Who (the hell) is General Tomas Diaz?

Over the weekend, I have been both writhing in agony and ecstatic with laughter going through the comments on the PCIJ video and the answers to @jaredramos’ question on the 1986 People Power Revolution. And the most common immediate reaction I read and had from both old friends on Facebook and followers on Tumbr was : “Who (the hell) is General Tomas Diaz?”

I must say, despite having been a teacher of Philippine history to high school students and having had several classes on the subject in my academic years, I do not know who he is. Perhaps the most common succeeding reaction of viewers of that video was to Google “General Tomas Diaz.” And I think most of them encountered nothing but random names of individuals who live in Spanish-speaking countries or former dependencies of the old empire.

But Googling the name after viewing the PCIJ video and holding some reaction of surprise and disgust are mere indicators, not of shock but of an attempt at disassociation from those who gave both bewildering and outrageous answers to a very simple question. As far as I can recall, only one guy in the video gave correct and sensible answers. Most were merely trying to protect what was left of their “image” while the others were very forthcoming and even proud of their ignorance which resulted out of their indolence.

There were some among those who answered @jaredramos’ question who justified the answers of the interview by saying that the blame should be placed on the teachers of those students. That the students were unable to answer the question because their teachers failed to teach them about it. To some extent this view is justified. But only to some extent.

Perhaps the students may not notice it but if one takes a hard look at how Philippine history is being taught in this country, one can see that it is taught in a linear fashion which extends from the discovery of the Tabon Man to the conditions in Pre-Spanish Philippines; to the arrival of Magellan and the Propaganda Movement, the Katipunan, the war for Independence; and the Philippine-American War. Before the teachers and students notice it, the 10 months of the academic year is done.

And so ends the Philippine history lessons for the average freshman in high school. It ends without the student learning about the impact of American colonialism; the Second World War in the Philippines; the post-war reconstruction and independence; corruption during the Quirino administration; the counter-insurgency campaigns during the Magsaysay administration; the price hikes during the Macapagal administration; and the early years of the Marcos adminsitration and its later descent to the darkness of the Martial Law period; the miracle of 1986 People Power; and the struggle for progress in the age of globalization.

A couple of years ago, I wrote something about Ninoy and the Blindspots of History and how the pedagogy employed in the country for teaching Philippine history has hindered the students’ appreciation of their heritage. Back then I supposed that the introduction of better text books and the effort of teachers to incite interest in Philippine history in their students may remedy the blind spots. But looking back, I think that sustaining the current methods of teaching the subject will never yield good results unless a student had more than a year of Philippine history.

While Philippine history is taught in bits and pieces as early as the fourth grade, the bulk and organized teaching of it though only comes in the first year of high school. And it is again taught as one subject for a semester in college (that’s five months long in most, three months in some). And in these various occassions, the methods employed by the teachers may vary in terms of presentation, but the same linear pedagogy is adopted. In the end, the student maybe bombarded with facts about the days of Majapahit and Sri-Vijaya empires, but he or she knows so little about the Martial Law years or the coup attempts during the earlier Aquino administration.

Perhaps, it is time that the academics and scholars in Philippine history consider teaching the subject the other linear way around. Teaching the subject from the contemporary times, coupled with regular discussions of current affairs, and moving back to the older past may incite more interest in the subject, and make more progress than starting subject with discussion of remote facts about the days of the early humans in the caves of the Palawan.

Teaching Philippine history from the present to the past instead of the past to the present would allow the students to understand better certain public institutions and social phenomenon. They would understand how the MILF came out of the MNLF and how different these two are from the Abu Sayyaf. They would understand better why the burial of President Marcos is being debated. They would understand better why the 1986 People Power Revolution is being celebrated and why they don’t have classes on that day in February.

Then again, I am just spitballing and my thoughts have yet to be tested to see if they will work or not. But I think that there’s no harm in exploring other ways by which the heritage of the people and the struggles encountered can best be passed on to the younger generation. If the current pedagogy in teaching has produced kids like those in the PCIJ video, then maybe it is time that new ways of teaching be explored.  

Beyond the classroom though and being that the Information Age makes almost anything from fashion trends to the latest buzz on celebrities accessible to the youth these days, ignorance on the 1986 People Power Revolution to some extent is inexcusable. If the youth these days can spend time reading on why Justin Beiber had his bangs cut or why The King’s Speech won the Oscars, then what is a few seconds checking on the reason behind a national holiday?

Or maybe Googling and taking note of Charice Pempengco’s episodes in Glee is more important for the younger generation than remembering those who died so that we may post whatever post we want on our blogs today?

You the youth of today, especially the Christians, are being wisely educated to despise your past, your race, your beliefs, and traditions, so that seeing yourselves constantly being humbled and keeping before your eyes your own inferiority, you will obediently place your neck under the yoke and become slaves.

-Kamandagan in Jose Rizal’s Sinagtala and Maria Maligaya

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