By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes

Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers

(December 2, 1995)

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AYS BEFORE THE last Bonifacio Day, this writer had the honor of participating in discussions about the hero in three programs aired over as many television channels, and I had the feeling that Filipinos are increasingly getting interested in our country's history.

Still, judging from the small number of people who buy books in the filipiniana sections of our major bookstores, as compared to those who patronize other sections, much work remains to be done in the area of getting the majority of our people interested in Philippine history. Kamalaysayan, short for Kampanya para sa Kamalayan sa Kasaysayan, was organized in 1991 precisely to address this task, and we have gained some ground, especially with the coming of the Philippine revolutionary centennials.

Debates have gone on about controversies in history, especially those surrounding the relative standings of our heroes like Rizal and Bonifacio and the high-tension debates regarding Bonifacio and Aguinaldo. Historians have differed in their conclusions, even in their respective approaches to the science of history-writing, or historiography, and prospects are not bright for the early resolutioon of their debates. However, the bigger problem is in the realm of public interest in the subject. Urgency in the resolution of historiographical debates is therefore coupled with the bigger urgency of popularization.

But what would make our people care one way or the other about how the historians resolve their debates?  We seem to be predisposed to pour cold water on those debates by asking an irritated "So what?"!  The way history has been taught and the way it is, apparently, still being taught in the schools never caught the imagination of successive generations of Filipino youths. And the way some of our historians carry on their discourse does not help the situation any.

Okay, so let's answer the question "So what?": If we do not know our history, we do not know our roots, our identity, and the real causes of our festering social and cultural problems. If we do not know or care about our history, we remain directionless as a nation, without a collective self-esteem, without a soul, and hooked only on a quest for economic upliftment that can never come because we would only be repeating the mistakes of the past.

So what? Well, we can only expect the worsening of our collective sense of hollowness and shallowness, and our children will suffer much more than we do now about this. Of course, it is more convenient to express our love for them through expensive Christmas gifts. How about real concern about their collective future, which can only come from a profound understanding of our collective past?

(Kamalaysayan Media Service)



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