What’s Your National Anthem?

I was recently at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to watch the Phantom of the Opera with my family. It’s the first time this show was ever staged here in Manila in light of their 25th anniversary celebration, and we were so excited! We all dressed up for the night, not only because it is THE broadway musical to watch, but also because it was going to be at the CCP. Even the boys donned their long-sleeved button down shirts (which means this is not to be taken lightly). There’s something about being in the CCP that brings out the “cultured” in me. When in the halls of this old magnificent structure, one cannot deny a bit of pride in being Filipino. Maybe it’s just me. It’s old, yes, it can use a bit of updating here and there, but the beautiful architecture, the priceless art pieces of Manansala and Luz and other national artists, the hard wood interior design accents, the massive Capiz-shell chandeliers hanging in the main lobby, and the undeniable fact that it still is THE Cultural Center of the Philippines, does it for me. The place is awesome!

Just before the show started, we were all cued for the national anthem, and everyone naturally obliged. In this day and age, I can actually say this has become an expected response as soon as the drum roll at the start of the “Lupang Hinirang” is heard. About 25 years ago, this was not so true even if we were taught the drills in school (stand straight with our left hand down on the side and our right hand to our hearts) and actually sing with the correct words of the song. Maybe I was just too young back then to care. Today, we see this happening even in the movie theaters and concerts, and it makes me glad. Even young ones need not be prompted. We have come a long way.

However, there are sad exceptions to the rule and I experienced it that night at the show. Everyone stood up (some from texting, from FBing or tweeting, the others actually quit their cellphone game!) and we started to (or at least pretended to) sing, all except for this woman who was right in front of me. She remained in her seat hugging her designer purse while everyone, including her companions, struggled in our tight seats to stand upright, many of us with hands on our hearts and some bravely singing the high notes. I was shocked and totally offended! I’m so sorry but I had imagined in my mind to kick her… her… her seat, which was inches away from my killer shoes. I checked carefully and she was Filipino and I heard her speak Tagalog. But I had to quickly compose myself and remember that  I was inside the CCP and was supposed to be “cultured”. I tried so hard to ignore the insult that was right before me… I was so upset.

Why wouldn’t one be obliged to pay respects to a national anthem, even just for the sake of equalizing the level of the horizon in the room for the moment if not for respect? It doesn’t matter who you are, even if you’re not a Filipino. Even the foreigners know how to follow suit. We are in the Philippines!!! I can probably take someone who might “text” in the middle of the show (maybe), but there is no excuse for someone who insults the flag.

What does your national anthem mean to you? Is it just a song about a country? About a people? I believe our national anthem gives us our identity as a people, brings us home to our own country where we belong. We can care less about the national plant or the national animal if it happens to cross the street. But the national song should be in everyone’s heart. It is not a matter of preference!

If you don’t know your own national anthem, much less stand in respect of it, who’s anthem do you sing? Who are you?

“Stand up…. that’s all I ask of youuuu….”

DAAAA… DA DA DA DA DAAAA……. The chandelier! Look out!!!!


3 thoughts on “What’s Your National Anthem?

  1. Hi Anne,
    I agree with you in some respects that she was not respectful, but we live in societies that honour the freedom to believe and say what we wish. My point is that you do not know why she did not stand, there may have been a physical problem (not apparent) or an idealogical conflict. Here in Australia, we have learned to embrace out National Anthem (albeit without the hand over the heart routine, which I personally think is a bit over the top). But our flag is another matter. Our flag is a symbol for our Indigenous People, of oppression, disease and death; unfortunately these three things continue today for many of them, on the whole, their lives are not getting better. It is not hard to understand why a lot of Australians, white and black (and me included) feel no allegiance to this antiquated symbol of British colonialism. Would I burn it? No. Would I salute it? No.
    We need a flag that encompasses the many different peoples and places of this gorgeous country, one that everyone can feel proud of.
    Because of it’s uniqueness and beauty, our flora and fauna however, are something all Australians are passionate about!
    Cheers and respect,

    • Thank you, Jenn, for your very insightful comment. You are right, the woman may have had valid reasons and it would be wrong of me to judge. To be truthful, it caused me to judge myself more than her. It made me think about who I am and how I value the symbols that represent my country. I appreciate your comment because it opened my eyes even more. Our flag is a symbol of many things as yours. Many things to be proud of: our rich cultural heritage as a people, our vast natural resources, our close family ties, respect for the elderly, our eagerness to help, our hospitality to name a few. At the same time many things that we can be ashamed of: corruption, greed, oppression (oh yes), lust for power, mediocrity, colonial mentality are all I can think of now. If you check out what happens in our government any given day, it’s enough to make your stomach turn. However, there is no flag that represents a perfect country. If my love and respect for my flag is conditional, then I will only be part of the problem. This is the only flag I know is truly mine. This is the only country I can go home to unconditionally. If I won’t embrace it, what alternative will I have? Even if there’s a perfect country out there, I may not sing to its flag because it is not mine. But I will stand because I respect the people who own it, and I want them to respect mine, too. If I am blessed with a chance to visit your beautiful country, Australia, I shall stand when I hear your national anthem (ok I won’t put my hand to my heart!) because I am only a visitor. At the end of the day, it’s not so much that we believe or agree what these symbols represent. It’s all about respect. : )
      Thank you for your thoughts, Jenn. Blessings to you!
      P.S. By the way, have you tried our national fruit, the Philippine MANGO? Make sure you do if you get a chance. It will make you stand with your hand on your heart, I promise you! : D

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