Gomburza – Manila Bulletin

HOTSPOT

Tonyo Cruz

A good number of people are reacting negatively to what happened at a show where kids were unable to answer basic social studies and history questions.

The disappointment is understandable. But the problem is that many assume that Philippine history is a major subject in the K-to-12 curriculum. It is not. The Department of Education has integrated Philippine history into certain social studies subjects.

This is certainly bad. If K-to-12 is supposed to create employable and job-ready graduates, it is bad that our graduates are not adequately educated with Philippine history, civics, culture, and geography. Readiness to work must also mean being a Filipino aware of the country’s origins.

To a certain degree, you’re better off if you managed to graduate under the old curriculum. That means you had an annual dose of Araling Panlipunan, Sibika at Kultura, Heograpiya / Kasaysayan / Sibika. You’re familiar with Gregorio Zaide and his retelling of Philippine history as legacies of colonizers, and a collection of dates, names, places and events.

Yes, only to a certain degree. Because history cannot be a mere category for trivia contests on TV, which is what the old Zaide history books seem to be useful for.

Giving Robi Domingo the right answer of “Gomburza” is desirable and good. But what’s really desirable and good is to know why the three Gomburza priests mattered a lot that they are enshrined in our history, and for what they were executed by garrote: the secularization and Filipinization of the the clergy and church under the Spanish colonial powers.

Yes, only to a certain degree. Because even those who managed to graduate under the old curriculum still fall prey to historical revisionism. Official Philippine history remains pro-establishment: justifying everything bad, blaming the people for their own misery and airbrushing the role of people’s struggle and resistance in pushing history forward.

Other countries do not sacrifice their own histories and literature at the altar of globalization. But in the Philippines, our government proudly did so. In their cold calculation, senior high school and college graduates do not need Philippine history and literature to be good workers and professionals.

At the university level, Philippine literature is no longer a required subject according to a Commission on Higher Education decision that the Supreme Court unfortunately affirmed. If we were in the United States, the United Kingdom or Singapore, that would be understandable. But right here in our own country? What effort or justification is needed to restore Philippine history to its honored place in the university curricula.

Our problems with education are thus not as simple as saying “Filipinos are stupid.” The educational system has failed us. The removal of Philippine history and literature cannot be good for the psyche and worldview of students. They are being educated and trained to prioritize and thus elevate in their own minds foreign history and literature. That’s just a few steps away from being captives of colonial mentality, if that’s not the official yet unspoken mindset of the curricula.

We should make this an election issue, especially when we see how historical distortions and revisionism empower the presidential frontrunner, and muddle the issues in front of the electorate. History must be relevant to ordinary people, and should make us understand our past and present, beyond the traditional politicians’ self-serving and gas-lighting claims that we are more victims of fate and of our own failures.

The works of Renato Constantino and Teodoro Agoncillo should be the basic texts taught in schools and spread across the country. Constantino and Agoncillo provide us with a valuable way of presenting and interpreting history from the point of view of the Filipino people.

How about literature? They’re the soul of our nation and people. Our languages, customs, oral and written traditions, the stories our forebears wrote about our origins and our past, and their own times. The leaps in Filipinos’ imagination. Our aspirations. Multiply that by the number of Philippine languages, and there’s no other conclusion but authentic national pride that we are such a fortunate nation, and that we deserve better.

In the current electoral contest, Vice President Leni Robredo has cast her lot with our teachers and educators. A Robredo victory would be an opportunity to correct the anti-Philippine history and anti-Philippine literature curricula, to confront and correct historical distortions, and win the minds and hearts of Filipinos with a history and literature that gives them dignity and hope.

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