Category Archives: Thoughts

Why Discovering Philippine History Isn’t Easy

I first became fascinated with history when, as a 10 year old, I accidentally stumbled upon romanticized accounts of English medieval history in our school library. From there, I inevitably dived into ancient and Renaissance histories as well.

So while my classmates were out in the sun honing their social and motor skills, I was in voluntary exile, spending a great deal of my young life immersed in the stories of long dead people and forgotten civilizations, but that would prove to be an excellent foundation for a lifelong passion.

The wonders of Philippine history may be just around the corner.

Undeniably though, I always felt a deep sense of unease. While I reveled in everything I learned, deep inside, I could not accept that I was largely indifferent to Philippine history in particular. It would take many more years before I would learn to appreciate the historical heritage of my own race. If I may however, come to my own defense, there is a valid excuse for my early lack of interest. Circumstances just didn’t make it easy to develop an interest in local history.

Growing up, I was left with the impression that there was a lack in resources that tackled Philippine history. I’d like to stress the word “impression” there. I’m sure we had a fair number of local books (our school library had a Filipiniana section), but to kids discovering history for the first time, they were simply not as appealing as the many different sources available for the histories of other countries and nations. Moreover, the social environment then, both in schools and popular media, did not seem to favor the presentation of our past in interesting or engaging ways.

Even commonly available books then that are still used now for high school and college instruction, leave a lot to be desired. They are segregated in only one of two types. One that coldly presents Philippine history as a collection of dates and names to memorize for exams and one that brims with too much racial pride that we are left to erroneously believe that our heroes were perfect, blameless demigods, and the Spaniards, Hades’ minions.

As was apparent from my experience, I only had to pick up the many colorful breadcrumbs strewn about to develop an interest in medieval history and eventually discover the truer stories of that time. With Philippine history, there are no accidental discoveries of interesting stories that can draw you in. You have to actively seek to learn more and propel yourself with a dash of patriotism to pull through.

I was lucky to have had an excellent Philippine history teacher in college who refused to stick to the norm and exposed the bias and half truths of popular textbooks. I was fortunate too for having discovered historian Ambeth Ocampo, who convinced me that Philippine history can be as absorbing as the intrigues of English royal courts.

I am no historian but I love our history passionately. It is my hope that I too may be able to help the youth of today see, understand and appreciate our true roots.