Our Ancestors Are Just Waiting for Us
Posted on 24 March 2021
By Kinna Kwan
Historian Ambeth Ocampo, who was with us in the first five days of the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines (2021 QCP) in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, made the following remarks in his regular Inquirer column:
Magellan’s mission was exploration, not colonization, which should rightfully be associated with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Those who criticize the 2021 commemoration of the first circumnavigation as a celebration of colonialism and oppression need to brush up on their textbook history and the Armada de Molucca. (Emphases are mine.)
Guiuan and its islands are using 2021 QCP as a platform to celebrate our ancestors’ kindness and humanity, and, so to speak, our contribution to the first circumnavigation of the world, which is a human achievement that brought about changes in science and spurred globalization.
We are not celebrating colonialism. We are not celebrating Magellan. We even removed the mural in Homonhon that featured only the foreigners and replaced it with one that highlighted our dignified ancestors and the skinny crew of the Magellan-Elcano expedition. (Special thanks to muralist Derrick Macutay for lending us his artwork titled, The First Contact, commissioned by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.) We also changed the title of the commemoration from “Magellan’s Landing” to “Humanity at Homonhon.” We infused our precolonial deities like Makapatag, the supreme god residing in Homonhon, and our own surat binisaya in our educational drives.
We are celebrating our own pre-colonial ancestors whom Pigafetta, the chronicler of the Magellan-Elcano expedition, described as kind, pleasant, conversant, honorable, tattooed people who had their own culture, language, belief system, and world view. As a Guiananon, this is my learning from the 2021 QCP in Guiuan—to appreciate our ancestors, oblivious to our very own people, and lack presence in our own history books.
May the 2021 QCP ignited and continuously ignite interest among the people of Guiuan and the rest of the country to discover the world of our pre-colonial ancestors.
Kinna Kwan is the Municipal Administrator of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. A Board Member of the Philippine National Historical Society, she was the vice-chairperson of the Guiuan Quincentennial Committee.