Monday, November 12, 2012

History from the Point of View of the Filipino People (with Addendum: The Problem with America's History Books + Video Interview at DEMOCRACY NOW!)

"In order to read the destiny of a people, it is necessary to open the book of its past" - Dr. Jose P. Rizal

“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” - Meridel Le Sueur , American writer, 1900-1996

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History from the Point of View of the Filipino People

-Mrs. Leticia R. Constantino

History is one of the most potent weapons of a once-colonized people in the struggle to achieve real independence. On the other hand, history can also be used to perpetuate attitudes of subservience and dependence on former colonizers. Therefore, the point of view taken by the historian in writing about our past is crucial.

We can detect three stages of historical writing in the Philippines:

In the (first stage) past, our history was written mainly by our colonizers. Our  image of ourselves and of our past was shaped by the writings of these foreigners, most of whom emphasized the benefits of Spanish or American colonization but disregarded the sufferings such colonization imposed on the people. 

The second stage came when Filipino historians consciously set themselves the task of writing from the Filipino point of view. Their work gave more emphasis to the role Filipinos played in their own history, discussed the abuses perpetrated by the Spaniards, and presented Filipino resistance to all colonizers with respect and admiration. In general, however, analysis of  American colonization was inadequate. In general, moreover, the point of view taken, though Filipino, was in many instances, the point of view of the Filipino elite.

A third stage was necessary -the writing of history from the point of view of the Filipino people. Briefly, this means that historical figures, events and developments should be judged in terms of whether or not they advanced the interests of the Filipino masses. Basically, these interests are: control by the Filipino people of their own society and future through ever greater democratic participation in charting government policies, and a better life for all. Anything or anybody that forwards these interests is good, anything or anybody that does not should be criticized.

Those who think of history as an "objective" recital of facts may wonder "why" we are talking about point of view. A few examples should convince us that even the barest historical account has an implicit value judgment which reflects a particular point of view.

From the colonizer's point of view, those who opposes his rule were filibusteros, tulisanes, insurgents, bandits. From the point of view of the Filipino people, these same men were heroes of the resistance to colonization. Thus Rizal, del Pilar, Bonifacio,were filibusteros; and ordinary people who took up arms were branded as tulisanes by the Spaniards  Aguinaldo, Luna, Mabini, etc. were insurgents to the Americans. Insurgency is defined as a rising against constituted authority  

At that time, our constituted authority was the Malolos Republic and the Americans were in fact the aggressors who deprived us of our freedom by the use of force. After Aguinaldo's capture, he branded those Filipinos who continued fighting as bandits, and so did the Americans. In the annals of the American-led Philippine Constabulary, many of the leaders of the resistance to American rule were listed as bandits: Macario Sakay, Luciano San Miguel, Felipe Salvador, Dionisio Magbuelas, to name a few.

Events are also evaluated differently by historians who take the point of view of the Filipino elite (whether consciously or not) from those who consciously judge events in terms of the interests of the Filipino people. let us take the Pact of Biak-na-Bato as our example. Two historians describe the Pact as:

" of the most glorious events in Philippine history. It was not a military victory; but it was a recognition of the fact that the leaders of the Revolution were men of honor, as honorable as the marquis of Estella." (Achutegui and Bernad)

Why should an event be considered glorious just because the Spaniards deigned to negotiate a pact with Filipinos, implying thereby that they recognized them as men of honor, who, like the superior Spaniards, could be expected to keep their word?

From the point of view of the people's interest, the verdict on the pact is the exact opposite.

"The Pact of Biak-na-Bato was a shameful repudiation of all that the revolution had stood for....The pact was nothing more nor less than a business proposition. the negotiations had not dragged on for five months because of any insistence by Aguinaldo's side that the Spaniards comply with any of the people's revolutionary demands. The principal bone of contention had been the amount to be paid to the leaders and the terms of payment." (Constantino)

The pact provided that the Spanish government would pay them P800,000 provided Aguinaldo and other leaders would leave the country (Aguinaldo had initially asked for three million pesos).  The historians who hailed the Pact allege that the money Aguinaldo and others received was "not a bribe to the revolutionary leaders. It was to indemnify them and their families for the losses incurred as a result of war."

But why should these leaders be reimbursed for their property losses? The people suffered and died for the Revolution; they did not expect monetary rewards for their patriotic acts.

The betrayal of the people's struggle for independence becomes crystal clear from an interview Aguinaldo gave before he boarded the ship for HongKong. He said:

"We took the field, not because we wished for separation from Spain...but because we were tired of bearing (the abuses of) the friars. it is quite true that the Katipunan instilled in us another desire....that of independence -- but that desire was unattainable and moreover, it was in opposition to our sentiments. it served as the banner of Andres Bonifacio, a cruel man whom I ordered shot, and with his death the Katipunan disappeared....

I recognize that when we took the field, we wandered from the right, recognizing our error, we ask for peace...denouncing as outlaws in the decree I signed at Biak-na-Bato all those who do not recognize it....."...(cited by Constantino)

We have discussed the principal characteristic of a people's history --that it projects the role of the people and judges men and events in terms of the interests of the masses.

Since it is the masses who suffer the most from the oppression of foreign rule, a people's history is necessarily anti-colonial. It takes a definite stand that colonialism is wrong, that no country has the right to conquer and subjugate another. 

Therefore, a people's history carefully examines the colonizer's policies; it shows how these policies served his economic and political interests and what were their effects on the lives of the colonized. It also evaluates Filipino leaders in terms of whether they served the colonial master or defended the interests of their people.

Let us take as an example the imposition of free trade under the Payne Aldrich Act of 1909. Filipino leaders opposed free trade. they correctly foresaw free trade would be prejudicial to the Philippines because Philippine exports would all go to the United States resulting in Philippine economic dependence on that country. Moreover, free trade would open the country's economy to control by American corporations. 

But Filipino politicians depended on the American governor-general for patronage and other favors which kept them in power, so when the Vice-Governor Forbes hinted to Quezon that his opposition to free trade might be dangerous to his career, Quezon quickly changed his mind. A people's history would point out the benefits of free trade to American business and its unfavorable, long-term effects on the economic development of the Philippines. It would also criticize the Filipino politicians for failing to defend the interests of the Filipino people.

Let us take one more example. Histories credit the United states with teaching us democracy and establishing democratic institutions. History books hail the elections of 1907 to choose the members of the first Philippine assembly as a democratic landmark. Few realize the significance of the fact that the American colonial administration limited qualified voters to male persons above 21, who had held office under the Spaniards  or who owned real property worth P500, or could read, write or speak English or Spanish. 

Such qualifications prevented the participation of the masses. In fact, only 1.41% of the population voted. Thus, while the Americans provided for the mechanics of democracy, they made sure that the victors would come from the elite class that they were building up for leadership. And sure enough, the candidates were generally from the propertied and conservative families in the provinces. From then on, the elite effectively controlled political power while the masses were given empty illusion of a so-called democratic electoral process.

A third characteristic of a people's history is an analytical approach to economic questions and the evaluation of economic developments in terms of the people's livelihood. Such an analysis also examines the interrelations between economic, political and cultural developments. For example, a people's history would expose how the American colonialists used education to mold colonial minds that would not question American control because they had been taught to believe that the American colonizers were benevolent and altruistic and that everything they did was for our own good.

Perceptive Filipinos often complain about the colonial mentality of our countrymen, our tendency to accept western ideas and products as inherently superior, and above all,our failure to pinpoint our real national interest apart and distinct from those of our former colonizers and other foreigners we come in contact with. These failings are due, to a large extent, to an incorrect assessment of our past. 

A people's history will help greatly in eradicating our colonial mentality. It will make Filipinos more nationalistic, more wary of their former colonizers, more zealous in safeguarding their country's resources for its own people, and more determined to attain control of their political and economic life. it will teach them to identify the various forces that have shaped their present way of life and thinking  It will expose the real enemies of their progress, the real obstacles to their attainment of prosperity in freedom.

A people's history, therefore, is a liberating history.

  1. Pedro S. de Achutegui and Miguel BernadAguinaldo and the Revolution - A Documentary History, Ateneo de Manila, 1972.
  2. John R.M.Taylor, The Philippine Insurrection Against the United States, 5 Volumes, Pasay city, Eugenio Lopez Foundation, 1971
  3. Renato Constantino, A Past Revisited, Quezon City, Tala Publishing Services, 1975

Source: Issues Without Tears, A Layman's Manual of Current Issues, Volume I (1984),
Teacher Assistance Program (TAP) - Leticia R. Constantino, Director


ADDENDUM:  11/06/2012

“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them”. – Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick are co-authors of The Untold History of the United States (Gallery Books, $30)
(See bottom for two-part video with Amy Goodman of DEMOCRACY NOW Nov 16, 2012)

It has become commonplace to deplore U.S. students' dismal performance in math and science when their test results are compared to those of students in other advanced and not-so-advanced industrial countries.
But, it turns out, according to the Nation's Report Card, or National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federally administered test results released in June 2011, the area in which U.S. students perform most poorly is actually U.S. history. 

According to the results, only 12 percent of high school students were proficient in U.S. history. And only a scant 2 percent could identify the social problem addressed in Brown v. Board of Education, even though the answer should have been obvious from the wording of the question itself.
Historically-challenged students turn into historically-challenged adults who make for unqualified citizens. Our republican system requires a literate, educated, and knowledgeable public. No wonder Santayana's famous comment that "he who forgets the past is condemned to repeat it" has been borne out repeatedly over the past century and a quarter of U.S. history.
In terms of history education, we face two basic problems. First, as the Nation's Report Card indicates, students know very little history. Second, much of what they do learn is extremely partial or flat out wrong. Take, for example, the discussion of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in one popular high school text--The American Past by Joseph Conlin--which happens to be used in Oliver's daughter's highly rated Los Angeles private high school.

In the few brief paragraphs devoted to the atomic bombings, which the Newseum's 1999 panel of experts declared the most important news event of the 20th century, Conlin manages to twice repeat the falsehood that the bombs were used to avoid one million U.S. casualties in an invasion, that Japanese fanaticism was "impossible to overstate," and that the bombs ended the war.
Such complete ignorance or willful dismissal of contemporary scholarship on the topic is unconscionable. Not only does Conlin fail to mention the ongoing debate over the projected casualty estimates, he ignores State and War Department studies contending that the Japanese were not fanatics but would indeed fight fiercely to protect the emperor, that Japanese leaders recognized that victory was impossible and were trying to secure terms that would allow them to avoid surrendering unconditionally, that the United States had broken the Japanese codes and American leaders were fully aware of Japan's desperate plight -- 

Truman referred to the July 18 telegram as "the telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace", that the U.S. knew that the imminent Soviet invasion would finish the Japanese off once and for all -- "fini Japs" when Stalin comes in Truman wrote, that the impact of the atomic bombs was less than decisive because the U.S. had been wiping out entire cities for months with its firebomb raids, and that it was the dreaded Soviet invasion, which proved the bankruptcy of both Japan's diplomatic and military strategy, rather than the atomic bombs, that forced Japan's surrender.
Conlin neglects to mention that six of the seven five star U.S. officers who earned their fifth star during the war are on record as saying the atomic bombings were either morally reprehensible -- as did Truman's Chief of Staff Admiral William Leahy -- or militarily unnecessary. General Douglas MacArthur told former president Herbert Hoover that the Japanese would have happily surrendered in May, almost three months earlier, if the U.S. had told them they could keep the emperor. While that might be an overstatement, wouldn't it be something of interest to high school students?
People ignorant of the real facts of history fill the vacuum with either a fancifully corrupt view or a mythic one. In the United States that usually takes the form of a comforting fairy tale of American exceptionalism -- the notion that unique among nations, the U.S. is motivated by altruistic benevolence, generosity, and the desire to spread freedom and democracy. Woodrow Wilson, a true believer in America's mission, declared after Versailles, "At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!"
Neither World War I, which Wilson lied the country into, or the Treaty of Versailles is looked back upon very favorably today. Other presidents, most notably Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, have voiced similar sentiments, which they no doubt also sincerely believed. We're still paying the price for the debacles they lied us into.
As the great independent journalist I. F. Stone wisely pointed out: "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." And it becomes even more dangerous if an ignorant public, indoctrinated with the same cockamamie ideas as the nation's leaders, doesn't have the good sense to question what they are spewing. 

As we show in our recent book and forthcoming documentary film series called The Untold History of The United States, what students learn about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is only one small part of a systematic effort to whitewash and sanitize U.S. history.
This is of great significance because people's view of the past not only informs their actions in the present, it limits their sense of what is possible in the future. It is time for a national conversation about what this country's history has really been -- good and bad, warts and all.
We are entering a period of history in which the American people will either carve out a very different role for their nation in a rapidly changing world -- a role that eschews the militarism and imperialism that has marked the past century -- or it will continue blindly down the present path of warmongering and decline with consequences only faintly augured by those cataclysmic events in August 1945 when the U.S., once and for all, finally achieved the "might" behind the "right," changing the course of history for the foreseeable future.


Oliver Stone &  Peter Kuznick Interview  - DEMOCRACY NOW!  (Part 1 of 2)  11/16/2012

Oliver Stone &  Peter Kuznick Interview  - DEMOCRACY NOW!  (Part  2 of 2)  11/16/2012

The Untold History of the United States

***********************END OF POST**************************

Hi All,

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Jaxon Oakley said...

Nice and welcome. Leave your comment

Jaxon Oakley said...

History of the citizens of Philippines have been done and acquired for the success of the nationals. Yes, this has been new chapter for the full use of the norms and all organized elements for the waves of the nation.