Wenceslao: History telling

I HAVE written about Palm Grass, Cebu’s only heritage hotel, a number of times before. It’s because I believe in the concept: a hotel showcasing to guests a chunk of Cebu’s history. It hasn’t been done before here, or if it has been, the commitment to history is shallow. My only question then was how would the hotel provide dynamism to the history telling?

Palm Grass, located in Junquera St. but just a stone’s throw away from Colon, Cebu City’s oldest road, held its grand opening April 3 of last year. The intent was obvious, the date being the 119th anniversary of the “Tres de Abril” uprising. But before that, I witnessed how the hotel management solidified its claim to being a heritage hotel.

I thought that was that. Rooms named after Cebuanos who made a name in the revolt and painted with historical trivia. A miniature museum. Books on Cebu history displayed in the restaurant. Menu of Cebuano food. Regular celebration of important events in Cebu’s history. All that while having to ensure the commercial viability of the place.But the pursuit of the concept continues to amaze me because of the creativity and persistence.

I have always been for the continuing education of Cebuanos on its past, one that is not limited to our colonization by foreign forces but extends even earlier than those periods. And during colonial times, I am partial for the chronicling of our struggle and triumphs, no matter how small, against foreign domination.

Which is why I like the effort of the hotel management to continue to tell and retell the 1898 battle and other information revolving around it.

Yesterday, I watched the videos created by University of the Philippines and University of San Carlos students, one of them an attempt to put a millennial generation spin to the narration of the “Tres de Abril” battle. This has been what Palm Grass has been doing, which is to continue to find ways to make this particular chunk of Cebu history relevant and interesting.

As for the 1898 uprising, I say the story of Pantaleon “Leon Kilat” Villegas is the most intriguing. I hope a historian out there would come up with a book that would focus solely on the man and his death. His is a story of triumph and betrayal, which should make for a good read. But of course objectivity would be the problem, especially on the matter of his slaying in Carcar.

The point is, the telling of the Cebu uprising has often been muted when it comes to Villegas’s betrayal because the heels to Villegas’s hero have descendants who may object to their ancestors’ portrayal. In my research for the history book I wrote on Tudela town, I came across old newspaper reports that showed the difficulty of exposing those who betrayed Villegas and why they did so.

This is why I find it unfortunate that even the Cebu City Government seems to have gotten tired of the retelling of the 1898 “Tres de Abril” uprising and its aftermath. Much is still to be said about the uprising if only government and our historians are persistent and continue to look for fresh angles to an old narrative. Which is what the minds at Palm Grass has been successfully doing so far.
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