Philippine National Anthem:How the Philippines Became an Archipelago
By Rudy Arizala
Those who have read Philippine history will remember that Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, in preparation for the Proclamation of Philippine Independence on 12 June 1898, commissioned Julian Felipe to prepare a musical composition which would be played during the independence ceremonies. A few days later, Julian Felipe presented to Aguinaldo the draft of his musical composition entitled: "Marcha Filipina Magdalo."
Gen. Aguinaldo and his revolutionary leaders heard immediately the musical composition as played by Felipe himself on the piano. Aguinaldo and the other revolutionary leaders were happy about the composition and was adopted as the "Official March" of the Philippines. Composer Felipe subsequently changed the title from "Marcha Filipina Magdalo" to "Marcha Nacional Filipina". A year later the Spanish lyrics for the musical composition were written by Jose Palma, a nationalist and Filipino poet in the staff of La Independencia newspaper. The opening lyrics reads as follows: "Tierra Adorada, / Hija del sol Oriente." (Beloved land, / Child of the Eastern sun."). Camilo Osias in 1920 translated the Palma Spanish lyrics to English as "Land of the morning, / Child of the sun returning."
It is clear that Jose Palma who was a poet considered the Philippines as "child of the sun". Probably, like any other poets of his era, he must have read Latin poets such as Ovid who wrote poems on mythology during the reign of Augustus, especially the story about Phaeton.
According to this story Phaeton was the son of the Sun god and of a mortal mother named Chymene. One day he went to the palace of the Sun to confirm whether he was really the child of the Sun. Phaeton when received at the Palace of the Sun said: "I have come to find out if you are my father or not. My mother said you were, but the boys at school laugh when I tell them I am your son. They will not believe me. I told my mother and she said I had better go and ask you."
Smiling, the Sun took off his crown of burning light so that the lad could look at him without distress. "Come here, Phaeton," he said, "You are my son. Clymene told you the truth. I expect you will not doubt my word too? But I will give you a proof. Ask anything you want of me and you shall have it. I call the Styx to be witness to my promise, the river of the oath of the gods."
To make the story short, Phaeton, as proof of his paternity, asked his father, the Sun, to allow him ride his father´s golden chariot pulled by steeds at least for a day across the sky. But his father, the Sun would not let him saying it was too dangerous. That no other riders, except himself, could manage the horses and the golden chariot across the sky. But Phaeton insisted and his father could not do anything but allow his son to ride his golden chariot because he made such promise under oath. And he did not like to break his oath.
The moment Phaeton rode on the golden chariot and took hold of the golden reins, the horses soared from the east up to the very top of the sky and then, plunging headlong down set the world on fire. Mother earth could bear no more the raging fire caused by the falling chariot and uttered a great cry which reached up to the gods. Looking down from Olympus, the gods saw that they must act quickly if the world was to be saved. Jove, one of the gods at Olympus, seized his thunderbolt and hurled it at the rash, repentant driver Phaeton. It struck him dead, shattered the chariot, and made the maddened horses rush down into the sea.
If we want to convert the above story of Ovid about Phaeton into a Pinoy mythology, we could say or write that when Phaeton´s body was shattered to pieces hit by the thunderbolt of Jove and dropped into the deep blue sea, they became several islands and islets now called "The Philippine Archipelago."
Thus, as written in the lyrics of Jose Palma, our beloved Philippines was Phaeton the "child of the sun" (Tierra Adorada, / Hija del sol Oriente).