang Hinirang but many of them are simply reinforcing the official ideology of the state. Some are creatively endorsing a progressive culture but unwilling to break free from the fetters of the ruling system.

But the activist in me makes me optimistic that one of these days, we will be able to return the subversive in Lupang Hinirang. That aside from bayang magiliw, our people will easily recall that if there is a mang-aapi – both foreign and especially local, we are ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the nation. Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.

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