Ituwid ang kasaysayan

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Friday, June 14, 2013

THE nation recently celebrated its 115 independence from Spain on July 12, 1898. But it was not until 1964 that we were able to do so.

The Araw ng Kalayaan commemorating the declaration of Spain and the United States had refused to recognize the 1898 declaration with the former subsequently ceding the Philippines to the latter. The United States afterwards made July 4 Independence Day, coinciding with its own, and marking the day in 1946 when the Philippine Republic was inaugurated. In 1964 Republic Act 4166 made July 4 as Philippine Republic Day and decreed the celebration of Philippine Independence Day every June 12 henceforth.

That, if you ask me, was a fine example of pagtutuwid ng kasaysayan, of righting a historical error.


It has been quipped of course that June 12 marks our independence from Spain. But we have yet to effectively free ourselves from the control of the Americans.

These musings were inspired by the debate between those who are seeking to include the teaching about the Marcos dictatorship in the formal educational curriculum, and the Marcoses and their supporters who are against it. Mrs. Imelda Marcos was quoted to have said that they wanted to ituwid ang kasaysayan.

Not surprisingly mass media and social network sites were abuzz with reactions that were clearly divided. There were those who saw the advantage of educating the youth about the excesses of martial rule. Others viewed it as an exercise motivated by the desire for vengeance and tantamount to teaching hate.

So how do you actually make kasaysayan tuwid? Is it a matter of putting things on record?

That would be fine if it’s a case of correcting what are normally called facts and figures – dates, places and titles for instance. That Marcos held the highest office of the land longest is a fact; he was President from 1965 to 1986 and also Prime Minister from 1978 to 1981.

These details cannot be disputed.

But what makes historical recall significant, and also contentious, is the interpretation.

How Marcos stayed that long in power, why, with whose cooperation and support and who benefited most from it are matters that require discussion. And even with discussion, there is no guarantee of a unified view. There will be differences in standpoint depending on one’s frame of reference and interests.

Even if a batch of instruction materials on the Marcos years get developed and disseminated in the school system within the period 2013 to 2016 there is no guarantee that there will be no efforts in the future to downplay if not totally reverse treatment. If it’s any indication, it only took the Marcos family less than 10 years to make a strong comeback. Mrs. Imelda Marcos got elected to the House of Representatives in 1995. We cannot rule out the possibility that in the future, some other leader would edit history again to make the Marcos years seem benign, even golden.

I certainly am not agreeing with the Marcoses or those who would rather sweep the Marcos dictatorship under the rug as just another detail of the past. But I would rather that our young develop and hone competencies in critical analysis – developing and using frameworks, identifying vital elements, establishing and examining trends, zooming in and out through micro, meso and macro thinking, allowing for contradicting points, reaching conclusions and identifying courses of action. Simply put, critical analysis means being able to interpret the world in various ways in order to change it -- and let me add -- to benefit many.

Besides, the ills of the nation do not all boil down to the Marcos years but to the combination of conditions and factors that allowed their ascension to power. These are what we need to understand if we are to truly make good at pagtutuwid ng kasaysayan – to make sure that there will no repeat of a vicious and rapacious dictatorial rule that kowtows to foreign and elite interests to the detriment of the people and the nation’s future.

And while we are at it, pagtutuwid ng kasaysayan would also mean acknowledging and undoing the unjust treatment that the Bangsamoro and the indigenous peoples have suffered in the formal system of learning.

When not outrightly invisible, they are often depicted erroneously, sometimes even caricatured and stereotyped. A review by Fr. Albert Alejo SJ of textbooks and other learning materials highlighted these deficiencies. For instance, a Grade VI textbook 2007 edition stated that the Maguindanaos live in Davao del Sur while the Maranaos can be found in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The point being that pagtutuwid ng kasaysayan will have to be a continuing task and not just of those responsible for historical recordkeeping and educational instruction. The things that we do individually and collectively every day have potential to shape history. Even though as John Gardner once said “History never looks like history when you are living through it.”

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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 15, 2013.


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