MANILA, Philippines -- Soon after Manny Pacquiao demolished Mexican legend Erik Morales in three rounds in their November 2006 fight in Las Vegas, councilors of Davao City raised a howl over Sarah Geronimo?s rendition of the National Anthem just before the fight began.
Councilor Nilo Abellera said Geronimo?s slow, ?kundiman-like? interpretation was a bastardization of the national song. He filed a resolution reminding the people of Davao how the anthem should be sung.
What is the proper way of singing the anthem?
According to Ambeth Ocampo, chair of the National Historical Institute (NHI), guidelines on how the anthem should be sung are enshrined in the law.
Section 37 of Republic Act No. 8491 (An Act Prescribing the Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat of Arms, and other Heraldic Items and Devices of the Philippines) -- passed in 1998, the year of the Philippine centennia -- says the ?rendition of the National Anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.?
Felipe is the Cavite composer that President Emilio Aguinaldo commissioned on June 5, 1898 to prepare a composition which would be played during Independence ceremonies.
Originally titled Marcha Filipina Magdalo, the composition was adopted as the official march of the Philippines.
The anthem remained without words until August 1899, when a young poet-soldier named Jose Palma wrote the poem, Filipinas, which became the anthem?s lyrics.
Ocampo said that the anthem, when played, ?must carry a brisk martial tone and tempo.?
Teodoro Atienza, heraldry section head of the NHI?s Research, Publications and Heraldry Division, said that when sung ?at the proper pace,? the national anthem should last from only ?53 seconds to less than a minute.?
But national anthem boo-boos still abound.
Aside from Geronimo, singers Lani Misalucha, who sang in the first Pacquiao-Morales bout on March 19, 2005, and Bituin Escalante (July 2, 2006, Pacquiao vs. Larios at the Araneta Coliseum), also took vocal liberties in their renditions of the National Anthem.
Jennifer Bautista, who sang in the Pacquiao-Morales rematch on Jan. 21, 2006, went off-key on the song?s last word.
At the Sept. 16, 2007 match between reigning world bantamweight champion Gerry Peñalosa and North American Boxing Federation bantamweight champion Bernabe Concepcion in Alabang, Christian Bautista delivered an abbreviated version of the song when he missed the lines, "Buhay ay langit sa piling mo / Aming ligaya na ?pag may mang-aapi. [In thine embrace ?tis rapture to lie/But it is glory ever, when thou art wronged]"
Bautista apologized for the ?memory lapse.?
Pacquiao has chosen Kyla to sing the national anthem in his Oct. 6 rematch with Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Atienza said the Institute had spoken to the GMA network to remind Kyla about the proper way of singing the national song.
Singers who do not follow the rules can be fined P50,000 or be imprisoned for a year, or both, he said.
?But our lawyer says we can?t go after the singers because they sing abroad,? Atienza said. ?Of course, that doesn?t mean they should forget their obligation to their country and their people.?