A small ‘correction’ reveals an important detail

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - June 1, 2014 - 12:00am

It started with a letter from CCP director Arsenio Lizaso about the authorship of the song Bayan Ko for which we  named the website www.bayanko.org.ph. It will  crowdsource opinions and suggestions for a new Constitution for the Philippines.  We had used a short paragraph from Wikipedia which said that Bayan Ko is the most popular patriotic song of the Philippines which was composed by Gen. Jose Alejandrino in Spanish.

Like Arsenio, I, too, presumed Bayan Ko was the poem-lyric written by Jose Corazon de Jesus and music by Constancio de Guzman.

That is also true with many Filipinos especially those who work and live abroad. We knew the version of the song that was revived during martial law. It became the theme song of the Edsa People Power revolution.

“The lyrics of the song we sing now come from the one written by J. Corazon de Jesus. The poem-lyrics was published and compiled in de Jesus’ book “Mga Dahong Ginto” in Malolos library and in Halimuyak (Katipunan ng mga Piling Tula ni Jose Corazon de Jesus, edited by Antonio B. Valeriano, 1979. “

He asked me to look into the Spanish version of the song written by General Jose Alejandrino.

It was published during the period of the US American occupation of the Philippines. It is included in the Wikipedia entry but I presumed all translations were the same. I immediately got a response from Orion Dumdum of the Correct Movement. He sent me the Spanish version written by Gen. Jose Alejandrino with some comments.

Nuestra Patria

Nuestra Patria Filipina,

cuya tierra es de oro y púrpura.

Tantos tesoros guarda en su lar

que tientan al hurtador.

Y es por eso que el anglosajón

con vil traición la subyuga,

Patria mía en prisión

sacúdete del traidor.

 Aún el ave libre en su volar,

llora cuando en la jaula está,

cuanto más nuestra Patria de amor

al verse sin paz ni dignidad.

Filipinas de mi corazón

tus hijos jamás permitirán

que así te robe

tu bienestar y libertad.

He said that he tried to translate it word for word and came up with the following.

Our Homeland

Our Philippine Homeland

Whose land is of Gold and Purple

So many treasures hidden under

that tempted the thief

And that is why the Anglo-Saxon

with vile treachery is subjugating it

My Homeland in prison

Free yourself from the traitor

 Even the free bird in its flight,

cries when it is in the cage,

how much more our beloved Homeland

to be without peace nor dignity

Philippines of my heart

Your children will never allow

that you be robbed just like that

of your well-being and your liberty

*      *      *

And here is the Jose Corazon de Jesus version :

Ang bayan kong Pilipinas,

Lupain ng ginto’t bulaklak.

Pag-ibig ang sa kaniyang palad

Nag-alay ng ganda’t dilag.

At sa kaniyang yumi at ganda,

Dayuhan ay nahalina.

Bayan ko, binihag ka,

Nasadlak sa dusa.


Ibon mang may layang lumipad,

kulungin mo at umiiyak!

Bayan pa kayang sakdal dilag,Ang ‘di magnasang makaalpas!

Pilipinas kong minumutya,

Pugad ng luha ko’t dalita,

Aking adhika,

Makita kang sakdal laya!

*      *      *


and in English:

My country, the Philippines,

Land of gold and flowers

With love in her palms

She offered beauty and splendour.

And for her refinement and beauty,

Foreigners were enticed.

Country mine, you were enslaved

Mired in suffering.


Even birds that are free to fly

Cage them and they shall cry,

How much more for country so beautiful

Would She not yearn to be free?

Philippines mine that I treasure,

Cradle of my tears and poverty,

My aspiration is,

To see you truly free!

*      *      *

The Spanish version written by Gen. Alejandrino is more historically accurate. It specifically accuses “the Anglo-Saxon with vile treachery is subjugating it. My homeland in prison, free yourself from the traitor. “ It is closer to the facts of history. In the Jose Corazon de Jesus version the Anglo-Saxon is referred to only as a dayuhan, a foreigner. “Dayuhan ay nahalina. Bayan ko, binihag ka, Nasadlak sa dusa.”

It makes all the difference.

Still, it is Constancio de Guzman’s stirring music that inspires Filipinos even without the words. No wonder there was a debate that went on for sometime why it should not be the national anthem.

The Jose Corazon de Jesus version became the theme song of the Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986. It is remembered because it was sung at the funeral of senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and again at the funeral of Cory Aquino, his widow who became the President after he was assassinated. Because Aquino was opposed to the Marcos martial law regime the song became a dissident’s song.

Every time it was sung while I was in exile, I asked the question why “dayuhan” when we were protesting against a local dictatorship. But then, having read Salvador Madariaga, the Spanish writer who said even our own countrymen can be colonizers. I let it be.

Still it does not answer why Jose Corazon de Jesus departed from the original song as written by Gen. Alejandrino. Both were written during the American occupation but Alejandrino’s was the original.

At first we were a bit wary about adopting Bayan Ko at this time when we are protesting another Aquino government whose ineptness has brought us much suffering.  But we quickly overrode objections. Bayan Ko is a protest song and will remain so whenever the country is in crisis and needs to rally its citizens.

But the difference between the Alejandrino and Jose Maria Corazon de Jesus versions also known as Huseng Batute was a revelation. What saves is the music of Constancio de Guzman that never fails to inspire whatever the words.

As long as we are conscious that Bayan Ko was a protest song since the American occupation rather than being for or against any person, we could use it without reservations.  Indeed, in hindsight, it is right that we sing it again in protest as long as we are fully conscious about how it was created in its original version.



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