WHAT do you remember? Why do you remember?
Last June 12, one of the most striking of events held to commemorate the 121st Independence Day was the Photo Static Display organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Kagawasan 2019” was held at a mall, attracting for five days visitors unaware of the local heroes fighting for the country’s independence from colonizers. The exhibit familiarized the young and old with local revolutionaries, such as Gen. Arcadio Maxilom and Leon Kilat, reported SunStar Cebu’s Jerra Mae Librea last June 8.
As interesting are insights drawn from the file photo accompanying the editorial, “Pride of place,” published by SunStar Cebu last June 10. The photograph shows in the foreground one of the high-powered weapons used for contemporary warfare, as well as the AFP personnel and citizens posing with the firearms. Visitors were invited to handle the war artifacts and have their photos taken, with assistance from the organizers.
The file photo’s caption, “What does liberation mean for you?,” is a rhetorical question posed to citizens reflecting on events in the past and their relevance to present realities. The AFP’s “Kagawasan 2019” shows, through its curation, the singling out of messages and images that depict particular interpretations of history and independence, while remaining silent on or marginalizing other information and insights.
National Artist Dr. Resil B. Mojares said that history is often told from the vantage point of victors and authorities. During a talk with local history writers participating in the Cebu Provincial History project undertaken by the Cebu Provincial Government and the University of San Carlos (USC) Cebuano Studies Center (CSC), the eminent writer, historian and champion of regional studies emphasized the challenges of weaving into historical narratives the voices of those who are often left out in most published accounts, such as the uneducated, women, the elderly and the disabled.
All stakeholders must contribute to this continuing education about our past and its connection to our continuing present, as pointed out by nationalist historian Renato Constantino. To avoid the monopoly of a dominant interpretation or representation of history and equip citizens with the critical consciousness to parse and expose inaccuracies, disinformation and historical revisionism, education must be channeled through the formal system, mass media, new media, academics, local historians and civil society to reach the grassroots.
In Cebu, this process has been initiated by vanguards, such as the Cebuano Studies Center, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., the University of the Philippines (UP) Central Visayas Studies Center, the Hambin organization, local colleges and universities, academic presses such as the USC Publications and the UP Press, and public libraries, particularly the Cebu City Public Library.
Today’s youth may be drawn to images, spectacles and YouTube videos. However, books and their mass-oriented counterparts in newspapers and magazines are important portals for popularizing accurate and relevant information, as exemplified by Ambeth Ocampo’s newspaper columns and books on Jose Rizal.
One important reference on the Cebuano is Erlinda Kintanar-Alburo’s “Bisayangdako: Writing Cebuano Culture and Arts” (USC Press, 2015), which compiles selected columns from two now defunct publications, “Freeman Magazine” and “Sugbo News.”
Concise and reader-friendly, Kintanar-Alburo’s essays illuminate episodes and personages shaping Cebu: the different narratives about Lapulapu and Humabon, Gen. Arcadio Maxilom and the revolution in Cebu and Sotero Cabahug and the construction of the Capitol Building, among others.
Books on local history jumpstart class discussions and researches. They may also trigger other Cebuanos to come up with more articles, books and short videos that will make us delve to find out who we are and why we remember.