A National Motto

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto -

Vendors selling Philippine flags in various sizes reminded me that June 12 is approaching. For a lot of us, it just means a shorter workweek. Maybe nobody really contemplates the meaning of a holiday the way my Labor Law professor said people should.

The Christian Bautista (forgotten lyrics) and Martin Nievera (wrong beat) fiascos over the singing of the National Anthem raised a lot of discussions and brought a little-known law to the public’s attention. Republic Act No. 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines prescribes the proper way to display the Philippine flag and to sing the Lupang Hinirang. It also prescribes penalties for failure or refusal to observe the provisions of the law.

The law was approved in 1998 and prohibits, among others, the display of the Philippine flag in discotheques, cockpits, night and day clubs, casinos, gambling joints and “places of vice or where frivolity prevails.” Printing, painting or attaching the representation of the flag on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions, and other articles of merchandise are also prohibited.

I only read the law because I was curious about the penalties that different people were threatening Martin Nievera with. Reading the law allowed me to discover that we actually have a National Motto: “MAKA-DIYOS, MAKA-TAO, MAKAKALIKASAN AT MAKABANSA.”  

A motto is supposed to be a principle we live by. A National Motto, I suppose, contains the essence of our duties as Filipino citizens. How come nobody objects violently when these values are not observed?

It could be that most of us don’t know that we have a National Motto. Those who do probably have not taken the time to contemplate these values and how they apply to us in everyday life. “Maka-Diyos,” for example, is sometimes interpreted as simply being religious. I watch showbiz talk shows. In one episode, a woman accused of stealing an actress’s husband denied the charge while she held a rosary. She also had a statue of the Virgin Mary behind her. Convicted rapists and persons embroiled in all sorts of scandals have done the same. Religious symbols have become nothing more than props to gain public sympathy.

 “Maka-tao,” I guess, is about empathizing with other people. I like to think that most Filipinos are kind and helpful and I’m happy when I hear about good deeds. A friend left important papers at a mall in Singapore and these were returned by a Filipina who found them. 

“Makakalikasan” is the battle cry of a lot of politicians who noisily proclaim their support for the environment. What I want to know is if they are willing to repeal mining laws which allow miners to cut timber, use the water, and even enter privately-owned properties in areas where they have been granted mineral rights. They are also allowed to build roads leading to mining sites, cutting down forests in the process.   

“Makabansa” seems to be the most abused word. Even coup-plotters claim to be committing their criminal acts for the country. Maybe we have to realize that little acts show love of country as well. I once got so surprised when I went to a government agency to obtain a certified copy of a document. Someone asked me if I wanted a paper clip. I did not know what the person was talking about until I saw money being attached to the document request forms as they were given to the persons in charge. Everyone in the room acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Arguing about national symbols is a useful springboard for discussions about what being a Filipino citizen means. The consequence of Martin Nievera’s over-the-top singing of the National Anthem has been debated upon. On June 12, I hope that we take a little time to think about the meaning of Independence Day before we hit the malls and contribute to the statistics of holiday economics.











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