An agenda for K-to-12 Araling Panlipunan | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

An agenda for K-to-12 Araling Panlipunan

Pandemic killed Lapulapu. Not the fish, but the faceless hero of a battle Filipinos won in Mactan 500 years ago. The front page of Monday’s Inquirer was dominated by a photo of six Philippine Coast Guard personnel on a motorized dinghy doing logistical and maintenance training in Pag-asa island, while a fleet of Chinese vessels assert themselves with impunity in another part of the West Philippine Sea.

Lapulapu’s Victory at Mactan in 1521 would have resonated with us today, but alas, Lapulapu was relegated to Lifestyle Section C1 whose link I couldn’t even find online. Fortunately, Inquirer online carries Cebu Daily News that provided coverage of national quincentennial events there that were unfortunately classified as regional or local news.


All is not lost, however, because there is a lot of material online on the legacies and issues of the Magellan expedition if one cares to take the trouble to look them up. So far, I have been so focused on the Filipino decolonization of history. I have not been able to compare the way other countries and peoples along the route of the first circumnavigation look back on the same person and event 500 years since. In the Philippines, the theme of the official commemoration is “Victory and Humanity.” What about Brunei and Timor? Naturally, the Marianas will smart just remembering the name Magellan gave the islands: Ladrones (thieves).

If at all the quincentennial celebrations brought out aspects left out of textbook history. New generation textbooks (hopefully one I will write myself) should expand students’ understanding of the Age of Exploration and the succeeding colonial experience in Southeast Asia. Magellan should be taught together with Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Marco Polo. Students should compare and contrast the 16th century European ideas and aims of exploration in comparison with the earlier Ming voyages of Zheng He from 1405 to 1433 that did not occupy or colonize lands that paid tribute to China. To make the Age of Exploration more relevant it could be taught in relation to ongoing undersea surveys or the challenge that is outer space.


The Spanish colonization and The Royal Philippine Company established in 1785 could be taught together with the Dutch and English East India Companies. Our colonial experience under Spain shouldn’t be studied in a vacuum, but enriched by the British, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Russian, and American presence in Asia. Thinking aloud on what more has to be done to improve history teaching in K-to-12 will have both teachers and students in revolt against overloading of content with what passes for Araling Panlipunan today.

History remains boring to students because it is not made relevant to them. They are taught that the Philippines is predominantly Christian, but not made to look into current social issues rooted in the conversion began by the Spanish in the 16th century. My Araling Panlipunan had very little on the way Islam was introduced to the islands in 1380, with Simunul, Tawi-Tawi, being “the cradle of Islam in the Philippines” the same way that Cebu is the “cradle of Christianity in the Philippines.” Why was Islam pushed from Luzon and the Visayas, and contained in Mindanao? What about nuances lying between the mass baptism in Cebu in 1521 and the Padre Damaso and Fray Botod caricatures of the late 19th century? Fast forward to the 21st century Church coming to terms with criminal priests?

Araling Panlipunan did not cover Matteo Ricci and the Jesuit method of evangelization in China and Japan. It did not mention the 1550 Valladolid debates led by Bartolomé de las Casas on the rights of the colonized in Spanish America. What about differences in the methodologies of conversion: Franciscans who went for mass baptisms, in contrast to Dominicans who insisted on bringing people to the faith by reason. Did the baptized in Cebu in 1521 know and understand what they went through? What happened to Christianity after the remainder of the Magellan expedition fled from Cebu? How could Christian faith deepen without instruction from missionaries? I presume the Cebuanos resumed their old ways until Legazpi returned with Augustinian missionaries in 1565 and re-discovered the Santo Niño venerated as an anito. So much to learn in so little time.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, Araling Panlipunan, K-to-12 curriculum, Looking Back, social studies
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