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Debunking the historical claim

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Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. -Carl Jung-

It comes but as an unconscionable delight to a person (who has no more good argument to extract from his wonderful comprehension of events) who disagrees with another individual to attack the latter’s credibility, especially when the former is already overwhelmed by offenses from his foe. Some instances of common diatribes: “You are a nobody; how dare you say such things!” “Do you even have a Master’s degree to lay such claims?” “Have you won awards to make yourself known as an iconoclast?” “We would rather resort to scholars and other published greats than waste our time weighing the merits of your blog!”

The foregoing examples are, indeed, a barrage of poor reasoning. In a world that is wanting of intellectual arguments, hitting on a person’s scholarship –or lack of it– should never be highlighted by an applause nor should be sided upon. Yes, it is true that a case usually wins by an overwhelming quantity of physical evidence and even witnesses. But isn’t it that hard data is prescribed and narrowed down by critical thinking and other related realms of impartial thought? Hard data alone should not be considered as sola scriptura. That is why we humans are so fortunate to be gifted with mental faculties to discern things that should be or should not be.

On the other hand, those supposedly credible persons who spread falsities and inaccuracies –if not lies– take all the credit. Take this reasoning, for instance, from renowned historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo (1912-1985):

Teodoro A. Agoncillo (photo from historian Ambeth R. Ocampo).

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is. All that can be done is to pick out some traits common to the average Filipinos and to separate those that are obviously Spanish or American. The common traits are probably Malay and characterize the Filipinos as a people. (History of the Filipino People, eighth edition, pp 5-6, Garotech Publishing, 1990

It should be noted that Agoncillo is highly regarded as one of the top bananas in the field of Philippine history. A product of the University of the Philippines, he wrote Philippine history from a rather “puristic” nationalist point of view with leftist undertones. He served as a linguistic assistant at the Institute of National Language and also taught at the Far Eastern University and the Manuel L. Quezon University. His seminal book, Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, was both highly acclaimed and criticized. He also taught at his alma mater and even got to chair its Department of History during the 60s. Perhaps one of the biggest achievements of his scholarly career was when former President Diosdado Macapagal made him a member of the National Historical Institute in 1963. Aside from history, he is also an acclaimed essayist and poet in his native Tagalog language (he hails from Lemery, Batangas).

For all his sterling qualities as a scholar, his statement about what a Filipino is debunks his worth as a historian. How could such a crème de la crème of scholarship find it difficult to define what a Filipino is? The Spaniards know who they are. So do the Northern Americans. Ask any Japanese to define their national identity, and you might end up listening to them for hours. But here in the Philippines, a supposedly topnotch historian leads the nation in claiming difficulty in defining our national identity. And so he resorts to the inner physiognomy of a Filipino, going so far as to claim that our identity is of Malay origin!

Although we Filipinos are renowned for our hospitality, piety, industriousness, etc., these are traits that are not unique to us alone. It is too selfish and proud for a nation to monopolize such traits. And to simply put it, that is not the proper way to define our national identity. It is not just through a distinction of traits that a national identity should be defined; rather, it should be strongly viewed through a shared common history and affinity of blood and tongues and culture and faith and cuisine and song and literature and visual arts and dance and craftsmanship and even architecture. Indeed, various criteria should be applied.

To say that our national identity has been elusive through the years because of colonial trauma is nothing but hogwash and useless rhetoric. Ours is just a simple case of being unable to handle the truth. Our national identity has never left us. It has been with us all this time; we just don’t want to recognize it the way Agoncillo refused to do so.

We do not have to seek nor build our own identity. It’s already here, ready to strike us in the face. What needs to be done is to simply identify it. It is already within us. We just need to tap it. And make it known among ourselves. So to say that we do not have our own identity is tantamount to declaring that we have no country, that we are not a nation. Or that perhaps we are a nation of fools. I believe no nation would want to be referred to as such.

Since Agoncillo has been hailed by many as one of the best Filipino historians of all time, how come he was not able to determine that the Filipino Identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571? Didn’t he know that the Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language? In 1599, the previously existing native ethnic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members, and that they incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected King Philip II as their natural sovereign. How come Agoncillo didn’t seem to be cognizant of this fact if he is such a first-rate historian — or is he? In writing his History of the Filipino People, did he conveniently omit the fact that the first true Filipinos were the creoles or insulares, and that the indios (or natives such as the Tagalog, Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilongo, etc.) who “aped” them genuinely assimilated themselves into the Hispanic sphere which was then called Filipino in this side of the world?

From a reliable source, I heard stories about how Agoncillo pronounced the disputed Code of Calantiáo as ‘Kalanshaw’ (kɑlʌnʃaʊ) in his UP classes. Worse, the ‘Bay’ (bʌˈɛ) in ‘La Laguna de Bay’ for him was pronounced the American/English way: ‘bay’ (beɪ). This only proves that this “Batangueño great” had no idea that La Laguna de Bay was named after the town of Bay in La Laguna province, just a few kilometers from his province. This should be a cause of concern and disturbance among those who admire him and –heaven forbid– aspire to be like him. And he’s a decorated scholar at that.

Here is another “riveting” case of pompous rhetoric from another scholarly giant, National Scientist Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz (1926- ).

Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz.

According to Dr. Córpuz, the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan nğ mg̃á Anak nğ Bayan, popularly known as the Katipunan for short, was “the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation” (The Roots of the Filipino Nation, Vol. II, p. 223, Aklahi Foundation, 1989).

There is something wrong, if not irritable, with this assertion of his. How could the Katipunan embody the Christian Filipino nation when the group was anti-Christian, and thus anti-Filipino? As a renowned historian, shouldn’t he have been aware of the Katipunan’s Masonic roots as well as its motives?

For this “National Scientist’s” intelligence enhancement, he should be reminded (lest he is still unaware) that Freemasonry has been condemned numerous times by the Catholic Church. There has been at least 24 papal pronouncements regarding this matter. If he is as astute as many people think he is, Dr. Córpuz should have traced the origins of the Katipunan to Freemasonry. Katipuan Supremo Andrés Bonifacio joined the Taliba Lodge (No. 165) and from there imbibed radical and anti-friar ideas. He also joined Rizal’s La Liga Filipina which was in fact a Masonic lodge in the making.

After the failure of La Liga Filipina and the arrest and deportation of Rizal to Dapitan, it appeared that the campaign for peaceful reforms have hit the glass ceiling. Thus, an agitated and disenchanted Marcelo H. del Pilar, himself a high-ranking Mason and a rabid propagandista who has been on self-exile in Spain for years, wrote to his brother-in-law Deodato Arellano and urged the latter to form a much more radical and violent group to finally end Spain’s reign in the Philippines. Arellano thus gathered other members of the beleaguered Liga to form the Katipunan. Yes, it was Arellano, and not Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan.

What happened next was bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the Katipuneros‘ way.

Seeing now that the Katipunan was a bastard child of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Christian religion, how in the world did Dr. Córpuz come up with the idea that the Katipunan was the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation?

Indeed, hard data is not enough to support historical ideas and claims. Logic and a clear-cut understanding of things, as well as a keen observation of our surroundings and time, should quantify these data in order to come up with definite conclusions and concise pictures of what had really happened in our past. When faced with confusing historical documents, impartial critical thinking is the key to decipher their messages.

In comparison to the above statement, diplomas, awards, and other regalia are nothing but toilet paper and scrap metal.

23 responses »

  1. alfonso velázquez



  2. just wanted to ask that when we talk about “christian nation” does it necessarily have to identify only with catholics?

    please correct me if I am wrong but I think there was more of a liberation theology nuances/sentiments among the more radical groups of that time.


    • “just wanted to ask that when we talk about ‘christian nation’ does it necessarily have to identify only with catholics?


      “please correct me if I am wrong but I think there was more of a liberation theology nuances/sentiments among the more radical groups of that time.”

      If it’s radical, then it could be.


  3. Well written , Pepe! Oh how I wish Agoncillo, et. al. could read this article and finally realize how they are disfiguring Philippine History in the minds of our children.

    Mabuhay ka!


  4. Thank you for the quote from historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo

    A few days ago, I was reading that “July 4 was observed in the Philippines as Independence Day until August 4, 1964 when, upon the advice of historians and the urging of nationalists, President Diosdado Macapagal designated June 12 as the country’s Independence Day.”

    I couldn’t help wondering who on Earth could call himself a Filipino historian while at the same time advise changing the real date of the Independence Day.

    That he pronounced the Code of Calantiáo as ‘Kalanshaw’ in his UP classes, or ‘Bay’ in ‘La Laguna de Bay’, the American/English way, comes as no surprise. I bet he also “forgot” to mention the millions of Filipinos killed during the Filipino-American War.


  5. José Mario. Congrats for this article. It could not be clearer. So well reasoned out. And congrats for catching O.D.Córpuz in one of his fundamental errors. These two so-called historians were manipulators of our national history and identity.

    Mucho English-manguish pagcatapos mga walang alám pala ang mga ito. Sabi co na ñga ba, ang wicang inglés dito ay ang tunay na vehículo ng camangmañgan, calocohan sa Historia, sa Cultura, at marca ng corrupción sa ating gobierno at lipunan.


    • Thank you for this and other well written articles. I purchased “History of the Filipino People” on advice of my better half, who read it in college. That advice came with the echoed warning that not everything written by Agoncillo or other scholars should be accepted as fact.

      The views you present are a fresh alternative, and your blog as a whole provides more insight on the Philippines than I could find in most of those stuffy books.


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  7. John Christian Canda

    We should celebrate 24th June instead of the 12th.


  8. romeo managbat jr

    there is a thing called folk catholicism…..


  9. Antonio De España

    Si no andan bien con los yankis, es lo que vds. quisieron, hasta el idioma cambiaron.
    Vds. de españoles, no tienen nada de nada. Aqui en España, la mayoría de Vds, solo estan para el servicio doméstico. Y si vuelven a su tierra, nosotros encantados.


  10. Antonio De España

    Aquí en España, vds. no pintan nada.


  11. Hola Pepe, interesante el artículo, aunque no podria tener acuerdo con la idea de que el simple proposito del Katipunan fuese matar curas… (ovbiamente los nacionalistas de la época no tenian gran cariño por las sotanas)…. pero la idea de la independencia es noble y creo que en tu disputa con estos historiadores (claramente pro-americanos) hay que reivindicar el primer intento independentista de Asia. Saludos!


  12. Voy a tratar más tarde de traducir este magnífico artículo de Pepe Alas al ilongo-bisaya. Pepe lo debiera poner en castellano también. Saludos.


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  14. Mark Joseph Landingin

    I think it is wrong to assume that the role of a Historian requires that everything he says/writes must be devoid of speculation or opinion. In the case of Agoncillo’s Text (1990) he did have appropriate reservations and no monopoly in these traits were intended(which I argue an essential point to be at least an “objective historian” see Schneider, Wendie Ellen (June 2001). “Past Imperfect: Irving v. Penguin Books (Dec. 18, 2000)”) as showed in page 5 in his footnote he says:

    “In this as in the discussion on “Common Traits” and “Regional Traits”, the cross-section or the average is taken as a sample. There are, of course , exceptions to generalizations.”
    “How come Agoncillo didn’t seem to be cognizant of this fact if he is such a first-rate historian — or is he? In writing his History of the Filipino People, did he conveniently omit the fact that the first true Filipinos were the creoles or insulares, and that the indios (or natives such as the Tagalog, Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilongo, etc.) who “aped” them genuinely assimilated themselves into the Hispanic sphere which was then called Filipino in this side of the world?”

    He did know that the people who were originally called Filipinos where the insulares. He is even conscious that there was no “national feeling” during the precolonial times, it’s true therefore what you say that the “first true Filipinos” are not the Indios and he is well aware of that-

    “Indeed, there was no national feeling during the precolonial times. Although united as a geographical unit called Las Islas Filipinas during the Spanish rule, the people called Filipinios applied only to the Spaniards born in the Philippines (insulares), and the indigenes were derogatorily called indios…Thus, the “indios” became a “Filipino” only during the last years of the Spanish Regime in the late 1890’s.” pg. 115

    For all of you who agreed and applauded in a sense Pepe’s post and gave a comment on Agoncillo’s pronunciation you are committing unconsciously or consciously “argumentum ad hominem” and a “straw man fallacy” on the question whether he is a good historian or not. Personally, I myself have disagreements with Agoncillo’s interpretation and use of words but it can’t be denied the “master painter” he describes in page 19 is obviously himself.

    For me it appears that Agoncillo is telling us that the “Filipino” (despite of himself conscious of the governing Spanish element) must not only be interpreted as a contractual-historical identity as in the Insulares first Filipino, he is proposing a national identity that can be enriched by revisiting, re-interpreting and maybe even brutally reconstructing the “worldview” of the past. What makes Agoncillo’s text great is that he does not dismiss counter-evidence without scholarly consideration example in his treatment o the Code of Kalantiaw he entitles the Paragraph “The Alleged Code of Kalantiaw”. His book value is in its potentialities of emancipation of meaning in the “History of the Filipino People” which he successfully (I think) argued in the book. In a nutshell he emancipates A to make it a THE.

    Correction for Macario, for the record there are approximately 220,000 Filipinos (generally in our records) who were killed in the Filipino-American War, saying that there were millions is an overestimation or if you have a source or that information pls. Reply. And he did better than just mentioning how many Filipinos died by discussing particular events in Chapter 13. Yes, it’s a stuffy book but we shouldn’t dismiss it because of negative comments made by a person.
    “He formed a peace pact with the native councils, Rajah Sulayman, Rajah Matanda, and Rajah Lakandula. Both groups agreed to organize a city council, consisting of two mayors, 12 councilors and a secretary.”

    3 Rajas are not enough to represent the whole of the Philippines (because there is no national identity yet). A Government can exist without a State but a State cannot exist without a Government. The former is precisely that Colonial period and the latter is what the Book purports to interpret plus a concept what it is to be a Nation.


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