Maligayang Kaarawan ng Paglaya!

Maligayang Kaarawan ng Paglaya!
(Happy Philippine Independence Day)


With my Tatay and Nanay in Leyte, Philippines.


Today marks the day that the Philippines gained independence from over 300 years of Colonial rule under the Spanish, from  1565 to 1898. 
The first recorded European contact with the Philippines was the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan who allegedly “discovered" the Philippines in 1521. Magellan was killed by Lapu Lapu's forces in the famous Battle of Mactan in Cebu. 



Forty-four years later, the  archipelago was named “La Islas Filipinas” after King Philip of Spain when it became a Spanish colony in 1565. Hence the name The Philippines


As some of you may know and may have listened already, in my final Masters project, which was presented as a podcast, I embarked on a sonic journey to learn about my mother's land through listening to music and stories. The journey of listening and learning continues...


Songs have the power to capture snapshots of history and express emotions that reverberate through time. Perhaps one of the most popular patriotic songs in the Philippines is a song in the Kundiman tradition entitled Bayan Ko (My country) written by the revolutionary general  José Alejandrino. Ironically it was originally written in Spanish, then translated in Tagalog three decades or so later by  José Cecilio Corazón de Jesús. I find this song incredibly moving, as it directly addresses Colonial rule, and captures the beauty and grace of Mother Philippines. 


Bayan Ko
Ang bayan kong Pilipinas,
lupain ng ginto’t bulaklak.
Pag-ibig ang sa kaniyáng palad,
nag-alay ng ganda’t dilág.
At sa kaniyáng yumi at ganda,
dayuhan ay nahalina.
Bayan ko, binihag ka,
nasadlak sa dusa.
Ibon mang may layang lumipad,
kulungin mo at umiiyak!
Bayan pa kayáng sakdal-dilag,
ang ‘di magnasang makaalpas?
Pilipinas kong minumutya,
pugad ng luhá ko’t dalita,
aking adhika:
makita kang sakdal laya!


Philippines beloved land of mine,
Where the gold and gorgeous flowers shine.
Love's the jewel of her destiny,
Unequaled in its majesty.
Tyrants drawn by her splendor,
Did suppress her gentle candor;
Native land, they forced their will,
and made your suffer still.
Even birds that freely roam the sky,
Loudly weep when not allowed to fly,
How much more for people long oppressed,
How they yearn for freedom, love, and rest.
Philippines the land I love so true,
All my tears and pains are weaved in you,
It's my dream therefore,
To see you free forevermore.




Here is a beautiful version of the song with both Tagalog and an English sung translation by Hannah Carlos.



There are many reasons why I am interested in learning about Filipino Colonial history. More than from merely an interest in history and family lineage, there are issues that have gripped by conscience and troubled my heart. There have been personal questions like, Why do my relatives praise my lighter skin over their own beautifully golden brown skin? But there are much deeper questions, such as, why do nearly 20% of Filipinos live in poverty? When you learn that the Philippines is an abundant land of Gold, fruits and flowers, you begin to question even more...


The consequences of abject poverty can lead to the most harrowing cases of abuse, in particular, of domestic workers and of young children. Furthermore, as one of the countries most affected by Climate change, those living already in poverty have higher mortality rates from storms, floods and landslides. 


Another topic of interest that has been sparked through community conversation with diaspora Filipinos, is the subject of intergenerational trauma, and how that can manifest itself through DNA. It has been an honour to recently become acquainted with Jutheanne of Hilot Hands, and founder of School of Kapwa, who I will soon have the honour of collaborating with on an exciting project. (more to follow on this!)


This morning Jutheanne sent me this short Independence greeting and guide, that I would like to share with you too with her permission. Salamat po! 




Despite all these questions, issues, and the trauma ... I have never known a people more joyful, with such deep faith. God willing, these issues will some day be resolved. Part of that shift, and that healing, I believe, must begin with our bodies and our voices... through education, music and embodied empowerment. 


On this Independence Day I leave you with a photo of the mother's mother's mother, my Great-Grandmother Josephina, who I was able to meet as a child before she passed away. Here she is sat in front of her home, which was also served as a hole-in-the-nipa-hut store. She liked to dance, drink and smoke, and she lived happily into her late 90s in a little village on the island of Leyte.



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