I’ve realized lately that I have become what I as a younger man hated to become, negligent of ones history. When I was child I can recall getting upset when my classmates would make fun of Bonifacio (the Andres atapang di a takbo joke). I don’t know why and where this started but my history education as a child was better than the other kids in town. I have the luxury of learning from one of our well off neighbours who had in their collection a vast array of titles, some are century old books. How I wished that they were preserve but as far as I know they where all disposed when they sold their place, gone forever. They were the Quillen who used to own a huge part of land in Calle Bagtican San Antonio. They also use to own the grounds where the Chinese school Pasay Chung Hua stands.
I was very fond of Mommy (Matriarch of the Quillen-Keyser-Magcale clan. Queen of Bagtican!) everyone calls her Mommy because of her generosity and good heart. This Irish (she’s part swiss too) old woman enjoys a bottle San Miguel in evening time. She’s very proud of her family with the exemption of her husband who I recall she would dotingly whoop names from time to time. Vividly I remember how she would sing ‘when you wish upon a star…’ she would encourage me to sing along, it could be the alcohol that makes her mood gay and merry but I’ll never forget those moments. They were golden to me. I was shy as always but she always finds a way to hear my low ugly voice – utouto as they call it. I can’t forget even now those lovely blue (I think they were) eyes staring at me as if I was her own grandchild. I’d tell a story or ask her some grade school questions about history and she’ll have an answer. I always have her undivided attention. I never run out of questions and as I expected she always without fail gives an answer. I never had a grandparent all my life, they died early. Mommy was the closest I’ve ever had.
Add to the books are my usual round of Q&A with Mommy, she would answer my questions as if she was there when those historical moment took place. I remember one day when I asked her about the Filipino-American war(how it all started) and she replied that Filipinos were just being difficult, they refused to be civilized and educated and that the Estados Unidos was reaching out as a friend. It was an awkward moment for me since I’ve never seen her mood change so quickly. She was an American national after all, how dare I question her nations intentions in her presence. I never had the courage to challenge her again perhaps I learned that day to accept that no history book, no history professor or expert can change how she look at things.
The rest of my History lessons was concluded in schools, although the lessons were acceptable in my standards I’ve always felt that it was insubstantial. In my adult years after college I’ve bought my own books to supplement my studies but not as avid as I once was. Past is past they say but not unless you study them you would make the same mistakes. As my favorite history quote goes ‘One faces the future with ones past’. I now try to regain some lost grounds on my study of history, its never too late for all of us to study and preserve what is left.
*Photo courtesy of James Magcale