Our ‘pasaway’ culture
Much has been said for and against Pacquiao fight last week, and I just wish to add the last word before we move on to the next big issue and forget about flag and anthem once again.’s pop rendition of our National Anthem before the
After the live telecast of the fight, the delayed version by Solar Sports aired on GMA-7 was edited to incorporate some commercials, thus Philippine Airlines flies twice while Nievera sings the altered anthem in the background.
Nievera started slowly, as reverently as one does “Ama Namin” believing, like devout churchgoers, that dragging the tune to a funeral dirge makes it more solemn. Then Nievera picked up speed to mark the historical marching tempo of the anthem, slowing down again towards the end, gathering momentum to belt out the last line where he missed a high note. This was not lost on the audience which wanted him out of the ring so the much-awaited fight could begin. After the anthem, for a split-second, the seal of the National Historical Institute was flashed on screen, with the words, “Approved by the National Historic (sic) Institute.” The use of the seal was unauthorized.
Claiming that the NHI approved the Nievera version of the anthem was a misrepresentation. It was a lie.
I spoke out to remind Nievera and others who want to copy or outdo him that the National Anthem is not an ordinary piece of music that can be arranged and sung according to the singer’s musical taste. Our anthem, by law, should be sung or played as close as possible to the original composed byin 1898. For the NHI to remain silent would have meant being remiss as implementing agency of the Flag Law.
To call public attention to the breach of the law is seen by some to be petty and kulang sa pansin. Now I am charged with going against freedom of expression and artistic license.
Without a Flag Law, there would be no issue here. But even the Cabinet secretary, instead of allowing the NHI to recommend as it so fit, spoke from a Malacañang perch and prejudged the issue in Nievera’s favor.
Two lawmakers declared the law outdated, thus encouraging more Nievera copycats. I am naïve to believe that we are a country of laws; if we do not agree with a law, we work for its repeal or amendment, but while it is in force we should not encourage people to flout it.
These lawmakers did not realize that the NHI has been following up amendments to the Flag Law since January that would allow a number of things: for example, the proper use of the flag or its representation on clothing and other objects. Our police and military have flags on their uniforms, so do our Olympic team. Will we make them liable under the law?
To nitpick a bit more, I should call attention to Nievera’s earpiece conspicuously displayed at the side of his face he prefers. Pasting the stylized flag on the earpiece was unlawful.
Worse, the flag was depicted the wrong way! While I agree that Pacquiao was fighting for his country and countrymen, it was not appropriate to display our flag the way it should be in times of war.
Ignorance of the law excuses no one, and everyone would accept a sincere apology. Nievera to-date has yet to do so. I was willing to give Nievera the benefit of the doubt because nobody knowingly disrespects our flag and anthem, but then Ryan Cayabyab, who was given a CD copy of the arrangement before the Pacquiao fight, had advised Nievera not to alter the anthem.
That Americans play and mangle their anthem is their business, not ours. That Americans burn their flag under the protection of free speech is their business, not ours. This is precisely the attitude that led lawmakers to draft RA 8491 which President Fidel V. Ramos signed into law at the height of the 1998 Philippine Centennial.
Pending amendments to the Flag Law, I plan to convene a meeting of deans of conservatories of music, composers, arrangers and recording artists to discuss and define the parameters of the playing and singing of the anthem. Then schools should be reminded to revive respect for flag, anthem and the nation these represent.
I know now what a bibingka feels like: roasted from below by those who want the Flag Law enforced, and roasted from above by others who disagree and insist that the NHI (actually the law) is opposed to artistic license. I will leave all this for the Office of the Solicitor General to act on.
Is respect for the flag and anthem irrelevant to our times? If it is considered petty to enforce a simple law, how do we expect others to follow greater, more difficult laws?
Two decades ago, James Fallows wrote about our “damaged culture” and reaped a whirlwind. We should update this to “pasaway culture” of our times.
Why do we have issues with authority and law? History gives us a hint: Rizal and Bonifacio went against Spanish laws and became heroes. Aguinaldo went against American laws and became a hero. Jose Abad Santos went against Japanese laws and became a hero. Today we are a free and independent nation, with Filipinos making laws for Filipinos who unfortunately have been historically conditioned to flout the law and hope to get away with it. Read the exchange on whether Nievera was right or wrong, and ask yourself why laws in this country are mere suggestions. Why can we not agree on how to best respect the symbols of the nation?
I should blame history for this confusion, but then maybe we should blame ourselves and our pasaway culture.