Afraid of History? (1)

A few years ago, I found a copy of Felipe Calderon’s Mis memorias sobre la revolucion filipina, published in 1907. He was an eminent lawyer from Santa Ana, Manila, who drafted the Malolos Constitution of the First Philippine Republic, our government on-the-run that General Antonio Luna so valiantly defended.  The book piqued my curiosity because I suddenly remembered that my maternal grandmother would takeme along to visit DoConcha, Felipe Calderon’s widow, in a house on Lamayan street.

Gingerly, I turned the brittle pages, anxious to read the prologue; it pierced my heart like a dagger! I felt I had to have the musty volume, even if it cost me an arm and a leg. The prologue was a patriot’s excruciating lament; Calderon revealed why he felt compelled to write about the Revolution.  According to a local daily he read every morning; the majority of students who took the government entrance exams to the Escuela de Medicina failed miserably because they could not answer questions about Philippine history.  Graduates of private colleges did worse than those of public schools.

How could that be possible in 1905! Not even a decade had passed since the birth of the First Philippine Republic, fruit of the Philippine Revolution, proudly the first in Asia, and already the first post-Revolutionary generation of Filipinos, Rizal’s hope of the Fatherland, were showing symptoms of premature historical amnesia. Calderon must have been so devastated by that shocking revelation, he felt duty-bound to write his Memorias. 

During another browse, I came across a textbook in English titled A Brief History of the Philippines by Dr. Leandro Fernandez, first published in 1919 and reprinted up until the 1950’s by Ginn & Company. Anxiously, I went directly to the preface, but unlike Calderon’s prologue it lamented nothing, but imparted a rather cryptic message.

“Controversial views have purposely been omitted on the ground that such discussions, though they may be of advantage to more mature students, serve only to confuse young pupils.  One of the chief objects of a text on national history is to give pupils an idea of the development of the country and its people. Consequently, stress has been laid on the development of the Philippine Islands and the Filipino people.”

What a cautiously constructed disclaimer! What is the “development of a people” if not its history? Was Fernandez warning the reader that he had to water down “the development of the Philippine Islands and the Filipino people” and delete the purportedly “controversial views”? I wondered whether Fernandez had read Felipe Calderon.

I suspect that those “controversial views” did have something to do with the role of the United States in our history, the Filipino-American War in particular. He would have been fired had he written  about the duplicity of American policy-makers. It would have been folly for a Filipino historian then to even hint at the USA’s hidden imperatives for invading and occupying the Philippines. Fernandez had to toe the official like and so did many of his contemporaries. That is probably why we are so afraid of our own history.(more)