The recent 33rd National Conference on Local and National History, hosted for the third time by Silliman University, brought historians, researchers and academicians all over the country who are members of the Philippine National Historical Society, Inc. for a three-day interactive discussion jointly sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Philippine Social Science Council, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and Silliman University.
At the opening ceremony held at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, approximately 200 participants were welcomed to Dumaguete by City Administrator William Ablong on behalf of Mayor Manuel “Chiquiting” Sagarbarria. Keynoting the conference was Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, president of Silliman University, who spoke on “History and the Environment.”
Dr. Bernardita Reyes Churchill, president of the Philippine National Historical Society and national convenor, read the greetings from Prof. Leslie Bauzon, her predecessor, whose support and assistance she likewise acknowledged. She also recalled that the PNHS is today the oldest voluntary professional organization devoted to the study and research in Philippine history. It was officially organized on Feb. 2, 1941 when its constitution and by-laws were approved, with the organization initially called the Philippine Historical Society.
While this was the first organization of historians in the country, there were other similar groups that actually preceded it, like the AsociacionHistorica de Filipinas, founded by Felipe G. Calderon in 1905, and the SociedadHistorico-Geografica de Filipinas, founded in 1916 or 1917 by a group led by a Filipino named Carlos A. Sobral. Both groups were defunct after just a few years although they managed to publish some issues of the RevistaHistorica de Filipinas and Boletin, respectively.
Of the more than a dozen papers presented, three came from professors of Silliman University. Dr. Earl Jude Paul Cleope, co-president of the PNHS and local co-convenor who is dean of the College of Education of Silliman University, presented “Fire and the Changing Cityscape of Dumaguete City.” According to Cleope, his paper is a modest attempt to offer a framework for the study of an urban center, one that underscores the role of fire as a factor in the historical development of an area. It draws on the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and suggests that contradiction and negation have a dynamic quality – that every point in each domain of history leads to further development until a rational unity is reached that preserves the contradictions as phases and sub-parts by lifting them up to a higher unity. In this sense, according to Cleope, the occurrence of fire in the historical development of the city has an impact in the evolving cityscape and growth of the city. “Fire and the subsequent construction of buildings, then, can be used as a historical source, but only if the historian takes into account the particular texts and subtexts that they offer. In short, the occurrence of fires should not only be studied for its reasons, but for its meanings and effects,” explains Cleope.
“Noli Me Tangere and Identity Construction: A Look at the Emergence of the Native Filipino” was presented by Prof. Regan Jomao-as. In his abstract, Jomao-as affirmed that before the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution in 1896, the term “Filipino” referred only to a Spaniard born in the Philippines. Apparently, stressed Jomao-as, the word “Filipino” came to include the natives only after more than 300 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines. Prior to that, the local inhabitants were referred to by the Spanish colonizers as indios (Indians). The paper tries to trace the birth of the native “Filipino” based primarily on the literary work of Jose Rizal, the “Noli Me Tangere.” Among others, the study attempts to show how Rizal’s novel represented a kind of hidden resistance that was brought out into the public sphere, which contributed to the fall of Spain’s colonial rule in the Philippines. The novels of Rizal played a vital role in the awakening of the Filipinos from colonial subordination.
Dr. T. Valentino Sitoy Jr., adjunct professor of the Divinity School, presented “Notes on the History of Eastern Negros up to the End of the Spanish Regime.” The paper is an attempt to build a general outline of the history of eastern Negros, with particular attention to Dumaguete and Tanjay, from available Spanish records starting with the first Spanish landing in March 1565 to the end of the Spanish 1898. It describes the comparatively slow growth of missions in eastern Negros, which until the arrival of Spanish Recollects about the middle of the 19th century, were largely under the care of visiting Spanish secular priests attached to the Cebu Cathedral. It also connects fluctuations in Spanish tribute statistics in Negros with known historical events in neighboring islands, such as the Bohol Revolt of 1621, the Samar Revolt of 1649, and the Dagohoy Revolt in the 18th and early 19th centuries, on the one hand, and the regular Moro raids of the Visayas and elsewhere beginning 1599.
Sitoy’s paper likewise chronicles the gradual growth of the towns in eastern Negros, partly as a result of natural population growth, migration from neighboring places, and Spanish success in curbing the annual Moro raids following the advent of steam warships. It also gives reasons for the rise of Dumaguete beginning in the mid-18th century and explains the implications and consequences of the slow economic growth in Negros east coast compared to that in the west coast in the closing decades of the 19th century. It also explained why at a time when Negros Occidental was becoming a veritable center of sugar production in the Philippines, Negros Oriental would tend to put emphasis not on sugar centrals, but on centers of education and learning.
The closing ceremony was highlighted by the launching of two volumes of books – the Journal of History LVIII (January to December 2012) with Rolando Borinaga as issue editor and Dr. Bernardita Churchill as executive editor, and the Journal of History: Rizal Sesquicentennial Edition edited by Dr. Churchill with Patrick Anthony de Castro and DignaApilado as associate editors.
Expressing their gratitude and appreciation for the successful conference were Dr. Maria NelaFlorendo, chair of the NCCA’s Committee on Historical Research, and Prof. Carlos Magtolis Jr., dean of students of Silliman University, who was the conference co-convenor.
Next year’s conference will be hosted by Liceo de Cagayan University in Cagayan de Oro City.