Saint-Jean-Baptiste

Tomorrow is the commemoration of one of three birthdays in the liturgical calendar, the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the “great forerunner of the morn” as the old hymn goes.

It is a public holiday in two parts of the Manila area, including Manila proper, which was founded on this day four centuries ago. (Hence, Manila’s patron is St. John the Baptist too, I suppose.)

More importantly, it is the national feast day of Quebec, in Canada. But 128 years ago tomorrow, a band first played what became Canada’s national anthem. It was a smashing success. It was only in the 20th century when it became very popular throughout the country, gaining English lyrics early in the century. Around the time Canadians were beginning to debate whether it should attain official (rather than customary, much as “God Save the Queen” is in the United Kingdom) status, my university adopted a slightly adapted version of the song as its hymn. The adaptations occur at the first six bars of the verse, the first six bars and the last two bars of the refrain. In fact, what the adaptation has done was to make the last bar of “O Canada” end, not on a low note, but on a glorious, shoutable, high one. In fact, I think the last bar of “O Canada” sounds better with it.

So for the sesquicentennial, I hope Ateneo de Manila could present a symbolic thank-you gift to the people of Canada for borrowing their national anthem. Perhaps a grand performance of “O Canada” in both French and English, followed of course by the alma mater song, without missing a beat would suffice!

*****

Happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day to Francophone Canada, Porto, the Cities of Manila and San Juan, and Puerto Rico! Not to mention the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

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