Dr. Jose Rizal wrote the poem Himno al Trabajo (Filipino: Dalit sa Paggawa; English: "Hymn to Labor"). In response to the Becerra Law and to address the sufferings of Lipenos, his friends from Lipa, Batangas, requested the poem in January 1888. Dr. Rizal wrote the poem within a few days and it was later published in La Solidaridad on February 2, 1888.
The poem begins with an invocation to God who is said to have created men in His image and granted them free will so they could choose good or evil. It then moves on to discuss the importance of hard work and the dignity of labor before ending with a call for justice and freedom for the oppressed.
Dr. Rizal was born on January 15, 1861 in San Francisco de Malabon, Philippines to parents of Italian descent. He finished elementary school at age 10 and went on to study at the Jesuit-run St. Pedro's College in Manila where he showed an interest in literature and science. After finishing secondary school, he wanted to continue studying abroad but the Revolution of 1887 prevented him from doing so. Instead, he decided to travel to Europe where he studied medicine at the University of Madrid for two years before returning home in 1889.
Upon his return to the Philippines, Dr. Rizal became involved in politics and organized labor movements.
The Hymn to Labor was composed in answer to a request from Rizal's comrades in Lipa, Batangas, who were looking for a hymn to perform during the event commemorating Lipa's cityhood in January 1888. More precisely, this song is meant to honor the people of Lipa's hard work and industry. As one can imagine, it is a joyous tune with many accents and instrumental breaks.
Rizal had just been released from prison after two years of incarceration for his involvement with the Revolution. He needed money to pay his lawyer and other expenses, so he decided to write some songs that would be able to help raise funds. The lyrics of the Hymn to Labor first appeared in a poem called "Sa Pagsusapan ni Rizal" (At the Meeting of Rizal with His Comrades) written by one of them, Mercurio Lascano. This poem was then set to music by Felipe el Amorsinikiño, a musician from Lipa.
In addition to being a fundraiser, the Hymn to Labor also marks one of the first appearances of Filipino artistry in music history. It is believed that Rizal took inspiration for this song while listening to foreign musicians such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.
The song has been covered by many singers including Cecilia Guidotez, who sang it at the 1995 Manila Music Festival.
The hymn was a poem that praised the Lipenos for their hard work for the land. The poem is made up of discussions between men, women, and children in honor of men who work in agriculture. These workers are called "Lipanes" which means people of Lipa.
Himno al Trabajo was first published in the March 15, 1890 issue of La Solidaridad under the title "Oda a los trabajadores". The author's name is not known but some historians believe it may have been Pablo Antonio Aguilar. It has been suggested that himno was inspired by Walt Whitman's 1855 poem "Leaves of Grass". However, there are differences between the two poems that prevent them from being considered identical versions of the same song. For example, himno contains more references to religion while Walt Whitman was an atheist.
The lyrics of himno were written in Tagalog but have been translated into many languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Cambodian, Chinese, and Russian. It is the most translated Filipino poem ever with over 40 versions in different languages.
Himno has been used as a theme song by several organizations including the Philippine National Railways and the Philippine Army.