COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
If not for the centennial year celebration of the Philippine Independence, I won’t be able to read Agoncillo’s book “History of the Filipino People” chapter by chapter in a chronological manner. I did not even finish the whole book; just three straight chapters on Bonifacio, the Katipunan, and the Revolution. And I consider it a great achievement in my life.
That history book I’ve been setting aside for reading and serious study many years back in college. But every time I pick the book I only manage to cover a page or two then put it back again. The facts and figures come across as meaningless. There’s nothing gripping. I could not make a connection or rather I cannot put myself into the series of events.
What is annoying in this experience is that I’ve been reading biographies and histories of other people and places and learned and understood about them. But I cannot seem to identify and relate to my own national history. There is this difficulty in acquiring a sense of the past, even after my exposure to the student movement, the theater, and the state university.
I’ve been thinking what about those who consider history as mere subject in the elementary and high school years plus a few units in college, or those who barely spent time in school, or those who get glued on televisions, computers, compact discs, cell phones and other modern communication equipment. They are unmindful of the past.
Indeed, we have a vague recollection of the past. We lack knowledge of the past, enough to make us feel over a hundred years independent and free. We lack rooting.
The little sense of history I acquired I owe it to my mother. She is one person who has a strong attachment to the past, often discrediting the present. Since I was a child, I’ve been indoctrinated with tales of our family history, the war years, and the life and death of personages in our locality. I say indoctrinated because the tales were not only told in an entertaining manner but with an authoritative tone and a subtle imposition to identify and continue the past. This includes the mastery of her mother’s cooking, to follow her father’s sense of foresight, the commitment to keep the local church alive, to oversee the land, to help those in need, among others.
Being engulfed with the stories can sometimes be a kind of bondage like when she narrated that at an early age her mother started serving her mother, and that she herself served her own mother till the later died. I felt being trapped in a Mexican melodrama.
But her latest accounts somehow made me proud of being part of the lineage. At her golden age she revealed that her grandfather, who was a blacksmith from Cebu, ventured and settled in Leyte in the late eighteen hundreds and made bolos for the Pulahans. A man named Capili made the orders by the hundreds of which my great grandfather could hardly refuse. Only then I learned that our old residential lot was the site of a small factory of those glittering swords of the Leyte revolutionaries.
And so for us to project into the future, history must be told and retold, written and rewritten for a better understanding of ourselves. For it is only in having a good grip of the past can we acquire a strong sense of self, of nationhood for that matter, and have our identity revealed.