More Philippine history books puh-lease!

As force of habit, when I’m in Manila I spend a few hours scouring local bookstores for Filipiniana titles. I even have a planned budget to spend!

Since very few Filipino publishers goes to Kindle (like Sionil Jose’s publisher) you have to buy titles you like before they’re gone. I’m a die-hard bibliophile but I also don’t mind the convenience digital books affords.

So what did I found the last time I was home?

Great Philippine history titles, very good ones.

Thanks to university publishing houses like UST, Ateneo and UP. These guys are putting up some fascinating historical books out in the book market.

I’m done reading Richard T. Chu’s “Chinese and Chinese Mestizos of Manila: Family, Identity and  Culture 1860s to 1930s,” and “Chinese Merchants of Binondo in the Nineteenth Century”. The latter, about a 100 pages, is a quick read that provides a glimpse of how Chinese merchants took advantage of colonial laws and local traditions to progress their social and economic standing. These two books compliments each other.

Another good title, “Arenas of Conspiracy and Rebellion in the Late Nineteenth Century Philippines,” by Michael Cullinane. The book’s about the anti-Spanish movement in the south (most significant took place on Palm Sunday, “tres de abril”, in 1898) and how it influenced the entire country. The name of this foreign author sounded familiar, found out later that he also wrote, “The Parian of Cebu City: A Historical Overview, 1565-1898,” a must read if one endeavors to understand Cebu’s history.

The last title I purchased is “Sakdalista’s Struggle for Philippine Independence 1930-1945” by Motoe Terami-Wada. I haven’t started reading this one but the book’s subject is of great interest personally. I’ve heard of the Sakdalistas at a very young age from my father.  In 2011, I visited the church of San Policarpio in Cabuyao where some 61 of them perished during a battle that only lasted 48 hours.

Wada also authored the book “The Japanese in the Philippines 1880’s-1990’s” which is a collection of stories from Japanese living in the country in the 19th century. An interesting read for it contains reflections and attitudes of the Japanese in the country prewar and post war.

* * *

Last December, Benedict Anderson, author of “Imagined Communities” and “Under Three Flags” died in Indonesia. A leading scholar in South East Asian history and a personal favorite of mine. He traveled Filipinas quite extensively in a second hand car. I wished I had my books signed when he was still around.

I’ve always been curious why there seems to be as many foreign Philippine historians as Filipino historians. That these folks are around tells us that they’re getting support to research and write. Maybe more than our local historians.

I remember a visit I made in the National Archives in Kalaw a few years ago. I was surprised that in the table where you wait for your papers I sat with foreigners. I could imagine those old white men writing journals and books about us one day, maybe they probably did by now.

An uncle, who once owned a small clothing line, told me that local brands would always have a hard time competing with foreign brands because Filipinos have an aversion to buying local. I don’t accept this completely, there are some trusted local brands, but there’s some truth to his claim.

I wonder if this attitude applies also to history books? Do we prefer reading history when it’s authored by a foreigner? Do we trust them more?

When I was in high school I read William Henry Scott. The  foremost expert in Pre-Philippine history. What I remember then was that it was our history teacher who recommended his work. I was surprise that we were pointed to an American historian instead of a Filipino.

I think there’s nothing wrong with foreigners contributing to Philippine history text. In fact, if it weren’t for them we would know less of our past. We would have not known about Lapu-Lapu if Magellan’s scribe never bothered to mention his name but what I’m saying is that we need more Filipinos to write more about Filipino history and even more Filipinos to buy and read more Filipino history book!

I am sure many Philippine history buffs shares this sentiment.

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3 responses to “More Philippine history books puh-lease!

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