Of Intellectually Stimulating Talks and Lost Cause for Nationalism

A few days ago, I attended a talk titled Intellectual Property Management and Commercialization by Dr. Richard Cahoon, a big-shot IP person and former technology transfer officer from Cornell university (if I have my facts straight). It sounds snobbish and intelligent of me to express interest over, but in all honesty I just wanted to go because it was sponsored made possible by channeled through an org I joined (Intellectual Property Advocates – hypocritical of me, but that’s another story), and because a friend coaxed me into helping and attending. Oh, there’s also my resume, which upon closer inspection is marketing-oriented – I’ve been a publicity officer and currently a marketing one. This in itself is perfectly fine, if not for the fact that I’m a business management undergrad. But I digress. Again.

I get called in 30 minutes earlier than the allotted time (probably to help with participants’ registration) but I dawdle and get up 10 minutes later. I get there, and my friend tells me that I’ll sing the freaking Philippine National Anthem after the opening prayer. I honestly thought she was just pulling my leg – why would she put me on the spot like that?! But as it turns out, the original singer backed out the last minute and so she was hard-pressed into finding a replacement. Coincidentally, I was dressed up that day because I’d be participating in a panel discussion for one of my classes that day. I mentioned this to her the previous night, which I think added to her confidence in me being able to pull it off. Later on she admitted that she purposefully waited before telling me so I have no chances of backing out. Her methods were effective, if I may say so myself.

After getting over the initial shock, I tried practicing by humming the song and what not. In between I was still incredulous (I just came there to LISTEN, what the hell did she got me mixed up into), asking if perhaps she was jut messing with me. Somewhere in the last verse I realized I forgot the lyrics, which was mortifying, considering that I sang the same song for over a decade back in grade/high school. I was panicking already because I knew there were only a few minutes left before it’s my turn on the podium. I asked the other people there what the missing lyrics in my head were, but they were as clueless as me. The pressure built up because my college’s former vice dean approached me before the program and coordinated with what to do. After which, a professor (which I’d like to call in my head as ex-vice dean’s sidekick) pulled me aside and ran through what I’m supposed to do As a last-ditch effort, one of my friends made me approach a professor with a doctorate degree in Filipino (or something like that) while the opening prayer commences. Blame it on being asked out of the blue, on being caught off guard, or anything else – but he blanked out on me. I was singing to him repeatedly up to what point of the song I recall, waiting for him to fill me in on the lost lyrics, but he told me he couldn’t remember. The prayer was coming to a close, and I hear him hurriedly telling me what the lyrics were to the part we both forgot. And then I hear my name being called out.

I was still panicky, in fear of embarrassing myself to both students and faculty (and Mr. high and mighty international speaker), but there was nothing else to do rather than go up in front. I thought and hoped that there’d be accompaniment so my future blunder can be masked, but I ended up singing a cappella. I did well in singing the song, though when I recalled it later on I did commit some glitches (which I’d forever blame to nervousness). And then the dreaded last verse came; I was very thankful that I encouraged the audience to sing with me at the start, so by the end I ended up following their lead in those two lines that I could not for the life of me recall. I sounded as if I momentarily faltered and then picked up again in the last two lines of the song. Awkward transitioning to the ex-vice dean presenter (which involved him waving me off, and me taking it as a signal not to go on introducing him, but I’ve already started so I just continue), but that was expected (at least for me) when you find out about what is expected of you only a few minutes before you actually have to do stuff. All in all I ended up fine, but the situation wasn’t.

I was not okay with forgetting the lyrics to the Philippine National Anthem. Some might take it as a trivial issue, but it means more to me than just that. It left me a sinking feeling, that I pride myself as a Filipino yet I can’t even properly sing a historically significant song that should have been drummed in my skull already since kindergarten. The feeling worsened when the professor was unable to answer me; granted, he wasn’t a history expert, but with someone who made it his business to learn as much as he can about the Philippine language and culture, he should have known. Not that I was any better. Granted, he did redeem himself later on by “supporting” me – I was told that the professor sang rather loudly, probably trying to help me with my dilemma.

It’s easy to say that I love my country, and I’ve deluded myself into thinking that I do. But really, my actions speak for myself. Overall, I guess I was just disappointed with myself. Fitting to mention since this month is buwan ng wika (Filipino-language month).

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