Tag Archives: William Henry Scott

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.



Non-Spanish, Non-Catholic Defenders of the Friars

Non-Spanish, Non-Catholic Defenders of the Friars

Pio Andrade Jr.

The many good and enduring accomplishments of the Friars did not escape the attention of foreign visitors and historians. Many of them wrote favorable of the friars and defended them from the unjust treatment and comments that were heaped on them by critics. I would cite here praises for the Friars written bu non-Spaniards many of whom are not Catholics.

“With no oither arms but faith, the Religious Orders pacified and civilized the Philippines archipelago,” write Frenchman Jean Mallat who stayed in the Philippines for 6 months in the 1790 and traveled to many places in the islands.

Yale Historian, Edward Gaylord Bourne, in his introduction to the monumental 50 volume Blair and Robertson’s THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS praised the friars zeal and charity. “…it was the spirit of kindness, Christian love and brotherly helpfulness of the missionaries that effected the real conquest of the islands is abundantly testified by qualified observers of various nationalities and periods, but the most convincing demonstration if the ridiculously small military force that was required to support the prestige of the Catholic King. The standing army organized in 1590 for the defense of the country numbered 400 men.”

Fray Ezequiel Moreno, who served as priest for Parañaque is remembered as one kindest and generous that seashore town ever had. So loved was this man that townspeople protested his transfer. Today, when people hear friar they think of  Rizal's fictional Friar character, Damaso. (Photo courtesy of http://friarydiaries.tumblr.com/)

Fray Ezequiel Moreno, who served as priest for Parañaque is remembered as a kind and generous leader. So loved was this man that townspeople protested his transfer. Today, when people hear friar they think of Rizal’s fictional Friar character, Damaso. (Photo courtesy of http://friarydiaries.tumblr.com/)

Sir John Bowring, a former Governor of Hong Kong, in his book on his travel and official visit to the Philippines in 1850 wrote his admiration for the intimate unity of natives and the Friars, and the absence of a caste in the country. “I have met the Friars who were the object of special respect and affection, and in fact they merited it as guardians and restorers of peace in the family, and as protectors of the children in their studies, and moreover for the labors they undertook in the welfare of their respective pueblos.”

The German Naturalist Jagor in his book “A Traveler in the Philippines”, “Spain belongs the glory of having raised to a relatively high grade of civilization, improving greatly their condition, a people which she found on a lower stage of culture distracted by petty wars and despotic rule. Protected from outside enemies, governed by mild laws, the inhabitants of those splendid islands, taken as a whole, have no doubt passed a more comfortable life during recent centuries than the people of any tropical country whether under their own or European rule.”

Frederick Sawyer, a British businessman who lived in the Philippines for many years including the decades of 1890’s, in his book “The Inhabitants of the Philippines Islands” heaped praises on the friars accomplishments in the Philippines. “Let us be just, what British, Dutch and French colony, populated by natives, can compare with the Philippines as they were in 1895,” he concluded his defense of the friars and Spanish rule.

In the first decades of the American rule when the Friar lands was a burning issue, Stephen Bonsal, a Protestant correspondent of the New York Tribune wrote an article in the North American Review defending the Friars. He mentioned the Friars role in the education of the natives, the churches, roads, bridges, and villages they built, the commercial plants they introduced, their work in agricultural extension, their services as soldiers. On the 10 million valuation of the Friars lands, Bonsal wrote: “There are half a dozen foreign firms in Manila without the knowledge of the people and the islands which the Friars possess, who have made as much as this out of the Philippines within the decade.” He did not cover up that the Friars, being men, had been swayed by human passions at times and, therefore they are not without stain. Nevertheless, his overall judgment of the Friars will be echoed by historians who cares to dig the truth. “But when time has calmed the controversy to which the termination of their mission in its medieval shape has given rise, it will be seen that under their guidance a large portion of the Filipinos have reached at much higher stage of civilization than has been attained by other branches of the Malay family under other circumstances and in another environment. I believe the work of the Friars is recorded in the golden book.”

It will surprise many Filipinos that during the American period, the most outspoken and spirited defenders of  the Friars were American journalists Walter Robb and Percy Hill who were not Catholics. Robb came to the Philippines as a teacher but later gravitated towards journalism and became the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce. He wrote many articles about the Friars’ accomplishments in that history-minded publication.

On the other hand, Percy Hill came here with the invading army in the Philippine American war. He became a school teacher for a few years and then settled to a farm in Nueva Ecija where he became a big rice farmer. All the while, he wrote about the Philippines during the Spanish era. He wrote many articles on the Friars’ work in Northern Luzon, and was ahead of William Henry Scott and other historians in praising Fr. Juan Villaverde’s mission in Ifugao country.

Both Robb and Hill based their history articles on their readings of history in the National Library. Both are fluent in Spanish unlike today’s history writers whose articles are recycled history from shallow and distorted sources in English.


Undated article written by chemist and historian, Pio Andrade Jr. He sent this article to me last week. Posted here with his permission.

%d bloggers like this: