History in a Hurry
The Philippine National Anthem (Lupang Hinirang)
Director: Paul Ticzon
Cast: Aljur Abrenica, Marvin Agustin, Victor Aliwalas, Alvin Aragon, Bea Binene, Iza Calzado, Bodie Cruz, Dingdong Dantes, Gabby and Geoff Eigenmann, Mark Anthony Fernandez, Carlo Gonzalez, Carl Guevarra, Richard Gutierrez, Dion Ignacio, Paolo Paraiso, Enzo Pineda, Rhian Ramos, Marian Rivera, Arthur Solinap, Mike Tan, JC Tiuseco, Dennis Trillo, TJ Trinidad
How can you fit the history of the Philippines in two and a half minutes? GMA-7 takes on this challenge with its new “Lupang Hinirang” video, produced in collaboration with SM Cinemas.
The video is a tour de force of production design and cinematography, with meticulously designed sets and costumes. The network made the most of its pool of talents, and each actor played their bit part well. (After watching it on HD though, I changed my mind.) The production team, they say, closely consulted the National Historical Commission, though there were still some glaring mistakes (see bottom). Nevertheless, the clear goal was historical accuracy. This was no easy feat.
Overall, the video boasts of grandeur. The spectacular visuals paired with the booming audio and soaring chorale makes for one edifying experience. “It strengthens one’s nationalism when viewed,” said Paul Ticzon, the video’s director, in a press release.
In Favor of “History”
Indeed, the historical treatment is an interesting one. In contrast to ABS-CBN’s popular National Anthem video, which banks on star power, drama and stereotypical representations enacting the visual rhetoric of “unity,” rival network GMA-7 decided to go for the more obvious and traditional road: the recounting of (textbook?) history. “Our version has an educational component,” said associate creative director Dong Tan. “It reminds Filipinos to relearn history in a very cinematic way.” What it lacks in conceptual innovation, it makes up for in production value.
A striking and very timely contrast to the ABS-CBN treatment is seen in the video’s EDSA 1 segment, where Marian Rivera plays a nun. While ABS-CBN is wont to immediately connect EDSA 1 with the Aquinos (with Noynoy Aquino’s ascent to power, ABS-CBN’s bias for the new president became evident in its treatment of news; in fact, one of the heads of Aquino’s newly-formed communications group is former ABS-CBN talent Ricky Carandang), the GMA-7 video takes a decidedly different angle, instead assigning the lead role to an ordinary citizen in the form of a nun. This is glaring, since the montage is largely personality-based, mostly focusing on famous individual “heroes” per era. This moment is a specifically commendable treatment, for instead of concentrating on the Aquino family, it returns the agency of People Power back to the people.
Going beyond ABS-CBN’s close affinity to EDSA 1, the GMA-7 video reminds us that way before 1986, there is a very long history of struggle, a largely anti-imperialist one. Strangely, though, the video makes a giant leap from EDSA 1 to the present. “History,” it seems, ended with EDSA 1. Apparently, nothing significant happened from 1987 to the present—no coup d’etats, no struggles against Charter Change, no anti-Estrada and anti-Arroyo movements, no Ampatuan massacre, no nothing.
Perhaps it is safer to remember as “history” those events which happened way back in the past. The last two decades may be too controversial to begin and end each broadcasting day with. After all, it is easier to canonize Bonifacio’s generally acknowledged anti-colonial movement more than a century past than the more recent broad campaign to oust Arroyo. If it’s not older than twenty years, it’s not history.
Speaking of glaring absences, there is almost no trace of the Left in the video. The GMA-7 video features the underground Katipunan but not its contemporary counterpart the New People’s Army, the Commonwealth Republic but not the Hukbalahap, EDSA 1 but not the First Quarter Storm, and as mentioned, nothing after 1986. This is odd, because following the historical thread of anti-imperialist resistance movements (which the video does) would inevitably lead to the formation of the Leftist movement in the Philippines. Again, historical exclusion in favor of skirting controversy?
The End of History
As with any recounting of history, the most crucial part is the present, the current site of struggle. This is where the GMA-7 video really gets interesting. The anthem stops at EDSA 1, after which we see a host of Kapuso stars clad in white. First, we see them in a nondescript studio location, but the video ends, with dramatic scoring, outside the SM Mall of Asia.
Francis Fukuyama famously declared liberal democracy under capitalism as “the end of history,” the highest stage of human development. The GMA-7 video unwittingly reinforces this idea that history ends with capitalism, that this is the best our race can do.
After centuries of struggle, Philippine history ends with a mall. Not just any mall, but one of the top five largest ones in the world, the bastion of capitalist enterprise, free-market ideology, labor contractualization and neoliberalist expansionism we fondly call SM Mall of Asia.
“This will hopefully show and remind the younger generation what our heroes went through in history for our freedom,” said director Mark Reyes, who pitched the historical treatment to the network. What does this video say, then, about the struggle for freedom? Is it something we just read about in history books, the perfect storyline for movies—and now, national anthem music videos? What role do citizens, especially those from the younger generation, play in the struggle? Sure, perhaps you might be moved and feel Filipino pride after the first few times you see the national anthem video in SM Cinemas before you watch the latest Hollywood flick. But what comes next? Does one feel inspired to engage in present issues?
No. Because with the exclusion of the last twenty years, GMA-7’s “Lupang Hinirang” video commits historical amnesia. It hesitates to be embroiled in current events, events which inevitably become history. After all the cinematic grandeur, it is this counterproductive, even passive attitude towards history and history-making which is impressed upon viewers.
History is composed not just of cinematic moments, but of daily ordinary engagements. History is not a spectator sport. GMA-7 presents us with a “historically accurate” national anthem video where the present is symbolized by a shopping mall. For the more discerning mind, that should be a clear indication that the struggle for freedom isn’t over. #
Entry filed under: Edgar Allan Paule, Filipino films, Music videos, Short films. Tags: Aljur Abrenica, Alvin Aragon, Arthur Solinap, bayang magiliw, Bea Binene, Bodie Cruz, Carl Guevarra, Carlo Gonzalez, cinematic, Dennis Trillo, Dingdong Dantes, Dion Ignacio, EDSA Revolution, Enzo Pineda, Francis Fukuyama, Gabby Eigenmann, Geoff Eigenmann, GMA-7, historical cinema, historical representation, history, Iza Calzado, JC Tiuseco, Kapuso, lupang hinirang, mall, Mall of Asia, malls, Marian Rivera, Mark Anthony Fernandez, Marvin Agustin, Mike Tan, national anthem, Paolo Paraiso, Paul Ticzon, philippine national anthem, Rhian Ramos, richard gutierrez, SM, SM cinemas, SM Mall of Asia, TJ Trinidad, Victor Aliwalas.