Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts on a ‘History’ Day

* view of the sky on a sunset in Bay, Laguna
The blog post title may seem biased for the 2nd UPLB CAS (College of Arts and Science) Student-Faculty Research Conference was designed to cater to the different fields and disciplines under our college. I definitely enjoyed this one-day affair because of those several talks on history. This day galvanized my resolve to learn more about this field. I listened to more or less ten talks/paper presentations, waiting only for a few ones that interested me. But the presentations on history were the ones that interested me the most.

Some of the presentations were:

Kapaligiran, Wika, Kasaysayan: Mga Pangalang Lugar sa mga Mapa ng Bulacan Noong Panahong Kastila
Presented by Roberto Mata

Mga Representasyon sa Babaeng Tagalog: Halaw sa Vocabularios ng ika-17 Dantaon
Presented by Rhina Boncocan

Towards a Historiography of Bay, Laguna: A Reading of Makiling Legends
Presented by Aileen Macalintal

Ang Mutya ng Pasig: Mga Imahe ng Pasig sa Kamalayang Bayan at Kwentong Bayan
Presented by (my former professor) Wensley Reyes

In at least three of the above presentations, it was worth noting the emphasis given on the importance of names of the places–the context in which they were used before and then now as well as their origins. The idea that
these names ‘evolved’ through time under different conditions such as the coming of foreigners (most notably, the arrival and conquest of the Spaniards) was also impressed to the audience.

Sir Mata made a note too in seriously taking into account the names of places. His examples in some places in Bulacan is a testament to the importance of the meaning that these names give or share to the people. With this I am convinced that it is essential to know something about one’s past in order to fully chart our present and future.

Regarding the number of legends mentioned during the presentation of the papers above, I would agree with the speakers who have the conviction that local folklore and tales are important in the creation and development of the collective beliefs of the people in a certain community. It would be definitely boring to have history texts emblazoned only with names, dates, and places.

In connection with that, I remember a time when I had to endure a hardcore barikan (drinking session) in a village in Rosario, Batangas. Despite the numbing effects of their preferred alcohol, I was compelled to stay because of a tale about a particular gang called Pitong Gatang guarding a certain area in their place and robbing and/or extorting stuff from and/or humiliating people that happened to pass by this group. This tale, whether it was true or not, gave me a different view of an otherwise plain and sleepy tricycle terminal which is the place where this Pitong Gatang group was alleged to have stationed themselves before.

So that’s it. I have no idea if I would ever have the chance again to seat freely like that all day. But I’m sure to make this as a starting point to hound our city’s local place names and dig into their origins.


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