On June 5, 1898, a week before Philippine independence would be declared, Julian Felipe, a local pianist from Kawit, Cavite, arrived at the home of Maximo Inocencio, one of Cavite’s thirteen martyrs during the revolution. Upon his arrival, the leader of the revolution, General Emilio Aguinaldo, asked Felipe to play a march written by a Filipino in Hong Kong. However, Aguinaldo was not satisfied with this march. Recognizing Felipe’s skills, he asked him to compose a more soul-rousing tune that would install courage and patriotism in the hearts of every Filipino.

On June 11, the day before the declaration of independence, Felipe arrived again and played his tune to the revolutionary leaders. The leaders unanimously approved it as the national hymn. Felipe called his work the “Marcha Filipina Magdalo.” The next day, Felipe’s tune was played during the hoisting of the Philippine flag at the historic window at the Aguinaldo mansion. The march was renamed the “Marcha Nacional Filipina,” and immediately became the National Anthem. However, the anthem still lacked words. The next year, a young soldier named José Palma penned the poem “Filipinas” in Spanish, to match the music of the anthem. It was adopted as the official lyrics.

The Philippines were now under American rule, and as such, a suitable English translation was to be made of the anthem. The first translation was made by Paz Marquez Benitez of the University of the Philippines. However, the most popular version was written by Mary A. Lane and Senator Camillo Osias, known as the “Philippine Hymn”. On December 5, 1938, the Philippine Congress passed Commonwealth Act 382, which made the anthem’s English words and Felipe’s music official.

A Tagalog (the Filipino language) version of the words started appearing in the 1940’s. In 1948, the Department of Education approved “O Sintang Lupa” (O Beloved Land) as the national anthem’s Filipino words. In 1954, Education Secretary Gregorio Hernandez, Jr., created a committee to revise the words. The new version, entitled “Lupang Hinirang,” was adopted (a minor revision was made in 1962), and is still in use today. Since the passage of the 1998 law about the national symbols (RA 8491), the national anthem can only be sung in Tagalog (the national language) and using only the music composed by Felipe. However, that has not prevented other translations from being created, such as Ilonggo.

Special thanks to: Josh Lim and Bill Mitchell for some of this information.