Bayan Ko (My Country), the Unofficial National Anthem of the Philippines

With all the coverage on President Cory Aquino’s funeral on Wednesday (Tuesday in US), I could not help but feel empowered after such a sad event. Even in death, President Aquino continues to be a symbol of hope and pride to the Philippines. Aquino’s presidency was one that was often criticized and compared to Emperor Pu Yi, in the film the Last Emperor (who was just a child and inexperienced in a leadership position) by many of the Pinoys I know. However, no one can deny the fact that Aquino was a “mother” to the Philippines which can be seen with the millions of people possibly even more who paid their last respects to a great woman raising the “L” or “Laban” (fight) sign reminiscent of the rallies and demonstrations during the dying years of the Marcos regime. What stood out for me during the televised funeral service of President Aquino was Lea Salonga’s performance of Bayan Ko (My Country) which is the unofficial national anthem of the Philippines.

HISTORY OF BAYAN KO

It was originally written as a poem by José Corazón de Jesús in 1929, and set to music by Constancio de Guzman. It is one of the most popular and recognizable patriotic songs of the Philippines. Written as a protest song during the American occupation of the Philippines, Bayan Ko is often sung in protest rallies and demonstrations throughout Philippine history, notably during the funeral of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. and the ensuing People Power Revolution where Freddie Aguilar led the crowd to sing the song’s chorus.

Lyrics:

Ang bayan kong Pilipinas,
Lupain ng gintó’t bulaklák.
Pag-ibig ang sa kanyáng palad
Nag-alay ng gandá’t dilág.
At sa kanyáng yumi at gandá,
Dayuhan ay nahalina.
Bayan ko, binihag ka,
Nasadlák sa dusa.

(Philippines, my country, my homeland
Gold and flowers in her heart abound
Blessings on her fate did love bestow
Sweet beauty’s grace and splendor’s glow.
How her charms so kind and tender
Drove the stranger to desire her…
Land of mine, in fetters kept,
You suffered as we wept.)

Koro (Chorus):

Ibon mang may layang lumipád,
kulungín mo at umíiyák!
Bayan pa kayáng sakdál dilág,
Ang ‘dî magnasang makáalpás!
Pilipinas kong minumutyâ,
Pugad ng luhà ko’t dálitâ,
Aking adhikâ,
Makita kang sakdál laya!

(Birds that freely claim the skies to fly
When imprisoned mourn, protest and cry!
How more deeply will a land most fair
Yearn to break the chains of sad despair.
Philippines, my life’s sole burning fire,
Cradle of my tears, my misery…
All that I desire
To see you rise, forever free!)

Sources: Lea Salonga’s ‘Bayan Ko’ rendition brings mourners back to EDSA ’86 & Culture and customs of the Philippines

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