Filipino Viewpoint: Collective Statement of Philippine History Institutions this Quincentennial

Posted on 23 October 2021
By Rene R. Escalante, Ph.D.

Opening Message of Dr. Rene R. Escalante, Chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and Executive Director of the National Quincentennial Committee, in the Opening Program of the Philippine International Quincentennial Conference, 20 October 2021, 4:00 p.m., at the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit, Cavite. Recorded and streamed by the Radio-Television Malacanang.

This international gathering is the biggest of its kind in the 88 years of existence of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines: 100 speakers and around 39,000 registered webinar participants scattered in 13 sessions from this day, October 20, to December 17, with a total of 100 hours. Not yet counted the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands online viewers on YouTube, conference websites, and 100 Facebook pages. This is the ideal public history we were just dreaming of before. Anyone can join, in the comfort of their homes, anywhere in the world, for free.

Escalante delivering his message at the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit, Cavite.

The Philippine International Quincentennial Conference push through because of the support of the four biggest national professional historical societies. They are the Philippine National Historical Society, the Philippine Historical Association, ADHIKA ng Pilipinas, and the Philippine Academic Consortium of Latin American Studies. NHCP also got support from eight social sciences and history departments. These include the University of San Carlos, Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines Diliman, University of the Philippines Baguio, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Mindanao State University Iligan Institute of Technology, De La Salle University, and Fr. Saturnino Urios University; I would like also to acknowledge our colleagues in the government like the National Quincentennial Committee, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Museum of the Philippines, Department of Education, Office of Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, and Office of House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda.

This international gathering is inspired by the same academic event held in 2018 in Valladolid, Spain in line with the 500th anniversary of the signing of the contract between Ferdinand Magellan and King Charles which officially launched the Armada de Maluco, also known as the Magellan-Elcano expedition, the first to circumnavigate the world. We originally planned to have this at the Philippine International Convention Center. But COVID-19 pandemic jeopardized the plan and challenged us, organizers, to think of better ways in holding it virtually.

More than just an event, the national professional historical societies, social sciences and history departments, and the government agencies envisioned this international conference as a platform that will tell the Filipino people and the whole world that we already have a history before the arrival of Magellan, contrary to what most of us were taught back in schools. Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in her virtual national message before millions of teachers and learners across the country on 27 April 2021, said “Is it appropriate for us to use the colonial narrative that we are ‘discovered? … How many millions of learners at that time whose minds—like mine—were conditioned to this thinking?” The 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines spearheaded by the Philippine government have been painstakingly advocating for the Filipino viewpoint of Philippine history since 2018. We, in the National Quincentennial Committee, are at the forefront of combatting misconceptions about our pre-colonial ancestors. We are exhausting all platforms to echo this advocacy which we have just inherited from our predecessor scholars as early as the time of Jose Rizal. The founders of the Filipino nation bequeathed this document proclaiming Philippine independence on June 12, 1898, elevating the memory of Lapulapu and the Victory at Mactan against Magellan as a beacon of hope and freedom. That is why, we are here at the very site where Philippine independence was proclaimed to the world, inaugurating the first session of the Philippine International Quincentennial Conference.

Nemi Miranda’s Blood Compact in Limasawa (2020).

The conference’s theme “Situating the Filipinos and the Philippines in 1521” is the collective statements of the major institutions of Philippine history in the country and of the Philippine government. This is indeed the right time to see ourselves in the vastness of pre-colonial history and bring to the present the values we shared with our distant ancestors, especially the heritage of Victory and Humanity.

I enjoin each and everyone to please share this conference with as many Filipinos as possible. Let us all learn together as a nation. Let not 2021 just pass as an ordinary year.  While we are combatting our own battles in the present, let us not forget that in our veins run the blood of the great heroes and illustrious men who showed the world how to value life and honor by defending our freedom and exhibiting compassion to whoever is in dire need. As the theme song of the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines, “Bagani,” goes, “dakila ang lahi ko, bayaning Pilipino sa makabagong panahon.”

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