Roa: Writing history

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By Paulita R. Roa

Past Speaks

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

MANY of us Filipinos have yet to understand just how important it is to know and memorize our history.

For it is by knowing and remembering that our nation endures.

One of the surprising things that came out in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan, a.k.a. Yolanda that heavily devastated the areas in the Visayas notably Leyte and Samar last November 8, 2013, was the discovery of data of past big typhoons that battered these same areas over a century ago.


Reading those old weather reports on the internet and several columns here made us realized that, thankfully, we are now making efforts to look for historical documents that can help us find solutions and answers to explain a present situation like this natural disaster of immense tragic proportions.

However, not many of us are aware that our earliest history books were written not by Filipinos but our Spanish and American colonizers, that it is mostly about the two colonial periods in our country and only a little beyond these.

It was discovered only a few decades ago about the blatant exaggerations found in journals and official colonial reports written by the Spaniards and Americans that found its way to our history books.

These erroneous data are now presently corrected by our historians and researchers.

Take for example the account on how the Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, died in the Battle of Mactan in 1521.

In our history books, we learned that he died when he was hit by a poison arrow in his thigh.

But based on the diaries of several Spanish sailors that were on that battle scene, the poison arrow was not the immediate cause of his death.

He was decapitated and his body was hacked into pieces by the Bisayan warriors after he fell near the shore.

Magellan's men did not help him at all but went back to their ships.

But this is not the end of the story.

Recently, a cousin of mine told me about his friend who studied in a university in Madrid, Spain.

She shocked her professor and classmates when she told them that Magellan was killed by Lapu-lapu in Mactan.

Apparently, this was not written in the Spanish history books at all!

I count it a big blessing that here in Cagayan de Oro, we have our very own history book that was written by Filomeno M. Bautista.

He started his research in the 1930s by personally interviewing Apolinar Velez and other ‘revolucionarios’ and studying their records and journals about the historic 1900-1901 war.

What’s more, he carried his research papers when he went into hiding in numerous places during World War II.

This was subsequently printed by Fr. Francis Madigan S.J. of Xavier University around 1967, just a few years before Bautista died.

Other history books about Cagayan de Oro followed and large portions of said books were taken from the pages of “The Bautista Manuscript of the Philippine Revolution in Misamis Province, 1900-1901.”

But this is not to say that the contents of the succeeding books are limited.

The book of the late Dr. Madronio M. Lao, titled “History of Cagayan de Oro, 1622-1901” further expanded what Bautista wrote by doing prodigious research on Taylor's Philippine-American War Records and other sources.

Lao has not only shown us a bigger picture on how this war was fought but he established the credibility and integrity of the work of our historian Bautista regarding his accounts on that historic war.

So for 2014, it is my wish that we Kagay-anons will find the time to know more about our history.

This is of utmost importance to us.

The National Artist, F. Sionil Jose wrote that when we know our history, it is with our knowledge that our nation endures.

This public memory will make us strong, “bonding people together, because history also means tradition, the accretion of the past, its travail and its heroism, and all the minutiae that a people can be proud of, which sustains them in times of crisis.”

It is because of the above that I have consistently devoted myself to do research and write about history, archaeology and its related fields with the hope that there will be individuals who will not just read my column in passing but will take it to heart and share it with others.

Writing history is not only my passion but it has a purpose that goes with it–to help establish public memory that can create and enforce our love of country and pride of place.

For it will help unite us as a people and work to make this nation great again!


Here’s wishing you a great and blessed 2014! I will be on vacation and my column will resume on the first week of February.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 08, 2014.


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