The Explainer: The music of our past

 I. The music of our past: rough notes


Bonifacio Day brings with it an effort to remember, for a day, at least, our patriots. They are long-dead people from an era frozen only in black and white pictures, and to whom we seem to have no connection.

But an immediate connection exists, on a tangible way, through music. We love it now, the Filipinos of yesterday loved it too; to listen to what moved them, is to discover the capacity to moved by by them.

Whether it’s Karina David singing Rizal’s poetry,

1. Amor Patrio*          3:36     Inang Laya     


Or the Madrigal Singers also singing Rizal’s words,

2. Sa Magandang Silangan*     2:42     Madrigal Singers         Bayan Ko Aawitan Kita        


Our national hero’s words put to music come to life. Just as Andres Bonifacio’s “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa” is often performed as a haunting Kundiman.


There is one march, called Alerta Katipunan, which provides an example of a trait which must be ingrained, for you will see shades of this song in the next album I will discuss. This trait might be best described as musical subversion. Alerta Katipunan was originally a Spanish march; the Katipuneros adopted it as their own, adding their own lyrics. Our guests today will perform part of it.


3. Alerta Katipunan    2:23

4. Alerta Katipunan    1:40     Inang Laya      Alab


The Supremo himself commissioned Julio Nakpil to compose a national anthem. It was titled “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan.” But the hymn wasn’t fated to prosper. A division arose within the Katipunan; some felt it should give way to a formally-instituted revolutionary government. When the Supremo fell, the Katipunan was abolished and its national anthem along with it.

Emilio Aguinaldo commissioned a national march and it’s been our national anthem ever since. National Artist Anding Roces loves telling people, though, that our national anthem found its inspiration in three famous pieces of music.


The first is the Marcha Real, the Spanish national anthem which Filipinos prior to 1986 all knew:

5. Himno Nacional de España 1:01     Version LARGA Oficial tras Real Decreto de 1997  


That was the inspiration for the first part of our anthem. The middle part, according to Anding Roces, owes its origin to Verdi, who composed an opera for the opening of the Suez Canal, an event, incidentally, that made the later voyages of our ilustrados possible.

6. Aida: Grand March (Verdi)            3:38     Boston Pops Orchestra


And the final part of our anthem owes its origin to perhaps the most famous national anthem of all, that of France and its revolutionary anthem, La Marseillaise.


7. La Marseillaise        1:00     Leonard Bernstein; New York Philharmonic  Great Marches


8. Philippines  0:53


Our guests will also perform the “Kundiman of the Revolution,” titled Joselynang Baliuag…


9. Joselynang Baliuag  3:06     Madrigal Singers         Bayan Ko Aawitan Kita


But America was in a jingoistic fever. “Your furnish the picture, I’ll furnish the war,” the publisher William Random Hearst said, and John Philip Sousa was composing “Hands Across the Sea” to whip up enthusiasm for the Spanish-American War:

10. Hands Across the Sea*     2:52     John Philip Sousa


For American soldiers bent on conquest, their all-time favorite number was “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old town Tonight.”.

11. Hot Time in The Old Town Tonight        1:55     Jo Ann Castle

12. A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight   2:24     Leon Redbone

13. Ther’ll Be A Hot time In The Old Town Tonight            3:20     Bessie Smith


They  played it so often that in “In Our Image,” Stanley Karnow wrote that when American bands would play it, Filipinos would take off their hats thinking it was the American national anthem.


Eventually after banning all patriotic symbols until 1919, the Americans began to permit signs of patriotism. At first, they were simply American songs, like “Maryland, My Maryland,” but with a localized twist:


14. Philippines my Philippines*        1:54     Madrigal Singers         Bayan Ko Aawitan Kita


Or they were songs to idealize a childlike picture of little brown brothers, such as:


15. Magtanim Hindi Biro*      2:26     Mabuhay singers


If Katipuneros went off to war accompanied by bands, Filipinos went to the ballot box to the music of marches, too. One famous one was composed by a black American, Col. Walter Loving, but commissioned by a Filipino:

16. Marcha Collectivista         3:13

17. Marcha Colectivista          3:43     Kayumanggi    PULUTAN


That was the Marcha Collectivista and if you were around in 1922, you would have heard it played day in and out in plazas across the country. As we’ll later see, it would find a new lease on life during World War II.


But it would be wrong to think we found our music outlet only in martial songs. In 1937, the World Eucharistic Congress was held in Manila, and a hymn much beloved by an older generation of Filipino Catholics was composed for the occasion:


18. No Mas Amor Que El Tu Yo*     2:25     Robert Sena     Deep inside my heart: Cardinal Sin


“No Mas Amor Que El Tu Yo” is the granddaddy of other cherished hymns, such as those composed for the Second Plenary Council of Manila and the visits of Pope John Paul II.


And the 1930s was a time for other national-oriented songs. We all know Tirso Cruz III, but older Filipinos would have known his grandfather, the band leader Tirso Cruz, Sr. who composed:

19. Mabuhay  1:03


Meant to be the presidential anthem, our very own “Hail to the Chief,” it’s proven so popular that school and municipal bands play for any dignitary who shows up.


World War II would bring its songs, from shores near and far. You’ve seen the movie “Pearl Harbor,” where the character played by Cuba Gooding, Jr. abandons his duties and grabs a machine gun. That was a true story and what the cook said, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!” became a hit song in the early days of the war:

20. Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition*     2:35     Kay Kayser    Remember The Fabulous 40’s


But for us Filipinos, there would be Bataan, Corregidor, and the Death March. In the video documentary version of “In Our Image,” an American veteran recounted that as he and his comrades marched in the hot sun, he kept morale up during the Death March with a battered old harmonica and this familiar tune:


21. Planting Rice March         2:52     Malabon Brass Band


But from 1942 to 1945 occupation was the name of the game. Music was composed to welcome the Japanese to Manila, declared an Open City:


22. Open City March*           2:57     Malabon Brass Band


And a generation of Filipinos grew up having memories of being forced to bow as this was played every morning:


23. Kimigayo*            1:04


That was Kimigayo, the Japanese national anthem.


Music, as we’ve seen, can be as much a means for resistance as it is an expression of welcome. In his memoirs, Tony Molina recounted that as people watched the inauguration of what they considered the Puppet Republic under Jose P. Laurel, the crowd only perked up when one band marched by the reviewing stand, bristling with Japanese officials, and played this:

24. The Stars and Stripes Forever*    3:41     The United States Air Force Band     Esprit de Corps


The reason? That’s one of the most famous American marches, ever: “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Molina says that was the only time the audience ever cheered.


Remember how the Katipuneros took a Spanish march and made it their own? And Remember the Marcha Collectivista from 1922? Well, in the hills and mountains Filipinos resisted the Japanese –our famous and brave guerrillas. One group of guerrillas, took the old prewar Collectivista March and made it their own. They were the Hukbalahap, and this is what they sang:

25. Sulong Gerilyero   2:41     Inang Laya      Alab


The 1950s kept the march alive. A musically-gifted Atenean named Raul Manglapus composed one, in honor of the candidacy of Ramon Magsaysay:


26. We_Want_Magsaysay     3:18


But Manglapus and Magsaysay both would gain fame for the first modern political jingle, utilizing the beat that was taking Manila by storm: the Mambo. I have an old Perez Prado record at home, and in the liner notes it says a President of the Philippines complained that the Mambo was “a national calamity.”


And no wonder. That President was Elpidio Quirino and in 1953, he was up against Magsaysay and found the youth singing this song:


27. Mambo Magsaysay          2:21

28. Mambo_Magsaysay_Ilocano       2:39


The Mambo Craze lasted a full decade. Everyone, it seemed, had to have a political mambo. Competing Manila mayoralty candidates had theirs:


Arsenio Lacson had:

29. Lacson Mambo     2:58


And mayor de la Fuente had his:

30. de la Fuente Mambo         3:12


Disc 2


The 1960s saw the Cultural Revolution in China, and young Filipinos turned away from the West and faced East. Just as a generation of young people in China found inspiration in the East is Red,


1. The East is Red*     19:42


A new generation of activists turned to socialism as a solution to the nation’s ills. One song they sang on the streets and in teach-ins dated to the 19th Century, the Communist anthem, The Internationale:

2. Internationale (french)*      1:05     Pottier/de Geyter


What students sang, during the First Quarter Storm, was this:

3. Internasyonal*        2:27     KDP    Bangon! Arise!

4. Internationale-Filipino        2:27


But theirs was to be an ill-fated effort; and martial law and the New Society found its musical manifestation in music more suitable to the wartime, pomaded generation of Ferdinand Marcos. The anthem of the New Society was “Bagong Pagsilang,” a portion of which our guests will perform :


5. Bagong Pagsilang     2:19

6. National_Anthem_1972     0:46


There, was, too, the Bagong Lipunan March, by the same composer as the Open City March:

7. Bagong Lipunan March*    2:48     Malabon Brass Band

And the Marcos era, it seemed, couldn’t have enough of marches. The most ironic example is the march chosen by Nasutra, the national sugar authority headed by a Marcos crony. Its TV ads had this:


8. Der Koniggratzer*  2:31     Luftwaffenmusikkorps 3        Deutsche Traditionsmaersche


Which is, “Der Koniggratzer,” a German military march, and incidentally, Adolf Hitler’s personal favorite.


Once again, in the 1980s, we turned both West –remember “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree”? And to songs from our past.


“Bayan Ko” had been composed in the 1920s, and sung in the 1970s, but it was rearranged after 1983, incorporating part of this:


9. Philippines my Philippines*          1:54     Madrigal Singers         Bayan Ko Aawitan Kita


And so, what we had was the famous version by Freddie Aguilar:


10. Ang Bayan Ko*    6:31     KDP    Bangon! Arise!            World

11. Bayan Ko*            3:31     Freddie Aguilar


In the end, we have borrowed songs, adopted and adapted them, been influenced by music from East and West, and always, made it our own. So that, in just one recent example, this stirring hymn,


12. Battle Hymn Of The Republic*   3:40                 USMC Choir


Was sung –and continues to be sung- with new lyrics that we would get into trouble to mention.


IV. My view


I’d like to recommend these albums to you,  our viewers:


Mga Awit ng Himagsikan: Songs of the Philippine Revolution1896-1898, Volume 1 is produced by Tawid Audio; available in cassette (Php. 108) and CD (Php. 360) from the Filipinas Heritage Library (at the old Nielsen Tower), Ugarte Field, Makati City. Tel. 892-1801.


Sunico’s ouvre is a monument to the past, and perfect for lovers of classical and traditional Filipino music. The album in itself represents a tremendous achievement: rescuing the songs -the soul, so to speak- of a vanished generation from obscurity, bringing them to life for the appreciation of we, the people.


There’s also


Alab 1896-1996: Alay sa Laya ng Bayan by Inang Laya is produced by Hasik (a pro-urban poor NGO); available in double cassette (Php 200) and CD (Php 360) from Hasik, 9 Don Rafael St., Don Enrique Heights, Commonwealth Ave. Q.C. Tel. 931-4335. Inang Laya consisted of Rebecca Demetillo-Abraham (vocals) and Karina Constantino-David (guitar), who happenss to be the daughter of stern nationalist Renato Constantino and wife of stern nationalist-social scientist Randy David. She’s our Commissioner for the Civil Service. The goal of the two women in recording their album was to demonstrate the continuing struggle for freedom and pay homage to the patriots of 1896 -as well as those who continued to fight for freedom throughout the dark 20th century.


And while this never made it to CD, I have a soft spot in my heart for a musical that in my opinion, puts Les Miserables to shame. It’s

1896: The Musicale is produced by PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) may still be available in double cassette (Php 200) from Peta, 61 Lantana St., Cubao, Q.C. Tel. 410-0819 or 410-0821. That music was, to me, one of the highlights of our centennial celebrations.



Manuel L. Quezon III.

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