By Edwin P. Sallan, Interaksyon.com
Friday, June 8, 2012 · 5:54 pm
Ciara Sotto sings 'Lupang Hinirang' at the Pacquiao-Marquez II fight. (Video grab courtesy of Solar Sports)
The performance of the Philippine National Anthem is an essential part of every Manny Pacquiao fight.
But with its tricky twists and turns, our very own “Lupang Hinirang” is not an easy road to negotiate.
Like the humbled opponents of the Pambansang Kamao, even the most established singers have crashed and burned trying to deliver a knockout interpretation of the song in a Las Vegas boxing ring.
Those who attempted to sing it with bombastically arranged and ’80s sounding backing tracks like Martin Nievera and Regine Velasquez got the thumbs down for their unfortunate choices.
Those who invested too much emotion the way Arnel Pineda, Geneva Cruz, and Sarah Geronimo did with their over-the-top and ultimately frowned upon readings have been accused of disrespecting an otherwise sacred treasure.
Those who sang it with a certain slang and twang like Zyrene Parsad and YouTube sensation Maria Aragon almost but did not get it quite right.
And those who simply forgot the lyrics like Christian Bautista did in a non-Pacquiao boxing match are probably better off not performing it in public again.
The best versions are, of course, those that were performed a capella and delivered in a simple, no-nonsense straightforward manner with the just the right balance of feel and respect.
As we look forward to 14-year-old Kirby Asunto’s rendition of “Lupang Hinirang” on Saturday night (Sunday morning, Philippine time) before Pacquiao’s encounter with Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, let us look back at the five best versions of the Philippine National Anthem in a Pacquiao bout.
5. Charice (Pacquiao vs. Mosley, May 7, 2011, MGM Grand Garden Arena)
Sure, Charice sang it in a faster tempo that does not seem much different from the way elementary students sing it daily during flag ceremonies. But Charice’s passionate delivery puts it a notch above average even though it’s noticeable that she did not put her right palm in her chest like she should.
4. Karylle (Pacquiao vs. Dela Hoya, December 6, 2008, MGM Grand Garden Arena)
She admitted she got nervous when she started singing and it showed. Still, she managed to give a stirring performance of the national anthem. It also didn’t hurt that she sounded very much like her mom minus Zsa Zsa’s seasoned polish. Extra props go to that elegant red terno that she carried so well.
3. Kyla (Pacquiao vs. Barrera II, October 6, 2007, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino)
As good as her voice is, R & B Princess Kyla is never known to “birit” with the best of them so she wisely resisted the temptation to put her voice range to its limits (i.e. Jennifer Bautista) and made the most of her gifts by singing the national anthem the old fashioned way. The result is a thoughtful version that worked well for her.
2. La Diva (Pacquiao vs. Cotto, November 14, 2009, MGM Grand Garden Arena)
Like it was sung by angels, this nicely paced version was further enhanced by the soulful harmonies of the all-female vocal group. And even though the trio took their liberties with the final line, they actually pulled it off as it still sounded way better than the other “creative” versions that were not as received well by the public.
1. Ciara Sotto (Pacquiao vs. Marquez II, March 15, 2008, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino)
Even though she was wrongly credited as “Sierra Soto,” Ciara stands head and shoulders above everyone else with a definitive version of the national anthem sung with effortless grace and flawless timing. If you only have enough space in your iPod for just one version of the national anthem, make it this one.