The Challenge of Philippine Historical Studies

Someone asked me if I believe that the Spaniards really helped [“may nagawa ba sila”] us throughout their almost 400 year rule. The query was sarcastically solicited since I’ve been known to blog about the gifts of our Spanish past, it was a simple query that I regularly get even from family, teasingly posed, but certainly merits to be answered.

Never once did I assumed that the Spaniards were absolutely guiltless from acts of cruelty and pilferage against the natives. It is a historical fact that even the boldest Hispanist could not refute. But the focus of our studies must not end in exploring colonial errors but also the consequences of that contact, between an imperialist Christian power and a group of indigenous tribes, this I believe is a balanced approach that ultimately would make us better students of our history.

In our orthodox history education, its regrettable that the core appears to be lessons in history with a ‘nationalist’ attitude. That in order to glorify the homeland we must acknowledge that colonialism was entirely immoral and therefore never produced any meaningful transformation, that we have an obligation to focus on ways to remove its influence, and that we must to go back to our pristine origins – that the more aboriginal mind-set be, the more Filipino we become. Along the lines there are those who argue that to be a Filipino, the correct attitude must be above all that of an Asiano [Asianization], this essentially puristic approach is an attempt to undo the path of our evolution as a society. The trouble with this is that the Filipinos base can only be traced in its Mestizo genesis, even the formation of its name, Filipino & Filipinas, is the outcome of that merger.

Colonialism has its faults and we all could say now that it was unjust, this knowledge is the gift of history, we’ve already learned our lessons and has move on. In contemporary time, it should no longer be accepted there is no room for it, but even at present everyone appears to be tolerating some nation invading other independent nation. As Filipinos we must never permit being under any country again, but it appears that we are still silently under the American colonial influence, what we thought ended 50 years ago is enduring, proof is our government’s consenting position with all of its policies, locally and globally.

Spaniards had long disappeared, leaving a country that proudly calls herself after one of its great monarch, with an impression that can not be simply removed from a people that embraced not only its religion but some of its character. For almost 400 years, its culture has pervaded with that of the native, forming a culture we now call Filipino, its way of life, ideals and concepts had influence our otherwise Asian mentality. Since they were the dominant culture they discriminatorily imposed on the natives what they perceived was good for themselves, for the people and the new colony.

The accounts of Spanish coercions of the natives are numerous, its well documented, even the first Spanish Bishop of the new colony had wrote about it in disgust and frustration. But if we would’ve ended our lessons with those dishonorable acts by the conquistadores and disregard the kind efforts made by that Spanish Bishop and the Friars established, when he initiated the first synod for the new colony [one of them, a wise Augustinian even raisgin the question, “what right do we have to conquer them?”], we would’ve subjected ourselves in a narrow and meaningless course in Filipino history.

People could go endlessly on the cruelties that took place and there are not far from the truth, a look at our written records would actually expose it more, but here is where I always challenge everyone to keep on researching, don’t just simply focus on those already identified error, so far we have already established those. but also search for the true meaning of the Filipino – his being and his society, how he developed and reacted to the challenge posed by the Spanish colonialization, is his identity hispanic or oriental?, was he less a Filipino because of the Spanish influence or was he truly hispanized? or will he ever be Filipino without Hispanization?


2 responses to “The Challenge of Philippine Historical Studies

  • nold

    ‘letting go’ most of the time is the hardest part… 🙂

    Mabuhay ka Sir!

  • the showroom manager

    i completely agree with you that we need to balance our point of view when it comes to our history. let’s be fair in acknowledging the good things that shaped the Filipino.

    time to let go.

    the past is in the past. it’s gone. it’s time to go on living and start making possibilities for our country.

    it all begins with us. now.

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