This Christmas I am giving myself five books, but I couldn’t wait so I “opened” my presents yesterday and began reading one of them until the wee hours. Kasaysayan at Vulnerabilidad by Dr. Ma. Florina Orillos-Juan (chairperson of the History Department of De La Salle University) is a must-read; it is quite riveting. This well-researched book describes how Filipinos coped with locust plagues between 1569 and 1949, 380 disastrous years, and still counting because to this day, the agricultural sector remains vulnerable to that unpredictable threat.
After combing through official instructions, decrees, multifarious requests from local governments during Spanish colonial times, Dr. Orillos-Juan came to the following conclusion: (1) due to bureaucratic “red tape,” it took the colonial administration 3 to 6 months to respond to a locust invasion; (2) both natives and Spaniards were guilty of indifference and lack of urgency; (3) people worked better in organized groups but there was a dearth of leaders with scientific training; (4) oftentimes, God, the Blessed Virgin and patron saints were expected to perform miracles; (5) hacienda owners were allowed to form “guardias rurales” not only against locusts but also to repel carabao rustlers and other brigands; ( 6) common folk who had traditional knowledge about the life cycle of locusts were never included in planning meetings.
That was during the Spanish period, I have yet to read the section about the American invasion and the first half of the 2oth century.
There are legends about locusts from various regions, which I found quite amusing. The book is written in Filipino, but don’t get discouraged, it is modern easy to read Tagalog.
Aside from Dr. Orillos-Juan’s opus, 4 other books were presented by the Department of History of De La Salle University: The Camino Real to Freedom by Dr. Jose Victor Torres; Tulang Sakdal — Aral at Diwang Sakdalismo, by Dr. Marlon S. Delupio; Mun-udi: Ang Panday na Ifugao Bilang Tagapag-ingat ng Taal na Kaalaman, by Dr. Lars Raymund C. Ubaldo; and Liberalism and the Post-colony: Thinking the State in 20th Century Philippines, by Dr. Lisandro Elias E. Claudio. I have begun reading the latter, skipping the first chapter and going directly to chapter 2, “Salvador Araneta and the Filipino New Deal.” My husband and I have always admired Tito Salvador for his love of country and vision of an industrialized Philippines.
The multiple book launch was held at the Lhuillier hall on the 14th floor of the Henry Sy building of De la Salle University on Taft Avenue. The emcees, Prof. Michael Xiao Chua and Dr. Vicente S. Ybiernas added mirth to the scholarly occasion. Drs. Fernando A, Santiago Jr. and Jose B. Hernandez rendered their critical evaluation of the books after Drs. David J. Bayot and Jazmin LLana presented the erudite tomes to the audience.
During the delicious Christmas lunch that followed, Prof. Michel Xiao Chua said he was rolling with laughter when he read my column “My nightmare” during breakfast. I purchased copies of the newly launched books, Christmas gifts to myself. I could hardly wait to get home and begin feasting on the succulent brain food.