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Looking Back
Revisiting the Kalantiaw hoax

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:47:00 04/13/2010

Filed Under: history

AKLAN IS ONE PLACE I WANT TO VISIT EVEN IF I am not welcome there. Someday I hope to visit the former Kalantiaw Shrine in Batan that has since been reconfigured following the declaration by the National Historical Institute that Kalantiaw is without historical basis and, at worst, a hoax. It was thus refreshing to find a haiku in a blog by Melchor F. Cichon that refers to both of us:

?Pag-agto ko sa Batan. Ha kita ko si Ambeth Ocampo. Ginpaeapitan na si Datu Kalantiaw. Nagkaea to ero an dangueo. (When I went to Batan, I saw Ambeth Ocampo. He approached Datu Kalantiaw. Both scratched their heads.)?

For those who are interested in the issue and want the details that led to the NHI declaration, it is best to refer to chapter 5 of William Henry Scott?s masterful dissertation ?Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History? first published in 1968. A revised edition saw print in 1984 containing the chapter ?The contributions of Jose E. Marco to Philippine Historiography.? It is significant that Scott updated his work in response to new scholarship in the disciplines of history, archeology, linguistics, etc. but the chapter on Marco remained almost as is, unchallenged since it was first written in 1968.

My own interest in the Code of Kalantiaw began with Scott and ended with my research on the correspondence preserved in the archive of the University of Chicago Philippine Studies Program. It was this group in the 1950s that published in mimeograph form the following hard-to-find items: ?The Robertson Text and translation of the Povedano manuscript of 1572? and ?The Povedano manuscript of 1578? and ?The Robertson Translations of the Pavon manuscripts of 1838-1839.? Robertson was a pre-war director of the Philippine National Library and co-editor of the 55-volume compilation of documents on the Spanish Philippines known affectionately by historians as ?Blair and Robertson? or ?BR.?

History is built on the shoulders of earlier histories. The work of one historian is built on the foundations set by earlier historians. So in the complicated Kalantiaw story we have at the very end of the line a man named Jose E. Marco who made it up and a gullible young historian who gobbled it up hook, line and sinker. Robertson published the Code of Kalantiaw in a reputable historical journal and from there it was cited as real for the next century.

While reading the correspondence among Fred Eggan, E.D. Hester, H. Otley Beyer, Robert Fox, and Mauro Garcia, you see the same sorry story in another light. It is a cautionary tale for academics that I am preparing for publication some time this year.

Each semester when I discuss the pre-Spanish Philippines in my undergraduate classes, we all have a big laugh when we discuss the Code of Kalantiaw. For example: Rule III states that if you are excessively lustful you will be condemned to swim in the river for three hours for the first offense, and lacerated with thorns for the second! Rule VII says you will be put to death if you shoot arrows at night at old men and old women! Rule VIII says you will be condemned to slavery for a given period if you keep an ill-tempered dog that bites the chief! Rule X states that you will be beaten for two days if you sing while traveling at night! Rule XII provides that you will be exposed to ants for half a day if you kill black cats during a new moon! Rule XIV says you will be enslaved for life if you have a beautiful daughter and you hide her from the chief!

There is so much more merriment in the Code of Kalantiaw that makes us ask the more important question: How was the perverted genius, Jose E. Marco, able to dupe the leading lights of early Philippine scholarship? How did he manage to get away with it for close to half a century, creating pre-Spanish and Spanish documents, and even a whole corpus of work by Jose Burgos that includes the novel ?La Loba Negra??

I can understand why later scholars and textbook writers, like Eufronio Alip and Gregorio Zaide, did not question the findings of the senior scholars before them: Robertson, Artigas y Cuerva, Romualdez, and Beyer. But why did the pioneers who had physical access to the so-called ?originals? allow themselves to be fooled? I examined Marco?s handiwork and found them so crude, so amateurish that I couldn?t understand why an eminent bibliographer like Mauro Garcia or the father of Philippine pre-history, H. Otley Beyer, could have been taken in that they acquired some of these bogus manuscripts. Maybe their greed or excitement clouded their better judgment? Maybe they wanted to scoop each other and in so doing they withheld crucial information from each other that made Marco get away with so many things for so long?

Throughout the paper trail that I followed from Chicago to Manila, I could clearly see that the men duped by Marco sensed something was wrong with the material, yet despite all the warnings, they disabled all the alarms because everyone was rushing to be the first to publish these ?significant? papers on pre-Spanish Philippine life. The end result is a hoax like Kalantiaw that refuses to die. Despite the overwhelming evidence against the Code of Kalantiaw, there remain a few believers who insist on what is one of the most fascinating hoaxes in Philippine history.

Comments are welcome in my Facebook Fan Page.

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