Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our Past is a Treasure To Be (Re) Discovered

* the old Liliw church, uploaded by user ‘overtureph’ at

[Better write this while the effect is still overwhelming me.]

I have earlier searched the internet for a photo of a painting of the Malate church I saw before in connection for my ‘Circuiting Manila’ series. Led to a number of online forums, I have just allowed myself to enjoy the old photos of Manila uploaded by different users.

Then I saw that photo of the Liliw Church.

The frequency of my visit to Liliw, and my familiarity of the town, might have triggered my excitement. Seeing this uploaded photo of the church in Liliw, man, this is simply awesome! I just cannot describe it. I would admit in being weird in some instances but I would no longer care if other would find me absurd now, losing myself over this seemingly simple photograph.

Perhaps it’s the perspective, the way the photo was taken. It seems that it captured the atmosphere of the place: one of simplicity and serenity. Although the date was not indicated, this might have been many years ago, judging from houses and the rough road leading to the church. Perhaps knowing that the present layout of the church grounds is quite different already, to see this old place is one great treat. I hope I am making sense here because I am really overwhelmed.

Right now I realize two things. First, that I am well entrenched in this ‘visits-to-the-past’ thing, something that I am trying to share and build up here at Back Trails. Structures of the past (and if I may be allowed to concretely date them: from the 1980s down to the pre-Spanish times), or more precisely, the architectures from our past, have now formed in me a love, and respect, towards them. I am just realizing now that I have to make some effort to teach myself at least some basic architectural concepts in order for me to appreciate more these architectures. This now makes town re-visits more and more a must.

Second, that we Filipinos, whether we are in the midst of some business ventures or abroad studying or working, should start (or for those who have started already, reinforce) our own initiatives towards learning more about our past.

Similar to the seeming irony that some people conquer math while others do not, history also is not really a boring and monotonous field of study. It may seem static at first, simply knowing about things that have been long gone or about people that are long dead. Immersing ourselves in our own history allows us first to know our roots – their struggles, cultures, traditions, even languages. Immersing ourselves in our own history facilitates a wider scope of study in order to situate ourselves in the present – to allow us to know if we, collectively, are moving towards progress, development, and freedom from the social, cultural, or political mud pits that we have faced as a country or not, and to allow us to sensibly chart our courses as citizens of the Philippines after assessing ourselves with the help of history.

In a way yes, it is pretty complex, with all those details and interconnections that lay in the background that we are to find out. But unlike other fields that concern mostly abstract connects, history is a reality, for it is by default a part of us, which we only have to tread back and learn.

I cannot boast that doing tours of places and sharing them here at Back Trails is already a success. I know that there is much to be learned about traveling and about proper documentation of tours. But the important thing here is, this a concrete way of helping myself learning our history, our past, without suffering the stigma that has been attached to ‘history classes’. This is more of an outdoor activity and I am enjoying this very much. Digging into libraries is not a lesser thing, if we only appreciate the wealth that a brief library visit can bring to those who have the heart to do so.

I hope I have not over-reacted over such a lovely picture. But personally, constantly learning about our past is now an integral part of my being, and I have no plans of putting it away. Since my elementary days I have been fond of history and the vast treasure that lay within its border. I encourage you, chance reader, especially the Filipino youth, to make your own ways of making your study of history a life-changing experience.

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