One of the failures of our local cultural and historical commissions is keeping files, documents, artifacts and other evidences of the past. This could be attributed to the lack of funding from the local government units (LGU) which could be traced further to political polarization and partisanship. A clear fact: Rarely will one find a local government unit website that publishes the names of its past leaders – only the current ones.
The practice is not historical revisionism per se. It is actually trying to erase political memories and name recall especially in areas where the turnover of the local chief executives is high. In simple terms, the more politically contentious an area is, the higher the probability that the current administration will not publish the list of its political leaders particularly post-Marcos era. This is what I found out when I was building my database on local politicians. Cases in point are the Albay and Camarines Sur provincial websites. Since 1986, Albay has been under seven governors so nowhere in its site will you find the names of these governors. Camarines Sur, on the other hand, only has four governors since 1986 so the clan occupying the post – the Villafuertes – were too confident to publish the names of its other governors even pre-EDSA People Power I.
Because of this political slant in popularizing history, we usually grope in the dark. Sabi ngani, “An dai lumingon sa pinaghalean, dai makakaabot sa padudumanan”. As history repeats itself, we usually end up repeating the same mistakes again. Take a look at Rapu-rapu’s mining industry which never uplifted the status of its residents despite the bounty in nature’s bowels.
But hope is not lost. As we struggle to complete the pieces of historical puzzles, we also find like-minded people who invest time and even money to protect us from the trap of historical ignorance. This include Lito Tuanqui, a former banker and Albayano politician, who is compiling, archiving, and sharing historical pieces and information so that the younger generation will also grow with some knowledge of the past.
“I want to share to the present generations many stories of the local events in Albay, that I have gone through my first-hand knowledge and experiences I had since youth that has happened which are not written or recorded in local history book but only told as stories by families”, he said.
For this reason, he created the Metuanqui Historical Files, a Facebook Page aimed at parting education on some historical events and figures in Albay.
“The generation today has poor knowledge or lack interests about the local history and events, and background of important persons that shaped the development and growth of Albay,” he continued.
At 71, he continues to do what our local cultural historical commissions are supposed to do – doing researches and gathering information. And all this from his own pocket – a tradition that his grandfather, Simon Li Tuanqui, started.
Not all of us may have the luxury of time and resources but we can do small things leading to big things. First, we can enjoin our political leaders to look into and support our local cultural and historical commissions. Second, we can also visit or talk to the members of this commissions and entice them to move away from the creation of too much festivals that sometimes have no more relevance or bearing to the local culture but only bleeds the local economy. And ask them to stop focusing on researches which outputs are origins of names of places – i.e., this place was named so-and-so because when the Spaniards came they asked the locals and the locals thought the Europeans were asking about the tree, or the plants, or the whatever-thing-abundant-in-the-area. Those lines are already cliché. Instead, ask our local commissions to look also into evidences and stories that describe us as people. Ticao Island’s cave paintings could be one. A recording of the oral history or sayings and having these curated could be another. A very good example is what a professor in Bicol University did sometime in the 1990’s. She asked her students to write down the quatrains and popular sayings of the people in the latter’s respective barangays.
Third, we also support efforts like the Metuanqui Historical Files. Liking the page, dropping a line, or contributing an information will help a lot. Just like here in Biklish.com, the MeTuanqui Historical Files also resulted to the building of family trees or finding long lost classmates, friends and relatives.
There are still a lot of things that can be done. But first and foremost, we should always remember that national history started at the local level.