Next week, I will be presenting in the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) convention in Dumguete City my research on the decline of the Imperials, a political clan in the Province of Albay. To validate and substantiate the documents I currently have, I spent almost two days surfing as to what the Net has to offer. Too bad, it has offered less.
The first thing that came to my mind is that maybe, not all of the documents available printed form are already in the Net. But even scanning the libraries proved futile… at least for the moment. I think I still have to visit Ateneo De Naga as the university already has an Institute of Bikol History and Culture — an institute inaugurated in 2002.
Even then, hopes are not high for as I realized in my Internet research, while there are historical accounts during the Spanish period, darkness hovers the era starting from the American Period to the Japanese Liberation then to the Martial Law years. Garo naturog su mga historian during that time dahil maski title ki libro o citation, wara akong nahiling. Maski ngani su listing ki mga gobernador kan Albay, wara. Poor Bicol!
This realization was substantiated by the speech of Norman Owen, one of the US historians who had written something about the Bicol Region during the transition years from the Spanish to the American periods. In his speech in Ateneo De Naga, he said:
At least the first conquest and the evangelization of Kabikolan are reasonably well documented. Our knowledge of the next two hundred years or so of history is very much sketchier, however. Almost all that (Jose Calleja) Reyes records for this period is the role of Bikol shipyards in constructing Spanish ships – especially the great Manila galleons, many of which were built in shipyards along the Sibuyan Sea coast – and the impact of Moro raids. Yet this would have been the era in which towns were formed, landholding patterns, established, and the conceptual world of most Bikolanos, radically transformed. Of this cultural transfiguration we know almost nothing except for the origins of the devotion of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia.
The American period, like the Spanish, is known more for its start and its finish than for the intervening years. The conquest of Kabikolan by the United States, like its Spanish counterpart three centuries earlier, is well covered as is the brave Bikolano resistance. The building of schools can be seen as a kind of parallel to the Spanish establishment of churches, in each case introducing a foreign cultural presence which the Bikolanos soon came to accept as their own. But the next recognized “historical” event comes only forty years later – at least until Henry Totanes finishes writing the history of the American era. The Japanese occupation offers a scenario of vicious brutality and epic heroism, the latter symbolized by Wenceslao Q. Vinzons. Reyes enlivens his account of the period with his personal reminiscences; though they are interesting, they are not really incorporated into any larger attempt to assess political, social, and economic changes in Bikol society.
And then, with the Liberation of 1945, Bikol history virtually comes to end. Reyes does not actually stop his book there (as Gerona does), but most of his last seven chapters are on culture rather than history, although he does reflect on regional poverty in one chapter on the Bicol River Basin Development Program. But anyone who wants to know what has happened in Kabikolan since 1945, about the Huks and the NPA, or martial law and “People Power,” or even about that contemporary Bikol cultural icon, Nora Aunor, will not find it in Bikol Maharlika – nor, so far as I know, in any other text. Apparently the recent history of Kabikolan is still to be written, except in short journalistic essays.
So, what happened to my search for the Imperials? I must admit it remained a continuing quest. But even with the dearth of data, I still found something which, I guess, could help build a bridge in the historical gap. At least, for the Province of Albay.