01 June 2016


And Giveaway Month Begins Anew . . .

The more things change, the more they stay the same--not just on Shredded Cheddar, but also in the Philippines. At least it has been true for the past thirty years, as we see in this year's special theme.

Earlier this year, the Philippines commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, which ousted a dictator, raised a housewife to the highest office in the land, and made everyone believe in democracy again. (Bwahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, my aching sides . . .) You'd think that something so momentous would have left a mark on the national character beyond powerful nostalgia, aye?

Family and friends know that I've kind of been obsessed with this topic for years. Why does the national memory turn into such a sieve where this event is concerned? Compare and contrast now. We all have a good sense of what went on during the Spanish era--and if our memories of its terrible last years overwhelm its true golden legacy, it still makes sense that later happenings would stand out better than older ones. We're also pretty clear on the politics of the American era, if not as clear as we are about the bright side of this national humiliation that we have chosen to focus on. And nobody argues about what really happened during World War II and Japanese rule, even though you might also argue that nobody really cares. So shouldn't something that happened a mere thirty years ago, and the dragged-out, decade-long build-up to it, be fresh enough in living memory for those born after the fact to be able to retell the story from, well, memory?

You might say that the above Twitter exchange from two years ago was what got me going. What disturbed me, however, wasn't the supposed ignorance of today's uni students, but the assumption that we learn history from books. It is when you have to learn history from books--as opposed to learning it from art, architecture, local customs, holidays, allusions in language and literature, cuisine, family traditions, and other shared experiences with the national community--that history is dead.

Again, compare and contrast. The Spanish era lives on in our language, our surnames, and our thousands of Catholic churches packed with devotees each Sunday. The American period lives on in the embarrassing social ritual of electing a new president every six years, in the national love of basketball, and of course, in Taglish. The botched Japanese attempt to liberate us from the Americans may not have been as culturally "sticky," but its scars are still evident in World War II monuments and ruins that are protected as heritage sites. As for our memories of a dictator's rule . . . his son, who shares his name, just lost a bid to be Vice President by a few hundred thousand votes . . . all of which are shady enough to overshadow the official winner for the rest of her term. And the respectable interpretation of the son's popularity is that Filipinos just don't remember history.

What I'm starting to wonder is whether the present is unfolding the way it is because Filipinos do remember history--just not the polite, clean version some would like us to embrace.

As regulars know, my "wondering style" involves sharing my thoughts in real time, using each book as a stepping stone to the next, engaging anyone willing to leave a comment, and fitting everything into one big, functional memory palace. My additional challenge this June is to connect the books (dead/sanitised history) to some real memories (living history). And some time in July, I'd love to give someone who joined the discussions a Filipino book of his choice . . .

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Keep an eye on the Rafflecopter. There will be more opportunities to earn points as the month unfolds. 

The first review of the month will be up soon. In the meantime, feel free to revisit the thirty-six books that have already made the Annual Philippine Literature Giveaway Pool. Of special interest this year is Option #27: The Praying Man by Bienvenido Santos, which was banned by the dictator's administration for its depiction of corruption in government. Santos managed to evade arrest only because he was in the US at the time; he chose exile instead.

Image Source: EDSA 30


cyurkanin said...

Going for "Ben Singkol" again!

Brandon said...

I think I'm going to keep trying for Cave and Shadows.

cyurkanin said...

Excellent choice, Brandon !

Sheila said...

I am very interested in learning about this! My knowledge of Philippine history is limited to .... basically what you said in this post. So you should find me pretty open-minded on the topic ... ;)

Enbrethiliel said...


I really wish I could give each of you old friends a book! Good luck to all! =D