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Rediscovering PH through Filipiniana

“Filipiniana” is a bibliographic term that I first encountered as a child let loose in the school library. Filipiniana to me was a complicated “adult word” written in script, on a crude sign made with black pentel pen on blue cartolina. It rested on a shelf where all the Philippine books and materials were gathered. I knew by instinct and association that Filipiniana referred to books on the Philippines.

Later I was to learn that Filipiniana referred to all things relating to the Philippines: history, geography, languages, culture, etc. I know I was supposed to look up difficult words in the thick, heavy dictionary in the center of the library, but I kept away from it because it rested on a bookstand and was treated with reverence like a bible. Filipiniana is rooted in the Spanish name for the Philippines (Filipinas) given the suffix iniana, which  refers to “collected items of information.” Filipiniana had subsections, which I saw in yet another library where the books were arranged by political history, specifically divided according to the life and times of particular presidents. And thus I learned about Quezoniana, Osmeniana, Marcosiana and Ramosiana!

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Bookstores also have dedicated Filipiniana sections, often located in the back of the store where Philippine books are banished far away from New York Times best sellers, and from the fast-moving stationery, office supplies and disposable underwear. Some branches of National Bookstore have dispensed with the Filipiniana section and mixed the Philippine titles by subject with foreign books, which makes the search more challenging.

A few weeks ago there was an online feature on the seven best places to find Filipiniana starting with the iconic Solidaridad Bookstore on Padre Faura (run by amiable Tessie, wife of National Artist F. Sionil Jose) and ending with Mt. Cloud Bookshop in Baguio. There was once an all-Filipiniana bookstore called the Filipino Bookstore; way ahead of its time, that should be revived some day.

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Filipiniana came to mind last week when I received two books that cannot be found readily in the Metro because they are “local” histories written by “local” historians, when they should simply be referred to as “works on Philippine history by Filipino historians.” You can blame the so-called Imperial Manila mind-set for these distinctions because there is only one “National Historian” in the person of the chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Following in the footsteps of Malang, bypassed for national artist and self-proclaimed “National Bookstore Artist,” I can probably pass off as the “National Bookstore Historian.”

I read the slim volume “In the Blood: Tracing the Kapampangan Lineage of Andres Bonifacio” by Joel S. Regala (Angeles City: Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies, 2014) in one sitting. It attempts to connect the Supremo of the Katipunan with the Bonifacios of Macabebe and present-day Masantol. While the author admits that there is very little credible evidence that can lead to Pampanga appropriating Andres Bonifacio from Manila (or at least sharing him), it makes for an engaging read. History after all has been described as a journey rather than a destination. I am cited in the volume for a reference I made to the research of the demographer Dan Doeppers, he who dug up the vecindarios of Tondo in the National Archives for the years 1889 to 1894, and he informed me that he “could not find an Andres Bonifacio listed as a resident there.”

Undaunted, Regala went to the archives and found the 1881 records on Andres Bonifacio! Reproduced in the book is the page where you find the parents of the hero: Santiago Bonifacio (aged 39) and Catalina de Castro (aged 36) and their children: Andres (17 years), Ciriaco (15), Procopio (11), and Espiridiona (4). This small bit of stray information disproves the textbook story that Andres and his siblings were orphaned young. Whether he did support his siblings from the sale of fans (abanico) and canes (baston) is another fairy tale we can add to the stories of Rizal and the chinelas or George Washington and the cherry tree. For this small bit of information alone I felt the book was well worth my while.

Heftier in content and size is “Ferdinand Magellan: The Armada de Maluco and the European Discovery of the Philippines” by Danilo Madrid Gerona (Spanish Galleon Publisher, 2016). Based on Spanish and Portuguese primary sources found in repositories in Madrid, Sevilla, and elsewhere, Gerona gives us a new look into the Magellan expedition using a Filipino perspective. Unfortunately, the cover refers to the “discovery” of the Philippines, and I have always maintained that the correct way to describe this event will be Magellan’s “arrival” in the islands in 1521.

Gerona’s chapter on the Battle of Mactan is an eye-opener because Humabon and Lapu-Lapu were related by marriage. Contrary to popular belief, Lapu-Lapu was not a handsome, gym-fit, warrior who killed Magellan, Lapu-Lapu was, like President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, 70 years old. He was not in the battle itself. Another textbook fairy tale down the drain.

Books by Filipino historians like Regala and Gerona should be better known and supported if only to sustain the ongoing reevaluation and rewriting of Philippine history for our incoming K-12 students.

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Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu.

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TAGS: culture, filipiniana, History, library, Philippines
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