The History I Never Learned

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As I grow more self-aware of my identity as a Filipino American, I grow more aware of this big part of me that wants to learn the history of my ancestors: the Filipinos. Growing up, my dad told me bits and pieces about Magellan, the Spanish and American rule in the Philippines, Marcos and more. Whenever I could choose my topic for a research paper or project, my chosen topic usually revolved around some aspect of the Philippines. In high school, I wrote about America’s annexation of the Philippines and in college, I wrote about how Filipino Americans are perceived in today’s media.

The sad reality of my American education is that the history of the Philippines is not being included in the curriculum. In my high school U.S. textbook, the Philippine-American relations during pre/during/post WWII all got crammed into a tiny paragraph. Books and resources available in the U.S. in general fail to tell of America’s past relationship with the Philippines. It’s a story that isn’t being told, which was frustrating especially when I had to write a 5-6 page paper on a it.

I’ve been MIA from blogging the past few weeks because I’ve been taking opportunities to finally learn the history I never really learned. Sarah and I have been incredibly inspired by everything we’ve been learning. So in addition to our internships and Kaya, we’ve been working on developing a set of workshops for college students back home to spark dialogue on what it really means to be Filipino/ Filipino American. It’s been really exciting to room with/be friends with someone who has similar hopes and dreams as myself for our communities back home. But anyway, here’s a little bit about what I’ve been doing the past few weeks:

Carlos Celdran Tour

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A few weekends ago, Sarah and I went on a Carlos Celdran tour of Intramuros, the historical district of Manila. It was around 3 hours of history for only P600 (approx. $15) that came with a chance to check out the Jose Rizal Shrine, a Kalesa ride, halo halo and a poster! Carlos was hilarious (at times) and a bit over the top (at other times) but very entertaining. I learned about the Philippines starting around the time the Spanish came and ending around the post- WWI era.

His tour was one of the highlights of my trip so far. At some point, I was brought to tears because of the horrible realities of the Manila Bay Bombing. I recall learning about that event briefly (perhaps in a movie?) but no history teacher of mine has ever elaborated on this major WWII event. The bombing of Pearl Harbor always overshadows it and well, it’s because history in the U.S. is being told from a U.S. perspective. I just find it surprising how much the U.S. elaborates on its mistakes in Vietnam but fails to do so when it comes to the atrocities that occurred in the Philippines as a result of America being heavily involved.

Lecture by Ambeth R. Ocampo on Apolinario Mabini

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I also attended an Ambeth R. Ocampo lecture on the Filipino revolutionary leader, Apolinario Mabini at the Ayala museum. Prior to the lecture, I had no idea who Mabini was. Ocampo initially introduced him as the “sublime paralytic” but elaborated on how Mabini was so much more. I ended up buying one of Ocampo’s books after the lecture too so I could read more about Mabini and his work with Aguinaldo (the first president of the Philippines).

The Ayala Museum & Filipinas Heritage Library

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Not only did I attend a lecture at the Ayala museum, I also had a few chances to walk around the place, which is home to some of the Philippines’ gold artifacts60 dioramas that highlight major events in Philippine history and the Filipinas Heritage Library. The Filipinas Heritage Library is working to digitize the books they have, meaning I now would have access to a whole set of resources (if I just paid a small $5 fee; which is so worth it). I look forward to reading books from the FHL when I get back to the States.

It’s unfortunate that visiting museums isn’t as popular an activity as walking around malls here. The Ayala Museum is so rich with history and culture but the locals just aren’t as interested. I want to spend hours…days in that building to just learn it all.

Our tour guide actually gave us all an additional free day pass to use during our remainder time here since we rushed through the exhibits. So I plan to come sometime again in the next few weeks.

Speaking of the next few weeks, my summer in the Philippines is quickly drawing to a close! The Kaya fellowship officially ends August 23 (next Friday) although some of the fellows are already starting to make their way home. I’ll be staying two extra weeks in the Philippines, during which my parents will be around a majority of the time. They’re flying over for my birthday and to visit family. Since my internship will be drawing to a close soon, I figure I can use some time to just experience the Philippines rather than balance work and play.

More blogs to come soon! I’m working on catching up on some of the past month’s highlights.

Categories: Personal, Filipino, Reflections, Philippines 2014, Summer 2014, Kaya Collaborative, Travel
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4 thoughts on “The History I Never Learned”

  • Jenn~ says:

    I’ve been wanting to learn about my heritage lately, too. My dad is Dutch-Indonesian and I want to learn their history. Must be fun spending the summer in the Philippines. Time sure passes fast. Try to enjoy your last days there. I’m trying to catch up on my blog posts, too! I’m super behind as well.

  • Alice says:

    I am SO SO happy for you that you are going out there and learning more about your heritage and culture!!! The shitty thing about the American education system (among, well, many other things) is that it’s so US and America-centric which on some level is understandable since we’re in America; but it’s also no excuse to be completely blind to other cultures and be ethnocentric and not be educated about other very important countries and historical events.

    I hope you learn more and have a lot of fun for the remainder of the time you have in the Philippines!! :)

  • Cat says:

    I don’t think I learned much about Philippine-American relations during school either. I didn’t know much about the Manila Bay Bombing, and I didn’t know who Mabini was. That’s great that you’re able to learn about the Filipino history while you’re there :) I’m glad you were able to attend these events! They sound really informative!

    Have fun during your extra two weeks too!

  • Kya says:

    I think that is so great that you have been spending a lot of time to also learn about the history that isn’t told. It is really sad, when many events are hidden or only glossed over, especially in educating new generations. I hope that the plans you have to enlighten others will really work.

    I also hope you have a good time in the last few weeks getting to see many things, and have a nice birthday with your family. :D

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