ON this 116th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence, let’s think about the Patriotic Oath, Ang Panatang Makabayan.
Every school day, a large segment of the Philippine population, children at public or private schools, recite the Patriotic Pledge right after they sing the Philippine National Anthem (Ang Pambansang Awit).
Something is wrong, linguistically, rhythmically, as a poem, with this version of the Pledge the late Raul Roco, who was then secretary of education, introduced in 2001:
I love the Philippines,
my land of birth,
home of my race.
I am protected by it and aided
to become strong, industrious and honorable.
Since I love the Philippines,
I shall heed the counsel of my parents,
I shall obey the rules of my school,
I shall fulfill the duties of a patriotic citizen,
serving, studying, and praying with utter fidelity.
I offer my life, dreams, and striving
to the Philippine nation.
In Filipino, it goes:
Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas,
aking lupang sinilangan,
tahanan ng aking lahi;
kinukupkop ako at tinutulungang
maging malakas, masipag at marangal.
Dahil mahal ko ang Pilipinas,
diringgin ko ang payo
ng aking magulang;
susundin ko ang tuntunin ng paaralan,
tutuparin ko ang tungkulin
ng isang mamamayang makabayan;
naglilingkod, nag-aaral at nagdarasal
nang buong katapatan.
laalay ko ang aking buhay,
sa bansang Pilipinas.
The English poem has a metrical flaw, a plodding quality to the lines. The passive voice “I am protected by it and aided” is an earful of unpoetic baggage.
Unhappy, too, are the Filipino version’s flaws.
Those of us who were schoolchildren before 2001 recited a more concrete and unambiguous Patriotic Oath. In English, we recited:
I love the Philippines.
It is the land of my birth;
It is the home of my people.
It protects me and helps me to be strong, happy and useful.
In return, I will heed the counsel of my parents;
I will obey the rules of my school;
I will perform the duties of a patriotic, law-abiding citizen;
I will serve my country unselfishly and faithfully
I will be a true Filipino in thought, in word, and in deed.
There can be no mistaking who is making the pledge. No ambiguity as to who it is who “protects me and helps me to be strong happy and useful.” The vows we pledged “in return” we stated with the rhythm of an oath being made in earnest.
The original pre-2001 Filipino version possesses the same concreteness and clarity:
Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas.
Ito ang aking lupang sinilangan.
Ito ang tahanan ng aking lahi.
Ako’y kanyang kinukupkop at tinutulungan
Upang maging malakas, maligaya at kapakipakinabang.
Bilang ganti, diringgin ko ang payo ng aking mga magulang.
Susundin ko ang mga tuntunin ng aking paaralan.
Tutuparin ko ang mga tungkulin
ng isang mamamayang makabayan at masunurin sa batas.
Paglilingkuran ko ang aking bayan
nang walang pag-iimbot at nang buong katapatan.
Sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino
sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.
The big lie
But there is an even more woeful flaw in the Patriotic Oath—both in the pre-2001 and the current version.
Before the Philippine economy deteriorated—initially as a result of the steep rise of world oil prices caused by the OPEC cartel during the Marcos martial law years—the old version was still all right.
The line that says the Philippines “protects me and helps me to be strong, happy and useful” could still be arguably truthful (except for the children of parents who were in the hills with their anti-government Communist guerrilla parents).
Then poverty and unemployment became massive. Parents had to leave our country and be Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs)—only later were they called OFWs—to support their families. Corruption became endemic. And some or maybe many schoolteachers, out of poverty, became greedy merchants in their classrooms. Government officials, policemen and the military officers became more visibly unpatriotic and more interested in making money than serving the people.
The Patriotic Oath became a lie. A lesson in hypocrisy. A reason for children to grow up cynical about government and about their pledge “to perform the duties of a patriotic, law-abiding citizen.” Only the most naïve child could still recite the pledge to “serve my country unselfishly and faithfully” and be “a true Filipino in thought, in word, and in deed” without thinking that he or she was muttering sheer crap.
This probably pricked the conscience of Raul Roco, who, therefore, decided in 2001 to make the Patriotic Oath more ambiguous, less intense, and, therefore, less hypocritical.
Sadly, our officials today, worse in corruption and incompetence than any set we have ever had, are running our country like hell. As a result no bright, sensitive Filipino schoolchild can seriously imagine our poor motherland as a being that “protects and aids” him or her “to become strong, industrious and honorable.”