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Maureen Justiniano

    Philippine historians at a glance

    part 1

While my previous article dealt with Philippine history being in dire need of better public relations as well as how to remove the ‘stigma’ of learning and enjoying the study of Philippine history (see, Vol. 4, No. 12, June 16-30, 2008), I think it is only fitting that I continue to build on this discussion. This time I will be looking at those who study Philippine history (I make no distinctions between the amateur and professional scholars) and hopefully, make a case that these poor individuals are definitely not released into the world to bore everyone to death. In fact, these individuals actually challenge our perceptions of our past to help us make a connection with our present and to shape our future.


 Ruth de Llobet, Maureen Justiniano & Mike Cullinane

Maureen Justiniano presents her paper comparing elements of the Philippine and Cuban revolutions against Spain

 Ruth de Llobet, Mike Cullinane & Maureen Justiniano

PhD student Ruth De Llobet (left), Dr. Mike Cullinane and MA/PhD student Maureen Justiniano from the U of Wisconsin-Madison

 Ruth de Llobet & Rose Mendoza

PhD student Ruth De Llobet (left) with Rose Mendoza whose services as a researcher are highly valued by the top Philippine historians

You might think that I am making a huge deal over the significance of historians just because I am one of those “nice but mind-numbingly boring people,” or just because I have nothing else better to do with my time. Actually, you might be surprised that historians’ work does have value like the rare documents and artifacts that they study and work on.

Granted that historians do not develop sophisticated technologies or construct super structures. However, it is important to point out that, in fact, national identities and nations themselves are developed and constructed based on historians’ interpretations of the past. Why do you think the Philippines has so many national holidays and commemorations throughout the year, which also continue to change with every new administration in power?

As much as I would like to say it all boils down to just excuses to have more vacation time for everyone; nonetheless, the shaping or manipulating of public memory with different historical narratives greatly benefits those who wanted to project their own image of our nation. We must not forget that history and historical memory is a very effective tool and mechanism of power. Those who recognize history for its potential know how to manipulate it for their own vested interests. Anyway, I am already digressing from my own discussion but I am just trying to emphasize the importance of history as well as why historians’ work is also worthy of our attention. So let’s just continue with our discussion by relating to you my own recent experiences as well as some of those that I have met an d worked with during my summer stay in the Philippines.

My recent trip to the Philippines has been a wonderful and rich experience for me as a graduate student of Philippine history. For two months, I met and worked with well-known Philippine scholars (both Filipinos and non- Filipinos) who participated in the recently concluded 8th International Conference in Philippine Studies (ICOPHIL) held at the Philippine Social Science Council Bldg. and Ateneo de Manila University from July 23-26. This international conference is usually held every 4 years in the Philippines, the US or The Netherlands. The 2004 ICOPHIL was held in Leiden, The Netherlands; this year it was in the Philippines and in 2012 the conference will be in Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

As I mentioned earlier, this trip has been the most fruitful for me because I was fortunate enough to present my paper at ICOPHIL and work as research assistant for UW- Madison’s Dr. Mike Cullinane at the National Archives. My two- month ‘day job’ at the National Archives not only allowed me to work on my Spanish language skills but also exposed me to Spanish documents that I was never aware of. More importantly, I was able to expand my academic network at the Archives where I got to know individuals who are invaluable in doing research in Philippine Studies; one in particular is Rose Mendoza.

Rose Mendoza is a well known and most sought-after researcher who is basically a walking resource herself because she’s familiar with the majority, if not all of the collections in the National Archives, the National Library as well as private document and book collections from the Lopez Museum, Ayala Museum/Heritage Library and the Ortigas Library, among others. In fact, if you happen to have Ambeth Ocampo’s books (esp. the “Rizal Without the Overcoat”), you’ll find that Ambeth acknowledged her as his excellent research assistant. In addition, she has also worked with other Phil. scholars such as Michael Cullinane, Glenn May, Reynaldo Ileto, Alfred McCoy, Paul Hutchcroft and Jun Aguilar.

While I was elated to be in the presence of these scholars during my stay in the Philippines, I was equally at awe to be considered a colleague by those who work closely with these scholars because they also share the same passion and dedication as the professionally trained historians. As a matter of fact, I find that professionally trained historians often rely on the expertise of researchers such as Rose Mendoza, to track down specific information that they needed to complete their work. I think it’s only fitting that they are also recognized as scholars of history in their own right.
As for my encounters with other historians, I have one particular historian whom I have admired for a long time (ever since I first read his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the 1990s and his popular book on Rizal). I am very fortunate to have the privilege to know him personally and to take history classes with him at the Ateneo.

 James Warren, Alfred McCoy & Glenn May

Some of the top foreign scholars currently working in Philippine history and culture – James F. Warren, Alfred McCoy & Glenn May

In the second portion of this article (to be published in the upcoming PE issue, September 1-15), I will be looking at popular Philippine historian Ambeth R. Ocampo. I know many of you are familiar with his weekly column in Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Looking Back,” which will now be appearing in the upcoming issues of Pilipino Express starting next issue (September 1-15, 2008). I would like our readers to get to know more about Ambeth by sharing my own encounters with him as well as my experiences as one of his students in the upcoming issue of Pilipino Express. Abangan na lang ang susunod na kabanata.

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