Philippine history for social change

For social change to happen, history lessons are imperative

More than seven years have passed since the Department of Education removed Philippine History from the Junior High School (JHS) curriculum of our country with the virtue of DepEd Order No. 20, series of 2014. There is no rationale stated in the order as to why Philippine History was removed. 

In 2017, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones stated that Philippine History is “naturally integrated” in other AP subjects in high school, remaining firm in the stance of the department and maintaining the status quo.

Despite the clamor from the people since the removal of the subject, specifically from the teachers, students, and other concerned citizens, the Education Department is still not doing anything. This is alarming as the removal of Philippine History in high school led to a series of controversial historical issues in the country from the previous year, along with a worsening historical crisis that we are already facing.

Photo by Marfil Graganza Aquino on Pexels.com

On April 27, 2021, Senator Bong Go claimed in his speech at the 500th Anniversary of the Battle of Mactan at Liberty Shrine that Lapulapu is a Muslim. This claim is false as there are no pieces of evidence to state what the genealogy of Lapulapu is and the only primary source indicating his name was the First Voyage Around the World by the Italian chronicler Antonio Pigafetta. This deliberate distortion of history could have severe repercussions such as that the people might believe this as the one who said the claim was a senator, a person of authority. This claim also adds to the already rampant historical distortion in the country.

Last September 27, 2021, the House of Representatives approved on its final reading the House Bill No. 9850which aims to integrate 50% of Philippine History during World War 2 in all higher education institutions in the country. The bill adds another problem to the challenges that Philippine History in college is already struggling with. Alvin Alic and Joel Bual found out in their study Readings in Philippine History: Course Review, Best Practices, and Challenges among Higher Education Institutions that some of the top challenges of teaching Readings in Philippine History (RPH) are the student’s lack of knowledge in Philippine History and insufficient time allocation. Instead of immediately focusing on the subject’s lessons, the teacher needs to provide a review session first for the students to be re-acquainted with Philippine History. Focusing half of the dedicated time of RPH to World War 2 is troublesome as there will be only a few sessions left for the rest of the topics in the subject. Another aspect of this problem is how the “integration” will be conducted. The integration of Philippine History in other AP subjects in JHS is already challenging, therefore, it needs to be addressed.

December 11, 2021, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced that they will remove the three World War 2 heroes: Jose Abad Santos, Vicente Lim, and Josefa Llanes Escoda, in the 1,000 Peso bill and will replace it with the Philippine eagle. By the words of UP Diliman History Department, the removal was “a slap on the face of our heroes” as the three heroes remain graveless up to this day and their portraits in the bill represent commemoration of their bravery and sacrifice against the Japanese invaders. Money is a form of memorialization of our history as it bears significant parts of our story and historical consciousness as Filipinos. The majority of people only know them because they are in the money. Now that they will be removed, how can people remember them? This action of BSP amplifies the historical amnesia that our country already struggles with.

And just before 2021 ended, Nadine Lustre tweeted a series of tweets on December 29, 2021, saying that a repeated history for six years is “a waste of time” and is counterproductive. She clarified later on that it is the topic and not the History subject itself. Based on the interactions in the said tweet, a lot of people have agreed with her. I assume that Ms. Lustre has undergone the Revised Basic Education Curriculum of 2002 and, in that curriculum, the topics should have never been repeated as each year level has its topics and focus. However, we should not invalidate her and others’ experiences and instead look at the bigger picture of the problem. There are problems with how history was taught, the topics that are taught, and how they are implemented.

With all the issues that I have mentioned, people wanted to have a social change in our education system, particularly on the content, pedagogy, and implementation of Philippine History. Nathan Rousseau mentioned in his book “Society Explained: An Introduction to Sociology” that “Social change is only possible when a sufficient number of people or a critical mass is in agreement at the same time about an issue and they have the means to communicate with each other and direct their collective energy into an identifiable movement.” This means that collective action and agreement regarding a particular issue from the masses is the primary requirement for a social change to effectively occur and come to fruition.

What started as an online petition is now a fully established movement, the High School Philippine History Movement acts as the primary actor for social change in these webs of complex historical issues. With members from different sectors and varying ideologies, the movement has a goal: to bring back a dedicated Philippine History subject in the Social Studies curriculum at the secondary level. Their online petition currently has 60,000+ signatures, which means that a lot of people wanted Philippine History to return to the high school curriculum. For, Zuriel Domingo, the removal of Philippine History was disadvantageous in the “age of disinformation” as it perpetuates historical problems such as historical distortion, historical negationism along with the issues that I have previously mentioned.

To raise well-rounded citizens of the country, it is not enough to focus on STEM or industry & technology-related courses, we also need to teach them about history and social sciences, especially the history of Filipinos. Teaching Philippine History in high school supplemented by critical thinking will foster patriotic Filipino citizens that care for their nation and fellowmen. The youth will realize that whatever is currently happening, is connected to our past. With the knowledge of Philippine History, they will be able to fight back against fake news and historical issues like distortion and negationism that are rampant today. They will understand what it means to be a Filipino and fight for our beloved country. However, its return is not the only solution for the problems faced by history education but it will act as an intervention to these complex and multi-faceted historical problems that we are currently facing. It is also a start for us to look at the wider scheme of things and work together with various sectors to instill to our youth the values and lessons that we can and should learn from history.

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece has been published upon submission by the author, who initially prepared it as a requirement for a Sociology class.

About the Author

Jen Robert Blanza is a 2nd year college student at the University of the Philippines Baguio, currently taking Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, major in History, minor in Sociology. He is the former Vice President for Youth Affairs of High School Philippine History Movement and currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the organization. He is the incumbent Vice Chairperson of UP Kalipunan ng Mag-aaral sa Kasaysayan (UP KAMALAYAN), the foremost organization for students who specialize and are inclined in History in UP Baguio.

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