KT HERE stands for Kidlat Tahimik, Baguio’s own National Artist for Film. He sends out these newsletter-missives that feature paradigm-shifting takes on Philippine history, lending light to dates, names, events that were in ages past historically packaged from perspectives other than ours. I.e., Magellan “discovered” the Philippines in March, 1521.
The latest of KT’s missives has to do with exactly that: March 16, 1521. Many children in Baguio and the rest of the country are taught that on this day, an “intrepid” European explorer named Ferdinand Magellan “discovered” the Philippines. If you somehow end up in the University of the Philippines, your history professors put that myth to rest very quickly. The now Philippine islands Magellan first set foot on in 1521 were not yet Philippine and were already known to their inhabitants and those beyond as Homonhon, Limasawa, Butuan, Cebu, Mactan, and so forth.
KT reminds us of that Yoyoy Villame song about Magellan’s arrival and says of the song: “Medyo pilit. Pero patawa. And so bouncy – yung history-date talagang memorizable noong bata pa tayo, diba? At ngayon, gurang na at magulang pa, kinakanta parin!” Indeed, what easier way to get a date memorized than with a catchy song that begins “In March 16, 1521... ” -- making Villame someone KT calls the best history teacher.
Kidlat then leads in into how the Philippines is celebrating the 500th year since then: “... 500 years since the weak, hungry crew of Magellan arrived in Limasawa Island. It’s great that Pres. Du30 chose not to glorify “the Discovery” (with a capital D) by a Conquistador (with a capital C). Ang galing! Kilig ako to D’ bones. Instead, the National Quincentennial Commission (NQC) chose the theme “Humanity and Victory” celebrating the Pinoy view of history.” Amen to that.
KT’s latest missive explains how Magellan was in 1521 welcomed according to Filipino tradition, the “kapwa”-ness of that welcome, dictated by a caring culture that sees one in the other. Hence the aptness of the aforementioned theme, which does also speak of Lapu-Lapu...
The missive must of course be read en toto to be fully appreciated. For now, let me mention that it speaks too of essayist Carmen Guerrero Nakpil in the context of the ensuing centuries of Filipinos spending time in the convent, then jumping out of its walls into Hollywood. We must now also mention here that it was Nakpil who wrote landmark essay “The Filipino Woman,” where we find such direct and honest reflections of ourselves. Just like KT missives, the essay must be read en toto to be fully appreciated.
Watch for the part where a Spanish conquistador seeking a treaty with a local king was told to wait, as the latter had to ask his wife first. So apropos of the Pinay and Women’s month.
March 19, 2021
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