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Linguistic Analysis and Critique of English Translation of Ang Bayan Ko

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1. Introduction

The poem Bayan Ko was originally written in Spanish by Gen. Jose Alejendrino, and it was titled Nuestra Patria. Gen. Alejandrino wrote this poem to express his opposition against the American occupation. Then, after three decades, Jose Corazon de Jesus, a prolific writer, and lyricist during the American period, translated the poem into Tagalog. Jose Corazon de Jesus, known as Huseng Batute, wrote numerous literary works. One of them is the Tagalog translation of Bayan Ko. This poem was set into music by Constancio de Guzman and became popular during Martial Law.

The original message of the song is the expression of Filipinos’ protest against the American colonizers. However, when the song was resurrected during Martial Law, it became the expression of “people’s yearning for liberty against any oppressor who would take it away” (Yuzon, 2020, para. 14). Due to the song’s popularity and patriotic message, it has been sung by famous Filipino singers namely Freddie Aguilar and Lea Salonga. Likewise, it was sung by other foreign choirs and translated into English.

In the field of translation studies, there have been several approaches that can be used in translating certain work into different languages. Nevertheless, problems and issues still arise (Hu, 2017). Often times, poetic elements, contexts, and cultural aspects of translated work are being sacrificed when translated into different languages. Likewise, translating the song Bayan Ko into English by different people may encounter some issues and concerns. In this regard, this critique paper attempts to analyze and criticize the two English translations of Bayan Ko to determine the changes in structure, meaning, and context of the translated works. The next part of this paper will focus on the analysis and critique of the two translations of the song.

2. Analysis and Critique 

Below are the lyrics of the Tagalog poem Ang Bayan ko written by José Corazón de Jesús in 1929 and was set to music by Constancio de Guzman and became a very popular song during Martial Law in the 1980s.

Bayan Ko

Ang bayan kong Pilipinas
Lupain ng ginto’t bulaklak
Pag-ibig na sa kanyang palad
Nag-alay ng ganda’t dilag.

At sa kanyang yumi at ganda
Dayuhan ay nahalina
Bayan ko, binihag ka
Nasadlak sa dusa.

Ibon mang may layang lumipad
kulungin mo at umiiyak
Bayan pa kayang sakdal dilag
Ang di magnasang makaalpas!

Pilipinas kong minumutya
Pugad ng luha ko’t dalita
Aking adhika,
Makita kang sakdal laya.

​The song has 3 stanzas and 16 lines (1st stanza – 8 lines, 2ndstanza – 4 lines, 3rd stanza – 4 lines). Likewise, the dominant number of syllables is nine. This song has different patterns of rhythm. The first stanza has abccdddd pattern. The second stanza has abac pattern. Lastly, the third stanza has aaaa pattern. The Bayan Ko has lyrical structure and rhythm. Perhaps, this is because Jose Corazon de Jesus was a famous lyricist during his time. Moreover, the message of nationalism is evident in the lyrics of the song. 

​In the 1st stanza, de Jesus used different images to show the beauty of the Philippines. He utilized images from nature such as ginto (gold) and bulaklak (flower) to manifest the beauty of the country. Likewise, with the use of the words dilag, yumi, and ganda, he was able to show an image of a beautiful young lady referring to the Philippines. Hence, because of her beauty, colonizers enslaved her. To sum it up, the first stanza tells the story of how the Philippines had been colonized by the Americans. 

​Furthermore, in the 2nd stanza, ibon (bird) was used as the signifier for the Philippines. This stanza illustrates the desire of Filipinos to achieve liberty from the Americans by comparing the country to a bird flying freely in the sky and suddenly captured by colonizers. The sufferings and desire for liberty are shown in the lines kulungin mo at umiiyak and ang di magnasang makaalpas. These lines show that if a bird is caged, it will cry and yearn for freedom. These metaphorical lines showed what happened when the Philippines became under control of the Americans.

​Additionally, the 3rd stanza shows his love for the country and his hope that someday his country will be free from the hands of the Americans. Overall, the entire lyrics of the song capture the emotions, sufferings, and desires of Filipinos during the American period. 

​The song Bayan Ko has been translated into English. Below are the two English translations of the song. 

My Country

Translated by: Maricar Regalado Punzal

English Lyrics: Rogelio Rolly Regalado

Original Lyrics: Jose Corazon de Jesus

Music: Constancio de Guzman

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 splendour

Did suppress her gentle candor

Nativeland, they forced their will

And made you 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 a land I love so true

All my tears and pains are weaved in you

It’s my dream therefore

To see you free forevermore

My Motherland

Translated by: Gil Yuzon

“My Motherland the Philippines,
Land with gold and flowers richly blest.
And the gift of love within her soul
Shone in allure and loveliness

And her gentle beauty and her grace
Caught the alien’s wayward fancy.
You were snatched, my precious land,
Enslaved in misery

Every bird so free to soar and fly,
If you cage her she will surely cry.
How can such a bright and splendid land
Not aspire to rise in liberty?

O my dearly cherished Philippines,
Cradle of my tears and misery,
Hear my fondest wish:
To see you forever free!”

The first translation written by Maricar Regalado Punzal titled My Country was done during the last decade of Martial Law. Whereas, the third translation written by Gil Yuzon was only written and published on September 13, 2020, in Philippine Daily Inquirer. 

It is interesting to analyze and criticize these twotranslations because they have been written in different eras. The original Tagalog poem or song was written during the American period, while the other two English translations were written during Martial Law and the administration of President Duterte. The different contexts may affect the English translations of the original Tagalog song Bayan Ko. This factor will be considered in the analysis and critique of the translated works. 

2.1. Structure

All two English translations retain the original 3 stanzas and 16 lines (1st stanza – 8 lines, 2nd stanza – 4 lines, 3rd stanza – 4 lines) of Bayan Ko. Moreover, the nine-syllable of Tagalog version is also maintain in two English translations. However, the rhythm pattern of Tagalog version was lost. The first translation tilted My Country has aabbccdd (1st stanza), aabb (2nd stanza), and aabb (3rd stanza) patterns, while the second translation titled My Motherland has abcbdef (1st stanza), aabc (2nd stanza), and aaaa (3rd stanza). 

Compare to the Tagalog version which has abccdddd (1ststanza), abac (2nd stanza), and aaaa (3rd stanza) patterns, the twotranslations did not retain the original rhythm of patterns. However, the second translation has somehow managed to capture the original rhythm in the third stanza which is aaaa. Nevertheless, they still have their rhythm patterns that make them lyrical. Retaining the original rhythm pattern is one of the elements that might be sacrificed when a poem is translated into other languages as shown in the analysis. 

2.2. Words, Meaning, and Images

The two English translations have different interpretations of the title of the song.  The first translation titled My Country shows more reference to the nation. The use of the word country makes it more connected to the Philippines. Hence, the title of the first translation focuses more on the literal translation of the song Bayan Ko.

Furthermore, the second translation titled My Motherland is more loaded in meaning. It gives a more biological and personal connection to the author because of the use of motherland. It creates an image of a mother that gave birth to him. Also, in this title, it seems like the author treats our country as a mother that we should love, respect, care, and protect mainly because she almost sacrificed her life when she delivered us to the world. Hence, compared to the first translation, the second translation has a more meaningful title.

The first line of the translations also shows interesting characteristics. In the Tagalog version, the first line ends with the word Philippines. However, the first translation starts the first line with the word Philippines, while the second translation follows the original position of the word Philippines in the first line. This can be seen in the samples below. 

1. Ang bayan kong Pilipinas [Bayan Ko]

2. Philippines beloved land of mine [My Country]

3. My Motherland the Philippines [My Motherland]

In the Tagalog version, the first line simply states that the Philippines is his country. There are no signs of feelings and emotions. However, in the first translation, the first line shows the concept of love for the nation with the use of the word “beloved”. This word describes the word “land” which refers to the Philippines. The writer in this translation emphasizes her love for the country. 

On the other hand, the third excerpt from My Motherland highlights that the Philippines is the country where he was born and raised in. It is not just a country for him, but a mother that is significant and special in his life. More so, as mentioned earlier, the second translation ended the first line with the Philippines which is the same as the Tagalog version given in the excerpts above. Likewise, contrary to the first translation, the second translation also maintains the original number of syllables which is eight. 

The second line of the Tagalog song which can be translated literally as a place of flowers and gold has been interpreted differently in the two English Translations. 

1. Lupain ng ginto’t bulaklak [Bayan Ko]

2. Where the gold and gorgeous flowers shine [My Country]

3. Land with gold and flowers richly blest [My Motherland]

In the second excerpt, the writer used the adverb where to indicate the place of gold and flowers, the adjective gorgeous to describe flowers, and the verb shine to indicate the characteristics of gold and flowers. Looking at the Tagalog version, it shows that the first English translation gives more attributes to gold and flowers. With the use of gorgeous and shine, the writer was able to highlight the beauty of the images in the song. Probably, the reason why the writer added those words is to maintain the nine syllables of that line from the original text. 

By the same token, as can be seen in the third excerpt above, the translated work My Motherland seems to be the literal translation of the Tagalog version. The second translation starts the second line with the word Land which is similar to the Tagalog version that also starts the second line with Lupain (land). Additionally, it has the same nine syllables as Bayan Ko. Also, the writer did not use adjectives to highlight the characteristics of gold and flowers, instead he added the words richly blest to refer to the land and perhaps to maintain the nine syllables of that line. Likewise, it is interesting to note the use of an archaic English word blest in the second translation.Remember that the second translation was only written on September 13, 2020. Using the word blest in this text seems not connected to the time and context when it is translated. Perhaps, the writer used blest to give an image and mood of the American period which is the original context of the Tagalog version.

Pag-ibig na sa kanyang palad

Nag-alay ng ganda’t dilag.

At sa kanyang yumi at ganda

Dayuhan ay nahalina

The third to sixth lines of Bayan Ko given above seem to tell a story of how the Philippines was colonized by the Americans. Similarly, these lines manifest an image of a beautiful lady signifying the Philippines. Moreover, the word dayuhan (foreigner) was interpreted in different ways. In the original context, the word dayuhan refers to the American colonizers. However, in the two English translations, the image of dayuhan was changed. This can be seen in the sample excerpts given below.

My Country

Love’s the jewel of her destiny

Unequaled in its majesty

Tyrants drawn by her splendour

Did suppress her gentle candor

In the given excerpt above, the use of the words jewel, majesty, and splendour manifests royalty and grandeur that could be associated with a royal lady like a princess. This imagery is perhaps connected to the concept of monarchy that has been instilled in the Filipino culture by the Spaniards. Contrary to the first English translation, the Tagalog version does not manifest this imagery. Perhaps, the translator used this image to show how the country’s beauty captivated colonizers.

Moreover, it is also interesting to note that the word tyrants was used to translate dayuhan into English.  In the original context of the Tagalog version, dayuhan or foreigner in English refers to the American colonizers. However, in the first translation, the word tyrants was used. Perhaps, the reason for this is the context of the translated song. The social milieu of the translated work titled My Country was during the last decade of Martial Law. It was a period when people were oppressed due to dictatorship. Probably, the word tyrants in My Country refers to President Marcos, who was considered a tyrant during that time. Therefore, the context when My Country was written could be the reason for using the word tyrants in the translation of the word dayuhan

Likewise, the second translation titled My Motherland seems to have a modern interpretation of the third to sixth lines of Bayan Ko. This can be seen in the given excerpts below.

My Motherland

And the gift of love within her soul
Shone in allure and loveliness

And her gentle beauty and her grace
Caught the alien’s wayward fancy.

​In the given excerpts above, the words loveliness, gentle beauty, and grace could be associated with characteristics of a beautiful young Filipina which is common during the American period. However, what makes the second translation modern is the use of the word allure. This word manifests an image of a sexy, enticing, attractive woman. These characteristics of a woman are more common nowadays than before. Thus, the image of a woman manifested in the second translation is more modern than the first translation. Additionally, the word alienwas used in translating the word dayuhan. The word alien may be interpreted as someone who is foreign or not a native inhabitant of a certain place. Also, it could be interpreted as extra-terrestrials or creatures from other planets. The use of allure and alien in the third translation is probably connected to the present context of the writer. It is important to note that the third translation was only written and published on September 13, 2020. Thus, the images created in the given lines above are more modern compare to the first English translation.

​The 7th and 8th lines of Bayan Ko which have seven and eight syllables respectively are retained in the two English translations. Nevertheless, the translation of these lines in English is different. Below are the excerpts. 

1. Bayan ko, binihag ka [Bayan Ko]

Nasadlak sa dusa

2. Nativeland, they forced their will [My Country]

And made you suffer still

3. You were snatched, my precious land, [My Motherland]

Enslaved in misery

​The second excerpt shows an image of the country being forced and oppressed by the tyrants. Therefore, the country suffered so much. Moreover, the writer used the word Nativeland to signify the Philippines which is interesting because in Tagalog version the word bayan was consistently used. However, in the first translation, the writer used different signifiers. On the other hand, the second translation shows a different scenario. In the first translation, there is a scenario of being forced to do something, whereas, in the second translation,the line you were snatched shows a scene of kidnapping or abduction. Likewise, as can be seen in the third excerpt, the writer used the second personal pronoun you to refer to the Philippines. In this line, the writer seems to talk directly to the country and expressing his feelings and emotions. This indicates that he has deep connection to the country. Overall, the translations of the 7th and 8th lines varied. The first translation shows a scenario of a country being forced and oppressed, while the second translation creates a scenario of a person being kidnapped or abducted. 

​In the second stanza of Bayan Ko, ibon (bird) is used as a signifier for the Philippines. This signifier is also retained in the two English translations that could be seen in the given excerptsbelow. 

[Bayan Ko]

1. Ibon many may laying lumipad

Kulungin mo at umiiyak

[My Country]

2. Even birds that freely roam the sky

Loudly weep when not allowed to fly

[My Motherland]

3. Every bird so free to soar and fly,

If you cage her she will surely cry.

​Based on the given excerpts, the signifier in the Tagalog version was retained in the English translations. However, they are different in grammatical form. In the second excerpt, the birds are in plural form, while in the third excerpt bird is in a singular form. Similarly, the use of words describing the actions of birds manifests different meanings. In the second excerpt, roam was used to refer to the action of the birds. This word implies that the birds are wandering or moving around. On the other hand, the second translation used an adjective free to describe the state of being of the birds. This can be seen in the third excerpt. 

​Additionally, as can be seen in the second line of the second stanza, the expression of the sufferings also varies. In the second excerpt, the use of the word allowed implies that someone owns the skies. Therefore, birds need to ask permission first, so that they will be allowed to freely fly. The use of allowed in this line shows that birds are not free to do whatever they want, and they need to seek permission from the authority. This line reflects the context or social milieu of the translated work. During Martial Law, people were not allowed to voice out their opinions and criticisms against the government. This scenario was captured in the second line of the first translation. Moreover, the use of the word cage in the third excerpt shows a direct connection to the birds. Cage is normally associated withanimals. Hence, the interpretation of the third translation is more literal than the first translation. 

​Moreover, the translation of the 11th and 12th lines given below yields different interpretations in the English translations. 

1. [Bayan Ko]

Bayan pa kayang sakdal dilag

Ang di magnasang makaalpas!

2. [My Country]

How much more for people long oppressed

How they yearn for freedom, love and rest

3. [My Motherland]

How can such a bright and splendid land

Not aspire to rise in liberty?

​As can be seen in the given excerpts above, the first and second translations maintain the same number of syllables in the Tagalog version. Nonetheless, they were interpreted in different ways. The first translation focuses on the image of Filipinos who wanted to be free from oppression. This image was manifested by using the word people as can be seen in the second excerpt. Also, in the second excerpt, the writer highlighted not just freedom, but also love and rest. The concepts of love and rest are not present in the Tagalog version. Perhaps, the reason why the writer added those words is to maintain the nine syllables and to emphasize the important things Filipinos value during the time of oppression. In contrast to the first translation, the second translation did not mention anything about people and their sufferings, instead he focused on describing a beautiful land. Likewise, he only focused on the concept of liberty. He did not mention anything related to love and rest contrary to the first translation. Another interesting part of the second translation is the use of question mark which is not present in the Tagalong version. Perhaps, the writer used a question mark in the last line of the second stanza to draw more connections to the readers and listeners of the song. Overall, the translation of the 11th and 12th lines of My Country is more emotional than in My Motherland. 

​The last stanza of the song Bayan Ko highlights what the writer wanted to happen in the Philippines in the end. In the original context, he wanted to see the country free from American control. This hope is manifested in the last stanza of Bayan Ko. Likewise, the two English translations reflect this desire. Below are the excerpts. 

1. [Bayan Ko]

Pilipinas kong minumutya

Pugad ng luha ko’t dalita

Aking adhika,

Makita kang sakdal laya.

2. [My Country]

Philippines a land I love so true

All my tears and pains are weaved in you

It’s my dream therefore

To see you free forevermore

3. [My Motherland]

O my dearly cherished Philippines

Cradle of my tears and misery

Hear my fondest wish:

To see you forever free!

​Structurally, the second translation, My Motherland, retained the pattern of rhythm which is aaaa. However, the first translation, My Country, was able to maintain the original position of the word Philippines in the translation. As can be seen in excerpt one, the song Bayan Ko starts its first line with Pilipinas (Philippines) which is the same as the first line of My Country. On the other hand, the writer of My Motherland ends its first line with Philippines. Moreover, in My Country, the writer adopted the Tagalog sentence structure in translating the first line of the third stanza into English which is OSV. Perhaps, the reason for adopting this structure is to maintain the original position of the word Philippines in the translation. This can be seen in the excerpts below.

Pilipinas (Object) kong (Subject) minumutya (Verb) [Bayan Ko]

Philippines (Object) a land I (Subject) love (Verb) so true [My Country]

​Correspondingly, the use of first-person pronoun in the translation emphasizes the presence of the writer in the text, thus giving the readers a sense of connection to the message of the song. In other way around, the second translation, My Motherland, did not adopt the structure of the Tagalog version. Likewise, the writer did not use first-person pronoun. Instead, he used the possessive pronoun my, thus showing a sense of ownership and possession. More so, he used adverb phrase dearly cherished to show his affection for the country.

​Between the two translations, the writer of My Motherland was able to somehow literally translate the second line of the third stanza. The word pugad could be literally translated into anest in English; however, the writer used cradle which has a different meaning. Perhaps, the writer used this word to maintain the original nine syllables of that line. This can be seen in the excerpts below. ​

1. Pugad ng luha ko’t dalita [Bayan Ko]

2. Cradle of my tears and misery [My Motherland]

​On the other hand, the first translation, My Country, has deeper translation of the second line of the third stanza. Below is the excerpt.

1. All my tears and pains are weaved in you [My Country]

​The phrase weaved in you creates a deep connection with the writer’s tears and pain to the Philippines. It creates an image that they are deeply interconnected, thus giving deeper meaning in the translation. 

​The last two lines of Bayan Ko express the hope of the writer that someday the Philippines will be free. This hope is also present in the last two lines of My Country and My Motherland. However, they are different in terms of structure and intensity. Below are the samples. 

1. [My Country]

It’s my dream therefore

To see you free forevermore 

2. [My Motherland]

Hear my fondest wish:

To see you forever free!

The expression of the writer’s hope is clear and direct in the first excerpt. Also, the use of the word dream in My Country has a stronger meaning than the word wish in My Motherland. A dream could mean goals that you want to achieve in life, while wish could simply mean things that you want to happen and there is a small chance of becoming a reality. Therefore, the former has a stronger meaning than the latter. Furthermore, the last lines of the two translations have the same meaning. The only difference is the use of free forevermore and forever free. Probably, the reason why the writer of My Country used forevermore is to maintain the original syllables of the Tagalog version. Similarly, it is interesting to note the use of exclamation point in My Motherland. Perhaps, the writer used an exclamation point to show the intense feeling of the last line of the song. 

3. Conclusion 

Overall, both My Country and My Motherland have retained and lost some structures, meanings, and contexts of the original Tagalog song Bayan Ko. Likewise, writers adopted their contexts when they translated the Tagalog version into English.Hence, the choice of words and structures manifested the contexts of the translated works.

The original song expresses the opposition of Filipinos against American control. When it was sung during Martial Law, Filipinos adapted it in their social milieu, thus changing the meanings and symbolisms of the song. Contrary to the original context of Bayan Ko, the meaning shifted and focused on people’s desire for liberty against the oppression and tyranny of President Marcos during Martial Law. This context was captured in the English translation titled My Country which was written during the period of dictatorship. The use of tyrants in translating dayuhan into English may refer to the tyranny of President Marcos during his administration. Additionally, the use of allowed in the second line of the second stanza implies that someone owns the skies. Therefore, birds need to ask permission, so that they will be allowed to fly. The use of allowed in this line shows that birds are not free to do whatever they want, and they need to seek permission from the authority. This line reflects the social milieu of the first English translation. Thus, it could be concluded that the translator of My Country adopted the context of Martial Law in her translation.

Furthermore, the second translation titled My Motherlandwhich was published on September 13, 2020, has a more personal meaning and modern interpretation of Bayan Ko. The title itself exhibits personal connection to the country. Likewise, the use of allure and alien in the song gives a more modern interpretation of the Tagalog version. Allure exhibits an image of a sexy and enticing woman common in the present society. Also, alien could be interpreted as someone from another country, place, or planet. These words make the translationsounds modern. Nonetheless, the writer’s use of the archaic English word blest in the song may indicate that he wants to reconcile the past and the present. The use of blest shows a connection to the American period which is the original context of the Tagalog version. Perhaps, the writer wanted to keep the original context of the song while adding a more modern take on the translation, thus appealing to today’s generation.

References:

Hu, X. (2017). Experimental metafunction study of ode to the west wind and its Chinese 

translations. English Language and Literature Studies, 7(2), 151-155.

Yuzon, G. (2020, Septempter 13). Foreign choirs have performed ‘Bayan Ko,’ our unofficial

​second anthem. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/ 

370661/the-evolution-of-a-patriotic-song/#ixzz6aNH0EsfZ

Persieus Balog is an instructor at the Far Eastern University. He finished his MA in English Language Studies (cum laude) at the University of Santo Tomas. He is currently doing his PHD in Language Studies: English at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

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