The Philippine National Anthem
On September 23, 1943, the National Anthem and National Flag were declared official symbols by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 211. But the development of the Philippine national anthem into what it is today took several years.
It all began in 1898. In preparation for the Proclamation of Independence, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo asked musician Julian Felipe to compose a march befitting the occasion.
Felipe’s composition, titled Marcha Nacional Filipina, otherwise known as the Himno Nacional Filipino, was approved by Aguinaldo and other revolutionary leaders. On June 12, 1898, after the reading of the Proclamation, the band of San Francisco de Malabon played the march for the very first time as the Philippine flag was hoisted.
The national anthem remained without words until Jose Palma, a young poet-soldier thought of writing a poem to accompany the national anthem. The poem, entitled Filipinas, was published for the first time on September 3, 1899 in La Independencia, a revolutionary newspaper where Palma was a staff member. The score of Felipe’s march was published with the poem, Filipinas, as lyrics. The Philippine national anthem was finally complete with words and music.
The playing of the Philippine national anthem was prohibited during the beginnings of the American colonial period. However, the public singing of the national anthem was finally allowed in 1919. In the 1920s, the American colonial government commissioned the translation of the original Spanish lyrics into English, which was the medium of instruction at the time. Camilo Osias, a Filipino writer, and later a Senator, and A.L. Lane, an American, accomplished the task. It was officially adopted by the Philippine Commonwealth in 1934.
It was only during the time of President Ramon Magsaysay that the national anthem was officially sung in Filipino. The Filipino translation by Ildefonso Santos and Julian Cruz Balmaceda was officially proclaimed on May 26, 1956. Some revisions were still made in 1962, the product of which is the version which is now sung publicly.
Below are the lyrics of the three versions of the national anthem:
Sa dagat at bundok,
Ang kislap ng watawat mo’y
Lupa ng araw, ng luwalhati’t pagsinta,
(From Camilo Osias: Educator and Statesman
Zaide, Sonia Magbanua and Lugos, Modesta Grey (1997). The Philippine National Flag and Anthem. Quezon City: All Nations Pub.
Filway’s Philippine almanac (Centennial ed.) (1996). Quezon City: Filway Marketing.